In many ways, having kids is great.
I can’t think of a lot of examples right now, but I like interacting with the hot moms at the playground, and I’ll probably be able to get a dog out of this whole thing pretty soon, since my son is obsessed and my wife can’t tell him “no.” So those are some perks. Plus, kids change your perspective and make you a better person and shift your priorities and let you see outside yourself and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Those Z’s are purely figurative, by the way, because the flip-side to that “I’ve never been happier!” coin is that children also steal your sleep, drain your finances, shred your lifestyle, eliminate your free time, and, I’m learning, increase your blood pressure.
I’ve never been more anxious in my life than I’ve been for the 2-plus years I’ve been a father. Sure, I’ve been able to experience some amazing highs as I’ve watched my son grow and learn and develop, but I’ve also watched my hair go from dark to gray overnight, Leland Palmer-style, my wrinkles take over my face and myself just generally become a stressed-out wreck.
There is so much to worry about when you have a kid, stuff that goes beyond the normal, everyday, don’t-need-to-be-a-parent concerns about jobs and finances and health. All of a sudden you’re worrying about SIDS and suffocation and how much sodium is in this? And is he watching too much TV? And stop swearing around him! And bullies and ADHD and sexting and is a bumpy red monster that’s shaped like a dildo really a good role model? And North Korea acting all nukey and football causing concussions and global warming and catfishing and Amber Alerts and on and on and on…
It starts when they’re babies. Everything becomes cause for panic, since you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Is that normal? Is that normal? What about that? Are you sure? Oh my god what is that?! Oh right. His penis.
You get so keyed up that even when things are going well you’re still concerned. When we first started sleep training, it was nerve-wracking just trying to get through the night without a scream session. Then, once he’d gotten the hang of that, we’d start freaking out when he didn’t wake up and cry out. Why is he so quiet? Is he okay? Is he even breathing? Oh my god what is that! Oh right. His penis.
Eventually you learn to accept the silence at face value and have a little faith. After all, if cavebabies could grow up in a dinosaur-ridden hellscape (I’m not a scientist), I think this new generation of children can survive without a video monitor, right?
And then he becomes a toddler. A toddler intent on killing himself and taking you with him.
Just watching a 2-year-old for two hours is enough to give you a heart attack. Raising a toddler is less about what you’re doing to protect them and more about what they’re not doing to protect themselves. Like using any goddamn common sense.
You turn around and suddenly they’ve scaled the couch and are about to dive onto the floor, or have somehow moved an ottoman all the way across the house just so they can reach the sink and and stick their hand under the hot water. Or during dinner—should they deign to even partake—they’ll make a choking sound purely to get your attention/make your heart stop. God forbid you take them outside, where they run around like chickens with no heads, constantly threatening to dart into traffic or slam into a tree or touch a homeless man.
They’re testing their limits and testing our limits and taking it to the limit and living life in the fast lane and at some point somebody’s going to the emergency room and somebody’s going to jail. The whole thing is just annoying as hell, especially since, on top of all the physical changes that come with getting older, being a parent makes you feel old. The shit you did as a kid—the awesome, fun, stupid shit you loved doing!—is no longer awesome or fun when your kid does it. It’s just plain stupid and you’re gonna shoot your eye out! And now you’re your father.
And the worst part about all this annoying, anxiety-inducing paranoia isn’t the old “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean your toddler’s not dumb enough to try and ride that terrifying-looking Rottweiler” chestnut. No, the worst part is that I’m going to be this on edge for the rest of my life. And so are you.
Because it doesn’t matter how laid-back you are; once you own offspring, your thoughts never stray from his well-being, whether your kid is 3-months-old, 3-years-old or 3-decades-old.
I finally understand why, when I visit home, my parents still wait up for me.