On Parenthood

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

As a married guy in his thirties, with a wife who is also in her thirties, I've begun to start giving some serious thought to what it means to be a parent.  And while it is somewhat ironic that we come to this moment, by definition, as current parental virgins (apologies for the mixed metaphor); thankfully most of us at least have the context of being someone's kid to draw from.  I'm lucky enough to have two someone's in my life.

I'm attempting to be upfront about the fact that while I do realize it is somewhat presumptuous to write about parenthood as a person with no children, that this is exactly when a lot of these ideas are functionally flushed out.  My wife will tell you that it is difficult not to at least consider motherhood when her coworkers find new and continually less inventive ways to insinuate that children must be on her imminent horizon.

We rarely have all the facts going into major life decisions.  If you're intelligent or lucky enough to actually get to make a decision in regard to becoming a parent, you'll be comforted to know that this decision is also made primarily in the dark; or at least partially blindfolded at dusk.

If I had to boil the (optimal) Parent/Child relationship into one dynamic (and, again, this is not flippant.  I've been giving it a great deal of thought), it would go something like this.

By (my) definition, parents try with all their might to protect their children from the fundamental truth that life is hard; for everyone. Existence is, at its core, a fickle bitch.  Parents throw themselves in front of the oncoming train of suffering to squeeze in just a few more moments in which their children believe chicken pox are the worst thing out there.

Children, by (my) definition, are born questioners; they are born to seek answers.  And in this developmental trajectory it is inevitable that the child information gatherer will happen upon the slings and arrows that mark the way to adult suffering.  When this happens, the parent reacts as stated above, and uses every resource available to relieve said difficulty and assure the child of its momentary and fleeting nature.

As thus begins the building of tension between the two, parent and child.  The child becoming ever aware that there is a secret being kept and that they are not being let in on.  The parent knowing that once the secret is told, there is no way to close Pandora's box.

Rules. Boundaries. Curfews.  All of these things are seen as necessary tools as part of a parents' continuing attempt to keep their child corralled inside a impenetrable fortress of blissful naiveté.  A place of simple feelings like happy and joy and childhood.

But maybe that kid got fiercely picked on in middle school, or beat up in high school, or embarrassed on the internet, and a wave of suffering came to pass that was so large it surged over the child like a drowning surfer raked over coral.

What happens then?  What happen then, when the red-eyed child, Butterfly-filleted heart in hand, seeks empathy from the parent?

More often than not, they get sympathy.  They get the comfort of being an other, of having somehow a less developed set of emotions.  Because if not, and the parent admits that the suffering is real, and now, and endless, then they must stand there and watch as that inevitable train plows through their child unrepentantly.  And that is unfathomable.

And thus, they find themselves at an impasse.

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