There was a time when I looked right through other people’s kids.
Back when I was in my 20s and early 30s, my mind was so hyper-focused on my OWN life that even noticing children, or their parents for that matter, was virtually impossible for me. It was as if I lived in a childless world. Kids existed, of course, but only as voices passing by me on a school bus or maybe crying non-stop on a plane.
I was young, single, and ambitious. I was touring the world in a rock-n-roll band. I was hungry for life. And that life had no room in it for babies or toddlers, for formula or diapers. It’s so crazy to me now. It seems like another lifetime entirely, you know?
I was ME once.
I was this guy with a million different interests and I followed each of them around to my heart’s content. I reveled in the carefree days and nights that my old life allowed me to live.
But I was naïve, of course. Just like anyone else, I didn’t realize how great I had it back then. We rarely do, huh? That’s the trick about living, I guess. We hardly ever recognize how perfect everything is in real time. We just hustle around trying to achieve something more, or something better. Or both.
Then along came Violet. Seven years ago, a baby daughter showed up in my world and, just like that, this entire kingdom of MeMeMe that I had spent years constructing and perfecting, it all came crumbling down in a heap of newfound reality. I became a dad. And with that, I had to make way more sacrifices than I ever dreamed possible.
We all do though, huh?
Each and every one of us parents, when we’re doing it right and we’re present and active in our kids’ lives, we give up so damn much. It’s not like we’re complaining about it or anything either, but still. I get a little pissed sometimes; I find myself struggling to feel positive at every ridiculous bump in the parenting road (and there are, let’s be honest, no shortage of those). Truth is, parts of me still wish I was able to be that guy in the band; still single and roaming the Earth; still able to do pretty much whatever the hell I want to do whenever the hell I want to do it.
But I can’t anymore. I’m Dad. I’ve got three kids now, ages 7, 5, and 2. I’m divorced. I’m half broke all the time. I’m exhausted even when I wake up in the morning. And my hunger isn’t really the artistic kind or the change-the-world kind anymore either. I just get too busy doing laundry and washing dishes and straightening up the never-ending mess of stuffed animals and LEGOs flung all over the floor that I skip meals. I get flat-out hungry. I get hangry.
Sometimes in the quiet part of the evening, during that tiny hour stretch when I get the kids to bed and I plop down on the couch to stare at Netflix, to lose myself in House of Cards for a short while, I end up sighing out loud in the name of “What the f**k happened to me?!”
How is this my life?
What about my dreams? I wasn’t finished dreaming them, you know? But I’ve had to shut them all up in a shoebox and stash them away in the junk closet. Doesn’t that suck? Isn’t it unfair in a way? And my kids, they’re not old enough to get all verklempt and say, “Thanks so much, Dad, for giving up all the stuff you’ve given up to raise us!”
That’s not their job anyway, and I know it. But sometimes I guess I just want some kind of, I don’t know … acknowledgement or something. But deep down I know that parents don’t get that. We just don’t. Our job is the hardest in the world, but it’s common, you see. So through anyone else’s eyes, I’m just doing what needs to be done. And you are too, if you’re a mom or a dad. Yet, the praise never rolls in. The tips of the cap are few and far between.
Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Whatever. They’re not enough. They’re commercial rooks. We need propping up, man. We need pats on the back that sting a little because they come from someone’s heart. But the gig is disguised as a simple one, you know? Parenting: you simply do what you need to do without bitching about it. And without needing pats on the back or whatever.
I get that. I understand everything. And I have no regrets. Becoming a dad has been the most wonderful, magical thing I will ever know. I even feel strange ‘fessing up to feeling the way I feel sometimes here in this article.
Except for one thing: I know I’m not alone. I can’t be. We gave up so much to be the parents we have become, you and me both.
So I just figured it was high time somebody came out and said it.
We may never know that beautiful, electric feeling of being young and getting ready for Friday night ever again. That makes me sad.
Then again, maybe we can just hover over our sons and daughters when they’re old enough, while they get ready, you know? Soak it all in a few more times. Osmosis. At least until they kick us out, tell us to get lost, and we wander back downstairs wondering what’s on TV.
Happy in our hearts for our kids. But a little sad that it used to be us, and it ain’t no more.