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A Few Minutes For A Parent To Write by Ray Printer Friendly

It's December 31st, so this post feels like cheating a little bit, as far as getting a post in during December. But I'm still getting it posted this month, so it counts.

I thought I'd have a lot more time to write, this month. But I guess I always think that.

Here's how my typical December goes: I work like crazy for the first couple of weeks, because we have to publish out special Christmas issue of the newspaper, which includes a shit-ton of advertising (which I have to make). Once we get that out, we go on Christmas vacation until the new year, which gives me plenty of time to get all my gifts wrapped (and sometimes ordered), and plenty of time to hang around the house, getting a little rest. Sometimes, I even use some of that time being productive: writing, catching up on projects, and cleaning the house.

This year, things have been a little different. Because our high school football team won the State Championship, we put out our Christmas issue earlier than usual, and then published a paper the week after, as well. Which meant more front-loaded scrambling.

Also, I have a kid this year.

The thing about having a kid is that you never really get to relax. When he's not around, I spend most of my time thinking about him, missing him, and worrying about him.

When he is around, I'm trying to keep him managed--diaper changes, feedings, naps, and just generally keeping him entertained. None of those things take that long, individually, but when you put them all together, it can burn through a day before you know it.

I'd be lying if I said this was the first chance I've had to sit down to write, but it wouldn't be a big lie. When I get downtime, I'm generally too beat to want to sit down and force my brain to do something creative. Mostly, I just want quiet, both mentally and literally.

At the moment, he's taking a nap with his mother, which means the house is as quiet as it ever gets. It's relatively early in the morning, so I haven't had my brain baby-fried yet.

Yesterday was a tough day. He's a great baby, and 99% of the time, our day goes by in a flurry of giggles, smiles, and hugs (peppered with small bouts of diaper changes and spit up sessions).

Other days, though...

Man, those other days are rough. I don't think I handle those days as well as other parents with babies, mostly because I'm not used to them. They're rare, and when they hit, they hit me hard. By the end of the day yesterday, I was tired, I was stressed, and all I wanted to do was sleep through the rest of my vacation, waking up in time to go back to work, where I could relax a little.

And the weird thing is, it was still a pretty great day. Sure, there was way more spit up than usual, and way more fussing, crying, and screaming than usual. But there were still the smiles, those whole-face smiles that brighten the entire room and give you what you need to keep it up through the next 4 outfit changes.

I used to read things parents had written about their kids, or listen to their stories, and it seemed like they always ended on a justification of some sort. Along the lines of, "It was a hard day, but it was worth it."

And I always thought it was because they had to keep up appearances, or because they felt guilty. Nobody wants to be like, "This shit sucks, don't do it."

But the truth is, it is worth it. Even when it sucks.

I'd be the first person to tell you not to reproduce. In general, I think it's a bad idea, but that's due largely to my dislike of the majority of the population rather than child rearing.

That said, I wouldn't recommend having a kid to anyone who isn't 100% sure it's what they want to do. Having a kid is crazy, man. It's tiring, it's stressful, and there are days where you feel like you're not up to the task. It's physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. And it's forever.

On top of all the baby business going on yesterday, I also had a tech arrive to install new internet service. The baby finally fell asleep, so I used that time to fold laundry, which just happened to be in the same room the tech was installing stuff in.

"Sorry to be the weird guy folding laundry right behind you while you work," I told him, "But I have to use whatever time I get."

He had a baby the same age as mine (a little girl born 4 days later than my son, actually--that's the kind of shit you find out about people when you have a baby), so he completely understood.

We began talking about kids as we worked on our respective tasks, and although I'm not a social person by nature, I see why parents form playgroups for their kids (which I'm guessing are actually closer to therapy groups for parents). It's nice to compare stories, and to find that you aren't alone with the insanity you're going through.

We talked about the weird sleep cycles our babies are going through--there's a name for it that I'm not going to look up, but it's basically when they start getting more alert, so they never want to sleep, despite the fact that they're exhausted, and acting like little jerks.

We talked about feedings and diaper changes and all that other extremely boring crap parents can talk about for hours.

And we talked about the enormity of the situation, of the commitment. "I was in bed last night thinking about it," he said, which I immediately understood; because that's what you do when you finally get a moment to yourself at the end of the day, is think about what you did wrong, what you need to do better, and try to plan out the rest of your life.

"My wife keeps telling me this is just a temporary stage [he was referring to the baby not sleeping], but it's always going to be something, you know? You've got school and bullies, or getting sick and missing class, or soccer practice or whatever sport; and then what classes she's going to take when she's older, who her friends are, and if they're a bad influence. You've got driving, and then you worry about drinking and stuff, and then college."

See what I mean about worrying about the entire future?

"And then I realized," he said, "I'm still calling my dad to ask him about stuff with the baby. I'm a grown man, and my dad is still having to help me out. And I realized, this is life-long, you know?"

As my sister has gotten fond of saying this year, "There's always something, and there always will be." Her kids, who are in the "easy stage" of life, have been burdened with sickness, stress about athletic performance, planning for college, driving, and one got hit in the face with a golf club. So she knows what she's talking about.

Would I recommend having a kid to someone who isn't sure they're up to it? Absolutely not. People say you're never really ready, and you just have to go for it, and I see why they say that.

Here's the thing: I've never jumped out of an airplane before, so I'm probably not prepared for the exact experience. But I can be ready with the goggles, a parachute, and a new pair of pants for when I make it to the ground.

That's what I'd say about parenthood; maybe you aren't ready for what you're about to experience, but you for damn sure better make sure you're as ready as possible (incidentally, it does include multiple changes of pants).

If you're not ready for a kid, don't do it. There's tons of pressure to reproduce, and it can be tough to fight. But you're the only one who knows when you're ready, despite what friends and family might say.

If you are ready, though, it's an amazingly rewarding experience, and I say go ahead and jump.

And I'm not just telling you that because I'm trying to trick you, or because I have an urge to alleviate any guilt I have about being a bad parent. It really is the most incredible thing I've ever experienced, and it's like that daily (yep, even on the rough days).

Also, putting little hats on a baby is hilarious.



Posted under The Rants on 12/31/15


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