I can describe being a parent in one, simple little word.
First, let me tell you that my situation is more than common, and very unique, all at the same time. I became a parent at a very young age when I began seeing a woman with twin girls who had just turned two years old. No, I didn’t become a disciplinarian right then, but there is more to being a parent than time-outs. The minute a child enters into your life, in any capacity, you become an influence. Whether that influence is positive or negative is up to you. And though you may not want that awesome responsibility…too bad Buster , it’s yours.
My wife and I have been together for twenty years. As in any relationship, we’ve had challenging moments and we’ve had the most amazing moments. I am a better man because of my relationship with my wife. More so than that, I am a better man because of my relationship with my kids.
My situation is common in that I am sharing my life with children of a broken home. What is so very unique about my situation is that my children have been raised with the love and support of four parents. Their father is an amazing man who is a huge part of their life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though I see and love the girls as my own, I am blessed to see the relationship they have with their dad. It is a relationship they need. It may seem strange, but we are one big family of sorts. And the girls are better for it. Their mom and dad may not live under the same roof, but to say their home was broken is a little of a misnomer. I think if you ask them, they will recognize the challenges of growing up, but feel fortunate to have such positive influences in their lives.
Which brings me back to fear.
Fear is an ancient conjugation found on cave walls, written as “F…….!!!! EAR!!!!” Early scholars believe the Neanderthal child was banging Mastodon pots and pans or using tar pit crayons to color on the cave walls. A clear understanding has never been made.
But experts are sure there is a distinct correlation between Fear and Parenthood.
It begins with first learning one is going to be a parent. Fear instantly grips every fiber of one’s being and instantly the heart grows cold and heavy. It is the ultimate mark of responsibility that one is NEVER prepared for. This, of course, is for the men. The women’s discovery they are pregnant is generally a euphoric wonderland akin to the last few pages of a Nicholas Sparks novel. There are exceptions…
Fear continues to the amazingly wonderful, but disturbingly gross experience that is childbirth. Most men are reduced to whimpering idiots, unable to pull together consonants and vowels to utter anything more than the sex of the child. There is a specific reason “It’s a boy” and “It’s a girl” are short, elementary sentences most individuals learn from an early age. When the slimy, alien looking creature emerges, the man is reverted back to the basics. This is caused by fear.
The fear of changing a diaper is a post all its own. I think you understand…
The walking and talking of the child are more activities that strike fear into the heart of a parent. They are signs that whatever dependency the increasingly cute bobble-headed doll once had is quickly being replaced with mobility and noise. The speed and volume with which these once tiny creatures achieves has become stuff of legend. The fear of the parent only magnifies, as walking means greater independence and greater independence means more work for the parent to keep track of their charge. As if feeding them and keeping them entertained wasn’t enough, now the parent has to find them…
Fear grows when the child goes off to school. For the mother, it is the fear of letting go. Beginning with the first year of Kindergarten, the mother begins quietly believing their child is moving out of the house and getting a tattoo. They rarely recover from this first time away from home…the mom, that is. For the men who have daughters, the first day of school is a realization that someday an unshaven boy named “Dude”, wearing a dirty Black Flag t-shirt will knock on the door and ask to see his daughter. They never recover…the dad, that is.
The fears of Kindergarten are magnified each new school year, becoming a series of panic attacks and late night sob sessions once the child leaves for college. Along the way, new fears are introduced. New challenges are faced, but they’re all just symptoms of fear.
I’ve experienced nearly every stage. This past weekend, I also experienced the unending joy of watching my girls graduate from college. I am proud for their accomplishments, and I’m proud of the lives they made while away at school. But honestly, I’m proud of my wife and I, and of their father and his wife for our ability to control and harness our fear as parents. Sure, I’m biased, but our girls are amazingly talented, smart and wonderful human beings. As parents, we accepted the responsibility to have a positive influence in the lives of our kids, and they have shown they’re better for it. In that regard, watching them graduate college made me proud of myself.
A new fear has entered into my life. One filled with uncertainty, as my girls enter a new stage of their lives not sheltered by the confines of school. I would love the opportunity to have six year olds in the house again where I could protect them each minute of the day, but I’m enjoying terribly the lives of young adults. It is a fear that I’ll deal with day to day.
I imagine the road to fear of having a small child will reemerge once talk of being a grandparent becomes appropriate. It will be another new fear, but one I’ll have a better understanding of. Though I can certainly wait, I’m looking forward to being able to pass along a reassuring word, and hug, once my girls experience their first taste of parental fear…