Preface: I write about my kids and my feelings about being a father from time-to-time. I want to first say that I’m sensitive to the fact that not everyone desires to have children and that there are many people that have wanted to have children but, for a wide variety of reasons, do not or cannot. I do not ever want to make anyone feel bad for their own situation or their desires. It’s true that having children changes a person. But, so does a lot of things. Others that I know have had different but just as life-changing events in their life. And for some, the events were even more life-changing. So, I don’t mean to imply that having children is the most life-changing thing ever.
I have kids and the process of nurturing children is what has caused the most significant change to my perspective on the world. It is the fulcrum for my improved understanding of myself and society. Saying that I have an improved understanding should not be translated as having more answers. If anything, it has sharpened the questions that I have always had and raised new questions that I should have had all along.
I’ve always thought of myself as an empathetic and caring guy. Despite being very reserved with my emotions (positive or negative), I do care deeply about other people and often find myself wanting to understand how they see the world. Recently, however, I have realized that I have had a HUGE blind spot in my empathy for all my life: I never considered the sacrifices that my parents made when raising me and my brothers.
Obviously, there are the financial sacrifices. Kids are expensive and they had three rowdy boys constantly breaking things, playing sports, getting into and out of hobbies, visiting the hospital, and going to college. But, I realize now that my childhood (and those of my two brothers) coincided with a period of time that two young adults were living their lives, having new experiences, meeting social and family obligations, and earning money to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads, all the while figuring out how to raise children and how to get along in the world as adults.
Now, let’s fast forward to today when I have two preschoolers. I occasionally grumble to myself about not having any free time to do anything that I find interesting. Because I am at work during the day and Mommy, for now, is home whenever they are home, they want my full attention any time that I am at home. It can be overwhelming especially at the end of a weekend. I can get a bit… crusty. But I try to remember that I’m complaining about my children loving me and wanting to spend time with me. OH! THE HUMANITY! Seriously.
But, it does get overwhelming at times and my personal interests and hobbies definitely take a back seat to being with my kids, doing chores around the house (could do better with this one), preparing food when it’s my turn…you know…adulting.
I am older than my parents were when they had their children. So, I look back to my twenties and try to imagine myself with children. I enjoyed photography and randomly exploring by driving around until lost. Knowing what it is like to have children now, there is no way I would have ever been able to do either of those things with children. What interests did my parents have to forego? What sacrifices did they have to make so that I could be in the basketball or baseball league? What did they go through to get me that BMX bike, that trumpet, or a computer in th 1980s? How did they have to adjust their schedules so that I could go to band practice, basketball practice, or the baseball all-star league at the end of summer? What vacations did THEY want to go on but had to find something else because of the kids and the costs of taking kids anywhere?
I am sure that I was not grateful enough when I was younger (or, even now as an adult). I just hope that I didn’t do anything that made it seem like I didn’t care about their sacrifices or belittle their effort. But, I am sure I did. I am also sure that I must have been angry at my parents at some point for something that I could not do or could not have, despite everything that I could do and I did have. To my parents, I am sorry. And, Thank You.