There are a lot of events that change you as you grow into a fully formed adult—your first job, buying your first home, getting married to name just a few nothing though changes you more rapidly and in ways you were never ready for more than becoming a parent. My son was born seven years ago this week so I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Since I’ve become a father I’ve at times felt more energized, more exhausted, smarter, dumber, more proud, more protective, more scared, more ready to let go than I ever have in my life. That is of course just naming a few of the emotions and feelings I’ve gone through but it’s a pretty good start!
Everyone thinks they’re ready to be a parent. By everyone I’m talking about everyone that decides to have a baby. Obviously the 16-year-old kid in high school isn’t ready, doesn’t think they’re ready and probably not to thrilled to find out that they’re about to become a proud mom or dad, I digress though. So, everyone thinks they’re ready to be a parent. I don’t believe I’ve actually met anyone that was actually ready though when the pavement hits the road. Oh sure, some are better prepared than others. Maybe they’ve stored away more money, maybe they’ve already bought everything needed and set up a nursery, some have names picked out (I of course had or did none of this). I can tell you with absolute certainty though that no one is ever ready for the bevy of little dramas that go into being a parent. All of ours have thankfully been small although none of them seemed so at the time. A case of asthma or your son flipping over the banister in your house from a story and a half up (that’s right flipping over a banister!!) can’t compare to a child that has cancer or a physical or mental challenge. None ever seem small when they’re occurring though and all help make you into the parent you need to be.
Jack was born about a month early. He’s allergic to dogs and has allergy induced asthma. He did flip over a banister in our home as I recounted earlier. In short, he’s had about the same number of problems any other kid his own age has had. I was ready for none of these. I thought having a kid was about changing diapers and late night feedings; about falls off of bikes and teaching how to toss a ball; about fights over what vegetables they’d have to eat and homework and it is but it’s so much more than you can ever prepare yourself for. It’s about teaching them to be a good person and to not be hurtful, it’s about helping them work through the hurt when other children aren’t good people and are hurtful; it’s about helping them manage expectations; it’s about going through experiences you never expected together and coming out the other side smiling.
I don’t think Kim and I have ever been as certain about anything as we were about wanting to have Jack. We weren’t prepared for what our utter depths of poverty those first few years meant or the learning curve we’d have to endure to be able to grow and mature in order to help Jack be the person he’s meant to be and to help assist him to be able to one day have a kid as his own that he’ll help become the person they’re meant to be. I feel like Kim and I are pretty good parents at this point. Kim’s a member of the PTA and I can lightsabre battle as well as any parent. If you talk to Jack about what he wants to be when he grows up and moves out he’ll tell you that he’s never going to grow up, won’t move out and is going to live in our basement forever. Knowing that he feels that way now and that he’s one of the best readers in his class and a whiz in math makes me feel that taken in totality Kim and I are the parents Jack’s supposed to have. We spoil him but we teach him a lot. We’re like some modern-day 50’s sitcom where the parents know best. Our sitcom is a little askew from the portraits you’d see hanging on a wall but it’s our portrait none the less.
I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to figure out who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be with my life. It’s taken 7 years, some sweat, blood, tears, laughter and a whole lot more but it’s pretty easy to see that what it’s all been leading up to are these moments right here, right now. I was meant to be Jack’s dad and Kim was meant to be Jack’s mom. Anything else is nice but really, it’s going to pale in comparison.