In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been a little busy recently. That’s because I’ve now assumed the role of stay-at-home mom. The reason I came to Florida was to help take care of my girlfriend’s children, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past month. The younger one is not yet out of diapers, and the older one is in second grade. This has been an intense, hands-on learning experience, and probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. If you’re like me, and you’re the kind of person who says, “okay, so it’ll be difficult sometimes”, and you think it’s going to be just fine, you still don’t quite understand what you’re dealing with here. Surprisingly, raising children is not easy!
If this is something you’re planning on, you should be aware that you’re about to become an educator, entertainer, counselor, chef and maid, 24 hours a day, forever. You will constantly struggle to find an overlap in your respective conceptual spaces that allows you to explain things on a child’s level. You will lose every last bit of privacy, because there is no longer such a thing as being alone. Sleep will become a precious resource that you will fight to protect.
You will lose your mind from having nonsense conversations with someone who doesn’t quite know how to use words yet. You will regress to a primordial state of eating chicken nuggets and peanut butter sandwiches all day while watching Dora the Explorer and playing with Nerf guns. You will face the challenge of keeping them occupied at all times. You will not have five minutes to yourself to compose anything resembling a complex thought.
Everything you do will be subject to the whims of these living avatars of entropy. All of the autonomy you once had is now contained within them. You will run around all day long until you completely lose your ability to concentrate on anything. You will perpetually have to keep track of multiple autonomous beings who are seemingly designed to get themselves into trouble. If you’re the kind of person who’s obsessed with cleanliness, you’ll quickly learn to stop caring about what you just stepped in. Things will frequently get lost or broken, and that’s just how it is now.
The amount of garbage generated on a daily basis will shock you. You will find yourself cleaning up human waste every day. You will be faced with bizarre, incomprehensible and unspeakably awkward behavior from these developing people. And sometimes, regrettably, you’ll have to resort to heavy-handed incentives when they fail to understand why they need to behave. Essentially, a child is someone who is unable to constrain their volition to accommodate others, and you will have to deal with the ramifications of that.
And you’ll get over it. Yes, you’re probably not ready for this, but you’ll figure it out. You’ll learn to tolerate it, and even take satisfaction in it. The sense of fulfillment that comes from taking on a responsibility like this makes it all worth it. It’s striking to think of your memories of your childhood, and then realize that this is what they’re remembering right now – and you’re a part of it. There is so much joy to be found in making them laugh, watching them learn more and more words every day, and teaching them everything you know. It’s like watching your life grow beyond yourself.
This has been a radical change for me, and I’m sure there’s plenty more to come. But from what I’ve seen so far, I can get used to this.