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Published on: 07 Aug 2018 by abrikos
One day about a year ago, I was talking to an old friend and catching up on about six months' worth of life. He asked about my daughter--not unusual; he always does--but he also asked me some questions about parenting, which was definitely unusual, since he and his wife had no kids of their own. Finally I asked him what was going on, and he confided in me.
"The Mrs. and I have been thinking," he said. "We decided we're ready to have kids."
At that moment I did what I always do when someone tells me they are "ready" to have kids: I howled. Luckily we were talking via IM so he couldn't see me doubled over, slapping my knee with tears running down my face as I laughed hysterically.
Ready, eh? Uh huh. Sure you are.
People who say they're ready for children remind me of these dimwits you see on the local news who refuse to evacuate their homes even though a Category 5 hurricane is barreling its way toward them like an angry swarm of hornets.
"We just gon' ride 'er out," a shirtless, gap-toothed doofus in a trucker's cap will say with a defiant smile, his muumuu-wearing wife nodding in agreement behind him.
"We ain't skeered."
Then the next day you see the same couple standing next to a heap of rubble that was their mobile home just 12 hours before, ashen and bug-eyed and shaking too hard to light that Camel and for the love of Jethro can't nobody help me with muh smoke? That is, if they survive the storm at all.
I realize that when people say they're ready for kids, what they really mean is that they have reached a point in their lives at which they want to start a family. Great--more power to 'em. It's just that phrase--"We're ready to have kids"--that makes me want to guffaw every time I hear it.
Those of you with kids, answer me this: how many times have you told someone who's expecting, "Get ready. Your life is about to change"? And how many times has that person replied, "Oh, I know." No, bless your heart, you don't know. You think you do, but you are mistaken, mi amigo.
I thought I was ready to be a parent, too. Don't we all? We read books and talk to friends and do everything else we can to prepare ourselves, but we can only prepare ourselves so much. Parenting is one of those things that you must experience before you can understand it, much like combat or a colonoscopy or that godawful ride at Six Flags that drops you twelve stories in, like, four seconds.
Don't get me wrong--I adore being a dad. It brings me more happiness than I ever expected or deserved. I never thought I could love another person the way I love my child, and she is--I don't know how else to put it--my joy. But here's a newsflash: parenting is hard. I mean, really hard. The hardest thing I've ever done, and I've written three books and climbed the Middle Teton. Not at the same time, mind you.
But then, all you parents know this already. I'm talking to those of you who don't have kids yet but want some in the future. My goal is not to discourage you--you will love being a parent--but to prepare you, because you will also hate being a parent sometimes. Because it's frickin' hard. Did I mention that already?
I can't prepare you, though; no one can. Parenthood is a singular experience that must be lived to be believed. The joy, the frustration, the what-the-hell-have-I-gotten-myself-into moments--words cannot capture any of it. You just have to do it to understand it, and you'll do it, all right, because there's really no other choice once the child is born. You will rise to the occasion and do what you have to do, and you will be fine. So will your kids.
It won't be easy, though, and you won't be ready. But then, few things worth doing are easy.