It’s basically impossible that I have anything to say about parenthood that hasn’t already been said in better ways by wiser people, so maybe this one’s a bit self-indulgent. But we had Mother’s Day last month and we have Father’s Day this month, so I think I’ll just go ahead and self-indulge.
I’ll say this, it seems to me that becoming a parent is in many ways just about the most ordinary thing a person can do; witness the unbroken tree of who knows how many thousands of generations of parents that has led to every person who is alive today. People of all types across any number of demographics become parents. It’s such a normal affair that it often becomes an expectation for people of a certain age, especially if they are married. It can become a stigma for those who cannot or choose not to become parents. (And to those who can’t, I sincerely hope this little ramble isn’t just more insensitive musing; to those who choose not to, live on and enjoy!)
The truth though, in my experience, is that while parenting may be the very ordinariest of undertakings, it is also wildly, profoundly extraordinary. What are each of my children but possible Lincolns or Hitlers or Henry-the-neighbourhood-plumbers? My role as a parent is of course only partly to blame for the eventual quality and career of my offspring, but the potential to foster good and evil, excellence and mediocrity, and everything in between is an awesome and terrifying thing to consider, not least because I know that I myself am no exemplar of anything particularly praiseworthy. But these are generalities that surely cross every parent’s mind now and then in the (rare-ish) quiet moments.
To offer something more concrete, here, if you’re interested, is the primary finding of my green two years of parenthood: it is a fantastic technique for discovering all the ways that you fall short as a human being. It’s one thing to be generally good-natured when you can sleep in on any given weekend morning (not to mention sleeping through an entire night uninterrupted), and have no other people constraining your schedule.
It’s a very different thing to stay lighthearted about being rib-poked awake by your wife at 2:59 in the morning because one of the boys is crying and she’s already been up three times that night (and every other night for the last two weeks because we all have one of those colds that clogs your sinuses with some sort of radioactive green mucus and makes your head feel like it’s been on the “Reheat Leftovers” setting in the microwave). The temptation to flip off the blankets with a displeasure-announcing huff as I finally concede that, yes, ok, you’re right, fine, you’re right, you’re right, it’s my turn — it’s still a challenging temptation to master. Lo and behold, and very much contrary to the self-image I had before becoming a parent, I can be a plain grump.
And that’s of course, just one of my failings (and one that I’m actually willing to divulge to a public audience). Be assured that there are more. Humble pie comes in a delightful variety of flavours and sizes, and it is consumed with distressing regularity, often without utensils, sometimes altogether without hands—I just jam my maw right on in there like a smacking, hungry pig. It’s embarrassing, really.
Which, if I may delve even further into self-indulgence, I should mention: maybe I didn’t notice it, or maybe they were good at hiding it from us kids, but I don’t recall my parents ever having any particularly gluttonous humble pie incidents. In any case, they were (still are) really good at being parents, and that has been an invaluable gift to me and my siblings. To say thanks is so far short of adequate that it’s almost laughable, but here it is for what it’s worth: thank you Mom and Dad for the stable and life-giving home that you’ve created!
And thanks to all you other fathers and mothers for everything (so much!) that you give. I hope you feel (and have felt) appreciated on these special days when we specifically