My wife and I have reached the other side of parenting. We don’t wipe butts anymore, they dress themselves, they can get their own snacks, they know (and follow) the rules, and above all else; they entertain themselves. It has happened so gradually over the past few years, but when you look at it from the big picture perspective it is monumental. My wife and I are people again.
When we dreamed of having kids all those years ago, we dreamed of being the best parents this world had ever seen. We would continue what our parents had done right with us, learn from their mistakes, and do it with an ease that made us scoff at those parents we saw disintegrating in public. We’d never ignore them, always answer their questions (no matter how mundane), always support them, take them to every extracurricular they desired, never use TV as a babysitter, and only feed them organic handmade food with no preservatives.
7 years later… Fuck that.
Here’s an Oreo and a Hi-C…now go watch TV so Daddy can sleep in.
In case you haven’t received the memo yet, your body changes in your 30’s. Not just the muffin-top, spare-tire, sagginess changes…no…chemically. Your brain works differently and so do your guts. When I was in my 20’s without children, I was a toothpick-thin handsome man with nerves of steel and a metabolism that didn’t quit. In my 30’s with children, I have a beer-belly, double chin, anxiety, balding, and I don’t think I’ve had a satisfyingly solid poop since 2006. The other big change is hangovers. I fondly remember the days when we would go bar-hopping all night in New York, eat breakfast a diner around 5 AM, then sleep till noon on a Saturday with no repercussions. Now? A few glasses of wine at dinner and I might be hungover for two days. WTF body? What happened to you? Two days?! Now here’s the kicker: You still have to be a parent during those two days.
Recently, my wife and I threw caution to the wind on a Saturday night and Sunday was there to remind us how old we are getting. 40 is just over a year away and it is watching and judging… constantly. At 6:40 AM I became painfully aware of both my headache and my inability to stop making moaning sounds of pain into my pillow. My wife was no better. The kids, who are 6 and 4 years old, woke up at 7 AM like they always do, and they could care less that we weren’t feeling great. They wanted food, love, and entertainment. Greedy little jerks.
Now, this is why I say I am in the golden era of parenthood. We told them we were not feeling well so they went downstairs, made themselves cereal, got themselves some juice, turned on the TV, and picked out a show from Netflix.
Boom. Mic drop.
This is real parenting. We slept in. They took care of themselves. We took care of ourselves. We have parented them so awesomely they don’t need us 100% of the time. All jokes aside, I think it really is the biggest accomplishment of my life. I came downstairs later and asked them to turn the TV off, so they did. I told them it was a nice day and they should play outside, so they did. I sat down in a lawn chair and read the newspaper cover-to-cover while they built a fort out of oversized boxes in the back yard and then invented a make-believe game that they played for two hours. Afterwards, they told me when they were hungry and ready for lunch. They sat at the dining room table and ate their lunch while playing Go Fish. Then they asked if they could go outside and play some more. I of course said yes. They then played make-believe more, then rode bikes in the driveway, then played basketball, and then came inside without arguing when it was time to wash up for dinner. They took showers, washed all the spots including the dreaded hair, dried off by themselves, picked out clothes, got dressed, and climbed into the car. The 6-year old buckles himself in and the 4-year old is so close. They ordered their dinners from the waitress with clear enunciation while saying “please” and “thank you.” They didn’t complain when it was time to go home. They changed into pajamas by themselves, brushed their teeth, and climbed into bed for books. They didn’t argue when it was time to sleep…just gave me tons of love and my 4-year old said, “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”
No, I’m not the best dad in the world. No, I don’t listen to every question they have (I’d go insane). No, I don’t feed them organic hand-made food. No, this is not the dad I thought I’d be. However, these are the kids I dreamed I’d have.
Having the kids be able to entertain themselves is amazing. What makes it all work is they are only two years apart and play so well together. They are just brothers through and through. I think of our parents and all the stories about the things they did with their siblings because that was the entertainment. You either entertained yourself or did something with another kid or group of kids. This is why I firmly believe in having more than one child. It’s a playmate and lifelong friend. They need each other. This is what allows them to enjoy things like TV and video games without having it be their sole source of entertainment. They have each other. The number one toy of the day was a cardboard box.
They aren’t great kids because of me. They are great kids despite me.
Parenting is a journey, and there is a long road ahead of me that I am looking forward to, but I’m loving this patch of asphalt we’re on right now. I’ve learned that parenting isn’t about what I’m doing – it’s about how my kids are doing. They’re doing great. My wife and I’ll take that victory.