The stay-at-home-dad: Wisdom comes with age… sometimes.
| May 27, 2020 1:29 PM
Wisdom comes with age… sometimes.
My wife and I married when we were 22, just a couple months after graduating from the University of Idaho. We always wanted to be parents - I wanted two kids and she wanted four (she won), but we knew at that age we weren’t yet ready to become parents.
For one, I had an English degree, and she had a psychology degree. Not exactly lucrative career paths.
Mostly, we weren’t mature enough to be parents, or at least I wasn’t mature enough. I figured I’d be better prepared after a few years of “adulting.” I thought, “Let’s just see if we can keep the dog alive for a few years as a test run.”
In my experience, adulting doesn’t prepare you much for parenthood. One of my most cherished memories happened almost nine years ago - the moment I held my infant daughter for the first time. A day-and-a-half later, I experienced one of my most terrifying moments. When it came time to drive our daughter home from the hospital, the gravity of parenthood smashed me in the face like a paint can tossed by Macauley Culkin.
As our daughter screamed and screamed from the discomfort of sitting in a car seat for the first time, I kept thinking over and over again, “I’m responsible for her. Even if she survives, I’m going to ruin her life.”
It wasn’t just fear. There was a legitimate case to be made that I wasn’t qualified for the job. Did you see the above paragraph with the “Home Alone” reference? A guy like that shouldn’t be caring for children.
The first kid is definitely the hardest. Even if you read all the books (I didn’t), you just scramble through the various challenges and do your best to be nurturing, even when your little baby refuses to sleep on her own for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Each subsequent child comes with their own unique challenges, and many of the same strategies won’t work for the next kid. But at least you have a general outline to follow if all else fails.
They say parenthood ages you, which I guess is technically true. Aging ages you, and other than being tired all the time, I don’t know if I’ve matured at a faster rate than some of my childless friends. I still really like “Home Alone” for some reason, and I’m making sure all my kids like it as much as I do.
Case in point, when our family says, “Happy Holidays,” we say, “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.”
Do other parents teach their kids the “Top That!” rap from the 1989 cult film, “Teen Witch?” Do other parents reply to dumb questions from the kids by saying, “Your face!”? Do others let their toddlers learn how to punch and kick everything that moves just because Dad wanted to watch an episode of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?” It’s rated Y-7 for fantasy violence!
Fun fact: My toddler recently had a video call with my brother in California. I told him to say, “Hi Shane!” which he did and was adorable. Then he “Hi-yahed” and punched the image of my brother on the screen, knocking the phone out of my hand. He video-assaulted his uncle.
If anything, being overwhelmed by four kids only makes me want to be less of an adult. If you can’t beat them, join them! Now when there’s a farting contest in the house, I’m the grand (expletive deleted) champion.
While something could change in the next several years, I just don’t see myself as the wise old man that his kids and grandchildren come to visit for advice and life perspective. The kids don’t listen to me now, so I’m not expecting anything different from them in the future.
Because of that, I don’t plan on making any changes to my parenting style. On with the “Teen Witch” rap rehearsal! The kids can sit on the couch and watch ME play “Super Mario Odyssey” (letting them play along just slows my progress through the game).
So for any nervous new parents out there: Don’t worry. I’m terrible at it, and they gave me my own parenting column.
• • •
Tyler Wilson is a freelance writer and stay-at-home parent to four kids, ages 2-8. He is tired, especially in the age of Pandemic 2020. He can be reached at email@example.com.