I was never a soldier or police officer or a cowboy, but I imagine those who've dedicated their lives to such careers look at children pretending to be them through sideways eyes. Seeing some child pretend to be in the heat of battle when you've just returned from war, or playing cops and robbers after you'd just had a tweeker try and shank you must be. ... difficult to say the least. Wow. ... I was looking for a good entry analogy for my post and I believe I overshot my mark by a large amount. I'm about to liken parenting to life threatening careers and that's not at all accurate. Well, the delete button is all the way up there so there's not much I can do about it now.
Anyway, I was sitting in the sauna at the gym the other day (see how unlike a war hero my life is already) and there were two young women in there chatting it up. They were probably in their early twenty's but couldn't have been much more then that. They were talking about having children, neither of them pregnant or even near that stage in their life, they were just fantasizing about how it would go. They were planning it to a "t". This is the gender, this is the month they'll be born, this is how I'll help them to walk and this is when we'll potty train. They'll only eat these foods and bed time will be promptly when I say it is. I didn't laugh out loud, but internally I was busting up. I have a policy at the gym, and it's not the best but it helps me get through my workout and back to the office efficiently: I don't talk to people. Making friends only increases the number of conversations you have to have and takes away from the time you have to do what you came to do. ... nice, huh? But, if I were into making friends I would have jumped right in with "ladies, plan all you want, you'll still find yourself plucking a sleeping three year old from her bed at 1 am and plopping her on the toilet to avoid changing the sheets at 5. As you place her back in her room and snuggle her in with a stuffed tiger you didn't buy her but will move heaven and earth to find when it's lost you won't have the slightest memory that you were only going to feed her organic vegetables and free range dairy products, because sleep deprivation robs you of all memories prior to leaving the hospital with that newborn. And after struggling with breastfeeding for two weeks, your nipples cracked and bloody, that defiant stance on formula will weaken slightly. Nick Jr will break your resolve of not letting your little one watch TV when you realize you can have 20 minutes during Yo Gabba Gabba to fold that pile of laundry that has quadrupled since the poop machine arrived. And cloth diapers? You'll laugh that one off shortly too. The 7 o'clock bedtime you guaranteed will hold firm until you realize that no one falls asleep till 11:30 anyway, and by this time you'll have no memory that you caved and went for the epidural during labor. That fancy stroller you demanded will have no resale value after the horrors it's seen, which only the remaining stains will attest to in public. Half of the cloths you bought will sit in storage for eternity with price tags still affixed because the winter was unseasonably warm or your little one didn't grow according to your fantasy growth chart. Your dog, your best friend and your "furry child". ... did you feed him last night? The day before? You'll let a swear word slip once and this will be the first word your child says. You'll tell friends she's saying "truck" but everyone knows "tr" sounds nothing like "f". But, at some point in all this madness you'll find a rhythm, a rhythm that works perfectly for you. A rhythm that works perfectly for your child. A rhythm that looks nothing like what you planned all those years and months earlier. And this is the reality of parenthood. It can't be planned, it can only be discovered as you go along.