This is written for those of you who aren’t parents - the ones that are hoping, the ones that are waiting to be surprised (a funny thought if you let yourself run with it), the ones that are trying (the worst/best descriptive word that somehow even your Aunt is ok with utilizing around the dinner table after never broaching the subject in the history of your relationship. “Are y’all trying?”, “ehhem…excuse me… nope but there’s a lot of sex happening”). There is a pervasive thought that runs amongst you about parenting. There is an almost understanding that you won’t be good enough. That you aren’t ready. A fear (to be fair one should be afraid, but don’t let that scare you). A not-enough-ness. I distinctly remember these thoughts landing on me at unsuspecting moments well into the pregnancy of our first. “Am I going to be a good dad?”
Of course the first person we typically compare our future self to is one of our parents. “I won’t ever be like them, as good, as sacrificing, etc.”. This is a hell of person to compare yourself to because they have been actively practicing being a parent for at least as long as it takes to make a baby that can make a baby. They are light years beyond an infant. And you, well, you are still a person that has to take care of you. You are pre-transition. In general (and let me paint with broad strokes here), the paths of a human who cares for human things and a human who is focused on procreating don’t run in parallel. For a significant time, they are fundamentally different. Not better or worse. As a society we require that some of us choose one path and some choose the other. But the interesting thing for parenting is that as a person you transition from one path into the other. And I suspect it is this transition that frequently has the capacity to haunt us. I want to speak to this.
You have a gear you never knew existed.
All of us see ourselves as the final product. I think we always, whenever we are, look retroactively and view where we are as the tip of the spear. Even the child on the playground, or the teenager alone in a room, or even me writing this right now – it always feels like we are at the end (I think as a species we also think that all of evolution led up to this point [us] and don’t consider the real possibility that we are still evolving. That we are in the middle of a river not at its end.). It is easy to see the child born and grow and liken it to the flower blooming. Or the toddler with a caloric intake of an elephant and know that they are developing. Or the teenager growing up and their voice growing low and their hair growing out. And understand (fundamentally think we understand) that they are transitioning into something more. Through no external action on their part they are doing it. Or it is becoming them. At some point (I suspect we as a culture put this point around 18-25) we think it is done. We’ve done all the growing up and now just are. We have grown up. But there is more to the story. Nature doesn’t stop here. And here is my point - parenting is hard wired in. It is baked into our DNA. Simply, it is just there. When you have a child the eyes you look through change. The nature of you changes. There is a gear that you have that you never knew existed. This book has been written before and it is written into you, it is written through you (you are the page but the words are not your own). You hear the child screaming and try to imagine what that will be like when you are a parent. But when you hear your screaming child it will be with different ears. As a parent, in regard to your child, your capacity deepens. The center from which you spin is altered so fundamentally that you have entirely different constellations in your sky. It can’t be explained anymore than the mother bird building the nest can be explained. In fact, it is exactly like this mother bird. We don’t ascribe consciousness to that action. They just do it. They aren’t taught. They just do it. Nobody tells the turtle to lay the eggs on the beach. They just do it. It is built into them. Nobody teaches the ant to build the hill, the wolf to hunt, the fish to swim. They just do it. And this is my point – it is built into you too. The exact same nature is built right through you. You are hardwired to do this. You are a keeper of this flame regardless of what you want or think, where you come from or your preferences. You will transition to act, think and behave in accordance with this nature. You will become more in this capacity. You will become a parent through no fault of your own. Just nature unfolding unto itself. You are the vehicle. So don’t agonize or doubt this existence. We would not be here if not for this.
I once glanced over and watched my wife catch our child rolling off the bed when she was fully asleep. No shit. AND she didn’t even wake up. The baby didn’t either! She was and is hardwired to parent. It was nature protecting itself (it also seemed like a superpower too – which it is). Point being, is that your growth isn’t finished. You as a future parent have already been accounted for and taken care of – its built into you. You are not done. Trust the process. There is still some magic left in the bottle.
That being said… enjoy these moments of not having kids because, damn, they require a lot of attention.