The Joys of Parenthood

In 2007; The Month After I Quit Smoking

Every person who has ever wanted to be a parent has probably thought to themselves, “When I’m a parent I’m going to…”  {Insert unrealistic ideology how they will handle parenting situations}  I think every person who has had that thought and thinks they will always be patient, understanding, and a shining example of parental perfection…should be legally forced to spend a large chunk of time with my kids.  Sure…maybe this is a ploy to get some free babysitting from one of my local readers, but seriously…seriously?  Parenting is often a kick in the nuts followed by the sweetest hug in the world.  The hug is awesome…but you gotta take the kick in the nuts to get it.

Dodge GatesDodge (9 months) is going through his attachment phase at the same time his top teeth are working their way down slowly.  He may actually be the kid who gets his two front teeth for Christmas!  The attachment phase is a fun period of time where everything you thought you knew about your baby goes out the window.  Sleeping patterns, schedules, social abilities, etc.  Gone.  Just a baby that screams bloody murder if Mama puts him down for one second.  I am no comfort to him and can only distract him for short bursts of time.  The rest of the time he is either pulling at my wife’s pants trying to climb up her, following her through the house crying, bawling his eyes out if she goes to the bathroom, or screaming at the top of his lungs if she isn’t holding him while he sleeps.  He just wants to be held.  Sounds sweet when you say it like that.  He just wants to be held.  “When I’m a parent I’d hold my baby any time he wanted and teach him that I’ll always be there for him and…”  No you won’t.  You’ll hold him multiple times a night to get him back to sleep while you break down in tears crying because you haven’t had more than 2 consecutive hours of sleep in over 2 months.  You will no longer feel like a person.  You will not get anything done and the idea of having to do rudimentary tasks will level you because they now seem insurmountable due to sleep deprivation and the constant sound of crying.  However, the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing it will get better.  How do we know?  We have a 2-year-old.

Max showing off his "Angry Face."

Max (almost 3) is just about to hit stride in the “Terrible Three’s.”  Screw the “Terrible Two’s.”  Ha!  That’s just personality.  The Terrible Three’s?  That’s where we test not only the boundaries of what your kid can get away with but also your boundaries of what it takes to break you down as a person and make you collapse to rubble.  Max is a shark…he might die if he stops moving.  He is constant movement and shifts back and forth between blowing you away with his verbal skills and regressing to baby talk and ape sounds to get your attention away from the baby.  Temper tantrums ahoy!  Oh…and the language?  Oh yeah…there’s some sweet language.  A few times a week Max completely disrespects Kate and yells at her as loud as he can, “No!  No Mama!  Stay away from me!”  Makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.  Everything he dislikes hurts him, so if you try to put a shirt on him he wiggles and screams “Owwww! Nooooo!”  Fun!  Seriously, how often do you have to put a shirt on?  When he’s not reducing my wife to tears or making us feel like failures as people, he is usually causing physical harm (unintentionally) to his brother Dodge by squeezing him around the neck as hard as he can in what he calls “a hug.”  Dodge, who wasn’t crying for once, is now crying (see paragraph above).  Other fun activities include putting his shoes on the table to see how I will react, taking all my DVD’s off the shelf, throwing basketballs inside the house at lamps, jumping on the bed, and of course…putting his shoes on Dada’s chair…oh no, no, no, no

Gates Boys PajamasIf you want kids you are probably hypothesizing still about how you would handle these scenarios in a calm way and gain your child’s respect.  However, you are forgetting that these are both going on at the same time and you have no idea what you are talking about.  Also, kids don’t test your patience when you are in a patient mood…they test you all the time.  They can smell fear.  When you let your guard down a little…that’s when the little velociraptors attack!  It is a constant barrage that you cannot escape.  They get inside your dome!  They carefully unravel you till there is only a spec of a person left…then they do the sweetest thing to bring you back from the edge…then they push you back to the edge, then call you back, and then the edge again, and back, edge, back, edge, back…

Dodge & DadaLook.  I’m not trying to talk anyone out of becoming a parent, I’m just saying…don’t be so cocky going into it.  Just because you can play a video game with airplanes doesn’t mean you’ll be a great pilot…you might not even pass flight school.  How would you react during an in-flight emergency?  That’s parenting…only there’s no training.  Just a bunch of random hormones for a few months and KABOOYA!  You’re a parent and everything changes.  You find out that you are not who you thought you were.  You are suddenly behind the yolk of a plane, your partner is your co-pilot, neither one of you is sure who the captain is, and there is no land in sight…just clouds that sometimes look sweet and sometimes look ominous.  People radio in from time to time but for the most part you have to figure it out on your own, because this is a special plane no one else has flown.  It is like other planes…but not the same.  It is your plane.  On board are the lives of your family and their future’s.  Every turn, bank, and swoop may have lifelong lasting effects on them (and you).  Smooth air, turbulence, nose dives, climbing, soaring, cruise control, and everything in between…that’s parenting…and you have no idea how you’ll react to it until you are in the thick of it and there’s no turning back.

MaxDadaShouldersToday Max and Dodge reduced me to rubble before 8 AM.  That’s impressive.  Then, right when I was ready to crumble, Dodge rested his head on my shoulder and relaxed into me.  I pressed my face against his and squeezed him softly…he nuzzled me back.  Then he sat upright, pointed to my nose, smiled and said, “Dada!”  Max gave me a hug before I left for work and said, “Have a good day at work Dada, I’ll be good to Mama.”  That is the joy of parenting…the calm after the storm.  The storm is turbulent but once you survive one it is amazing how quickly you forget it after a hug.  Every kid is different; some have anger issues, other throw tantrums, and some are well-behaved.  You don’t know what kid you’re going to have or what parent you are going to be (regardless of how good an uncle, aunt, or sitter you’ve been thus far).  The only advice I can give you that will make parenting easier is to be unafraid to show your softer emotions to you kids and teach them the value of a hug and a kiss.  They do things and they don’t know why…afterward they just want a hug.  You’ll want them too.  Hug em, hug em, hug em!  No matter what kind of parent you are, you’re doing great if you are trying to do better and your kids know they can get affection from you anytime they want.  When I feel like a failure I crawl into Max’s bed and snuggle with him.  He hugs me all night long and I squeeze him back till he whispers, “Dada…too tight.”  He drives me nuts sometimes during the day but each night he kisses my forehead, each cheek, and my nose before bed.  He hugs me and I hug him back.  I get an Eskimo Kiss.  We whisper to each other.  We snuggle.  It’s the golden egg.  It’s the reward.  It’s the hug after the kick in the nuts.  It’s one of the things that makes it all worth while.  It’s being a dad.

Gates Boys

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