Sons, When Micah was born back in 2008, I was ready for life to change drastically. It did, but not in the way I had been preparing for. We became pregnant like 20 seconds after getting home from the hospital (Pro tip: Don’t do that), and within 11 months of becoming first-time parents, we were second-time parents. It was a complete blur. It wasn’t until 5 months after Jett was born that I had a chance to sit down and organize my thoughts on this whole parenting thing, and as it turned out, there was some stuff I really didn’t enjoy. I wrote it out as a cathartic attempt at comic relief, and forgot all about it. I ran across it this week, and now that Fisher’s here, and I’ve had a few years to calm down, I’d like to make some adjustments to the original list. You three need to know that just because I’ve written something down, and felt it was important at the time, I could have just lacked the appropriate perspective and maturity. Here’s the, original, now updated, list of 10 things I hate about being a parent:
2009: “my hate for gravity comes from what I learned in 7th grade science class: The amount of gravity that something possesses is proportional to its mass and the distance between it and another object. I have tile floors and my son has a head so big that I’m surprised it doesn’t have it’s own gravitational pull. When he falls, he falls hard. Damn you, gravity.”
Now: After three kids I’d have to say this deserves to be in the top 5. When Jett broke his nose jumping off the top of my car, it took everything in me not to stage a seance to raise Isaac Newton from the grave just so I could beat him with a sock full of nickles. (Steve wrote a letter to his kids that touched on this topic in a much more serene way than I ever could). My parentally-enhanced hatred for gravity stands.
9) Movie Theatres
2009: “Before having children, my wife and I practically lived at Movie Theatres. I didn’t mind the high ticket prices… I looked at them as miniature rent payments. In the last 15 months I’ve been to 4 movies. While I should be grateful that giving up theater-based cinema enjoyment is the biggest lifestyle adjustment that two kids have caused, I’m not. When I drive by a Harkins or AMC I can feel it mocking me.”
Now: This was an overreaction. Going to the movies with kids isn’t really so hard, plus you boys like superheroes, so I end up at all the movies I wanted to see anyway. This rant was also pre-Netflix and Hulu. Blockbuster was still a thing. Our VHS player wasn’t filled with your toys. 2009 was a long time ago.
2009: “It was the same way after I got married, people whom I’d known for 15 years, and that I’d seen the previous day, would begin every conversation with “So, how’s married life?” People who know me best know that I’m incapable of small talk. I would respond with strange things like “I don’t know, it’s only been a week. Why don’t you ask someone who’s been doing it for 30 years?” Now the questions include “What’s fatherhood like?” I’m too literal to just say “It’s good.””
Now: Small talk is ALL I have time for now, which is good, because I spend all my time with kids, and if someone even attempted to have a meaningful adult conversation I’d either choke on my own spit out of excitement and scare them away, or find some way to drag the conversation back to how concerned I am that Dora the Explorer seems to lack any type of adult supervision. Kick this one off the list.
2009: “I am thankful for the amazing gifts my children receive from loved ones, BUT, Micah’s favorite things to play with are an empty Subway drink cup and my cell phone. There are toys everywhere. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of unused toys. I promise you that I’ve played with some of them myself just to diminish the guilt that comes along with having unused gifts in the house (my ABC’s are stronger than ever). I have a theory that I can make a $5 bill deposited into one of their college accounts go farther than $50 worth of goods from Mattel or Hasbro…”
Now: Amen, Ralph from the past. Amen.
6) My Spouse
2009: Yes. And here’s why- I am not an easy person to live with. Here’s how my wife and I would interact regarding one of my many annoying habits prior to having kids…
Me: Have you seen the remote?Erin: You just had it. This is the third time today you’ve lost it, and you haven’t left that spot on the couch once.Me: I know, I’m sorry. Will you help me look for it?Erin: Of course.Here’s how we interact now…Me: Have you seen the remote?Erin: (Death Stare) No. It’s not in any of the seven rooms I’ve cleaned while you were sitting there. How about you actually try and find it before asking me? Gunshots, explosions, etc…
Now: Oh my God how did I ever think it was OK to put your mother on a list of things I hate about parenthood, in any context? This was a mistake for sure.
5) The News
2009: “Before having children, the nightly stories of accidental drownings, abuse, neglect and violence were tragic reminders of our mortality. After having kids those same stories are gut-wrenching truths that take your ability to empathize past it’s boundaries. Before having kids I had the luxury of avoiding the news because it was convenient, now I avoid it for my own mental health and stability.”
