Each time I hear an expectant father utter those words I think two things: (1) Your wife is pregnant, there’s no royal “we” in pregnancy, and (2) Having Kids is awesome! Parenting sucks.
The problem with Having Kids is that you can’t separate it from Parenting, and the constant ebb and flow of Having Kids and Parenting is, in my opinion, the greatest struggle about raising children. I absolutely love Having Kids. Parenting might be the worst job I’ve ever had, and I once had a job description with a list of duties that included “lube sliding doors on dumpsters.”
I don’t see any reason to sugar coat things. Expectant parents are besieged with prosaic messages like “They are the greatest things that ever happened to me” and “I don’t remember what my life was like before them” or “They are such gifts.”
I don’t know what kind of gifts these people are receiving, but I don’t remember a gift screaming at me while I try to put tights on it because it’s 30 degrees outside and the gift doesn’t understand that its ladybits will freeze if it leaves the house wearing a tank top, mesh tutu and no underwear.
Someone once told me that raising children isn’t to be enjoyed, it’s to be survived. That’s way too fatalistic, but it’s got a ring of truth to it. Having Kids is more amazing than I imagined. As for Parenting, there are days when I think to myself, “If someone had told me that my kids were going to act like this, I would have listed a vasectomy on my wedding registry.”
I know, I know, your Facebook and Instagram feeds are loaded with new parents telling you that their lives are #amazeballs! I’m here to tell you that when you’re in the trenches, there’s no reason to feel guilty for thinking (or saying) that Parenting sucks and Having Kids is awesome.
Having Kids is playing catch for hours in the driveway and cheering every time your daughter catches a ball. Plowing through ice cream at Carolina Cones on opening day in March. Watching your son take off without training wheels across Freedom Park. When they sing Itsy Bitsy Spider and belt out a “up a bubba wood” (redneck catheter?) instead of “up above the world.” The look of pure joy on your daughter’s face when you spastically dance with her to any ‘80s song. Watching your son score his first soccer goal and sprint the length of Beverly Woods to give you a hug. Having a terrible day at work and it all melting away the moment they hug you when you pick them up at daycare. Your toddler smiling and laughing the entire length of bath time.
Parenting is when your kid screams at you for “doing it wrong” while playing catch in the driveway when there are dozens of other things you could be doing. Eating ice cream for lunch followed by a temper tantrum when you don’t go back for seconds. Being yelled at to stop singing a song that you were asked to sing 30 seconds ago, followed by the declaration that “You DON’T KNOW THE WORDS! POOPYFACE!” Your daughter yelling “NO” and storming off when you excitedly ask her to dance. Yelling encouragement from the sideline of a soccer game, only to have your child walk over and tell you to be quiet because you’re not the coach. Having a terrible day at work and your kid screaming all the way home from daycare because she wants to turn left when the only way to go home is to turn right. Finding a brown bobber in the tub during the toddler’s bath time.
Having Kids is having them scream in delight, “Our favorite!” when they see what you made for dinner. Parenting is making the same meal a week later, only to be told it’s no longer the favorite meal of your daughter, who refuses to eat it and cries for something else. Then you get to listen to her scream the rest of the night because the other choice – making her different food – provides her with the leverage to grow up and think she can get away with being a teenager who hides weed in her closet and wears booty shorts to her grandparents’ house for Sunday night dinner. Or something like that.
My wife and I always said if we couldn’t have kids then we would just go on incredible vacations. While there are many days of Parenting when vacationing in the East Indies sounds like a far better option, I wouldn’t trade a single day of Having Kids for anything else in the world.
Those days start with giggles and breakfast, roll through lunch and fart jokes, and meander through a sunny afternoon. You spend hours riding bikes in the driveway with one kid and twirling the other into a dizzying trance. Both take baths without complaints, brush their teeth and actually listen while you read books. “I love you and thanks for a fun day,” they say as they drift off to sleep. You and your wife (with whom you’ve had no child-related arguments all day) tiptoe downstairs and retire to the patio and enjoy a glass (bottle) of wine.
At that exact moment you’ll think, “This was the day I envisioned when my wife first told me she was pregnant.” Later, in the pre-dawn hours, asleep, partially clothed and a tad hungover from the post-wine bourbon, you’ll awaken to the sound of your daughter crying when she finds out her brother took back his teddy bear that she stole in the middle of the night because she idolizes him but I’m pretty sure still finds her birth to be among the worst things to have ever happened in the history of the universe.
And you’re back to Parenting.
Every parent possesses a love for their children that is greater than any other feeling they’ve ever had. Nearly everyone who has kids would do it all over again and again and again for a thousand lifetimes, but it has nothing to do with the BS line that they “create a purpose in your life” or some other self-help jargon. It’s because the amazing experience of Having Kids far outweighs the extreme difficulty of Parenting.
So, expectant father, that’s what I think in the split second after you tell me your big news. The future is not all good and it’s not all bad. You’re Having Kids and Parenting, and on good days you’ll have more of the former than the latter.
And don’t say, “We’re pregnant.” You sound like a idiot.