One day last fall, while walking around a crowded festival we mistakenly thought the kids would like, I overheard an older couple talking:
“You know what I always say, right?”
“No, honey, what’s that?”
“Raising kids is like getting pecked to death by a duck.”
I laughed out loud. I wanted to hug that man for putting something into words that I was having trouble describing. What is having kids really like? Could you describe the experience to someone who didn’t have them? Would you even bother trying?
If I owned a time machine I would use it for a lot of good things. I’d solve world peace, become the next Warren Buffett, solve the Kennedy Assassination mystery and stop myself from dating that one crazy girl in college. I’d also sit down and explain to my former self what having kids is really like. Sort of like this:
Your life will revolve around the five minute rule
Years ago, before kids, after the nightly dinner was eaten and my wife and I shared our pleasantries, I’d head off to the basement for headphones and computer gaming. Now, I can’t read a paragraph of a novel on the couch without getting interrupted. I’ve named this phenomenon the Five Minute Rule. It’s impossible to go more than five minutes without something to deal with. Try it. Time the outbursts. You’ll see that it’s real. If you do happen to go more than five minutes, you’d better go check on the kids, one of them is probably eating something they shouldn’t be.
You’ll drink when you normally wouldn’t.
A year ago, we went to breakfast at one of our favorite places, known locally for their bottomless mimosas. While waiting for our orders, we looked around the noisy dining room. Everyone who had kids had a table full of mimosas. The kid-less couples were sipping coffee. I’m not saying you should become an alcoholic, I’m just saying that sometimes, you need something to get you through.
You will become a power eater.
I used to savor my food. Taste it. Enjoy it. Let the flavors roll around in my mouth. Now it’s a race. First one done has to play quarterback to get the kids to finish. This is especially frustrating when you have a child whose idea of finishing dinner is brushing her teeth with her half chewed peas still in her mouth. I wish I could tell you that we didn’t notice her peas still in her mouth while tucking her into bed but I can’t.
You will become your parents.
It’s inevitable. You will understand why your parents used those annoyingly frustrating phrases:
“Because I said so.”
“Just do what I told you to do.”
Kids like to argue. Lawyerly like. Sometimes their logic is sound but darn it, not everything is debatable. I am Dad. Just do it. Now. Because I said so.
You learn how to improvise.
After my first child was born, I had a new Dad moment in the hospital. I hadn’t slept much. I went for a walk with my parents and vented my distress over raising a small child. I didn’t know what to do with him. He was so small and delicate. He would need to eat. I didn’t know how to do that. I was scared. I cried some; as I said I was tired. My Dad smiled at me, “Son, you kids don’t come with instruction manuals, you’ll figure it out.” We did.
You’ve underestimated what love truly is, until now.
I’d always believed that love at first sight was not real. Love must be nurtured for it to grow. I found out how wrong I was. You don’t know you’ve been missing something in your life until you have it. When my kids were born, I was engulfed in a feeling so pure and deep that you cannot describe it to someone who hasn’t had it happen to them. You’ll do anything for your kids and if you’re like me, you have forgotten what life was like without them. You wouldn’t trade that for anything in this whole wide world.
Anything that you’d like to add to this list? Feel free to add it to the comments below.