Now: Being your dad, or a dad, is mentally exhausting. The nightly news has evolved from being an evil shock-inducing, fear-peddling depression machine into a shock-inducing, fear-peddling “what not to do” checklist. I think that watching the news every once in a while has probably helped keep me from letting you play unsupervised near a swimming pool, or from accidentally leaving you in a hot car, not that I’d do that anyway…
2009: “I never much liked sleep. I can’t rationally explain sleep, and the act of sleeping when I don’t absolutely have to means that I’m wasting time that I could be doing something else. Thinking about sleep has always been my apex of boredom, but now that I have kids, every waking moment is spent thinking about sleep. When are the kids going to go down for a nap? What can I get done while they’re sleeping? Have they slept too long? Will this nap keep them up late and affect my sleep? How much sleep do I need? What can Erin and I do to make sure we both get enough sleep? And so on and so on… Life now centers around an irrational subject that bores me. Great.”
Now: This was my own neurosis talking. Now that we have lots of friends who also have kids, it’s clear that our sleep struggles were quite mild. You all sleep through the night. I’m learning to appreciate sleep. This was pretty bratty to have on the list now that I realize how tough it can be for some parents out there.
2009: “Before I had little babies around 24/7, I had never even held a baby. I assumed that all they did was cry, eat and produce terrible smells. Micah didn’t even cry the day he was born, I thought that was just an anomaly, but he has remained a mild mannered and happy baby. When he does cry, he only does so for a minute at most, and it’s because there is something very specific that he wants you to do for him. No big deal. Jett is different. He cries loud, and he cries all the time. Something inside me turns desperate when a baby cries the way that Jett does. Every fiber in me becomes dedicated to one purpose- soothing that baby, and more specifically, shutting off that noise. If you think about it, it’s the perfect sound- it triggers an uncontrollable physiological response in adults so that a baby’s needs can be met. It’s almost proof of God’s design all by itself… but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
Now: Crying is hilarious. You guys cry about the funniest things. Micah was losing his mind over the death of Superman’s parents in the beginning of Man of Steel last week, and both Jett and 10-month-old Fisher took to mimicking the exact sound of his cries. On this list, “Crying” should be replaced with “Whining.” Whining is the the devil in sound form.
2) The Booger Ball
2009: “I am five years older than my sister and seven years older than my brother. When my parents used the booger ball on my siblings I thought they were intentionally abusing them. The booger ball is the natural enemy of the infant, and it looks as if it is an internal organ plucked from Satan himself. I refuse to use it, and can’t be in the room when Erin wields the instrument of pain against Micah or Jett.”
Now: I still won’t. You guys will be struggling to breathe from whatever infectious disease you pass back and forth like trading cards, and I’ll use 5 boxes of tissues before the booger ball even crosses my mind. Here’s the thing- it makes you cry violently, which produces more mucous. The genius of the booger ball is that it creates the need for itself. It’s a scam. When you all struggle to breath in my presence, and I don’t reach for the booger ball, it’s not because I find your mouth-breathing enjoyable, it’s because I don’t want to pay the psychologist bills that stem from me sticking that Egyptian mummification tool up your nostril.
1) So-called “Puke Rags.”
2009: “Babies vomit. It happens all the time. You can try and pretty it up with synonyms like “spit-up,” but puke is puke. Jett has it down to a science. He will regurgitate 1/3 of whatever he consumes over a 20 minute period following his last feeding. He is a magician who finds ways to throw up on everything but himself, and is the primary reason I change clothes 4 times a day. All this is fine. I can handle puke. My name (Ralph) means puke. Puke is no big deal. What I can’t handle, are the so-called “puke rags” I’m supposed to use to clean it up with. For those of you who don’t know, “puke-rags” are completely non-absorbent cloths with cute little designs on them. When burping a child, you place the rag over your shoulder “just in case.” If you have a child like Jett, “just in case” becomes “most definitely.” The rag is supposed to keep the puke off of you, but it does not. Essentially, it keeps the puke off of itself… which means it runs down the rag and onto you, your child, the sofa… all things that are far more absorbent than this damn rag.Because this rag is the closest thing to you, you will now use the rag to RUB THE VOMIT INTO whatever surface it is upon, because, in your panicked state, you forgot that the rag DOES NOT ABSORB A DAMN THING, BUT YOU’RE TOO STUPID AND STUBBORN TO REMEMBER THIS EVEN THOUGH IT’S THE THIRD TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED TODAY.”
Now: I’ll stand firm here. We’ve resorted to letting the three of you vomit directly onto us. It’s easier that way.
Looking for things to dislike isn’t a great trait, but laughing about the things you can’t change or control can sometimes be the only thing that keeps you from going crazy. As I did with this list, you often find that over time, some of the things you can’t stand become things of little consequence. The list of things I love about being your dad is infinitely longer, and hopefully these letters I write you will continue to prove that.