I'm blogging on the road, having left the house at some now distant ungodly hour Tuesday morning to leave on a jet plane for Sarasota, Florida. With plenty of fresh powder on the ground. Less than two weeks after the botched terrorist attempt by a man from Nigeria. With a four year old. In a plane filled with 100-watt perfume users. To arrive in Florida at one of the coldest cold snaps in a while. Oh my, what fun in store!
This left me with the conundrum of what to write. Do I cover the society/ethics questions raised by the logistical aspects of our flight, or the more philosophical pondering of parenthood on the road? For this one, I'm picking the parenting plot, because I need my blood pressure to come down a bit before I write on privacy and security. As a clarification before this thought train leaves the depot, when I refer to parent, I mean any person who cares for a child in the place of a parent, be there a biological connection or not. Adoptive parents, parents via surrogacy, step parents living with children, foster parents, family members raising children- you're all equal in my eyes in that you have all chosen to take on the task of caring for a child twenty-four hours out of every day, for an extended period of time. It is this day-to-day care and supervision that makes a child, not a biological connection. I'll leave dealing with the biological connection for another time.
One of the things I love and hate about parenting is the learning opportunities it affords Dwight and I. Admittedly, I love the chance to broaden my knowledge, I hate the constant questions that prompt this learning. Ken is very inquisitive, as are most four year old kids. That's great, and I wish more adults had this characteristic still residing within them. He's also very intelligent (I may be biased, but I've also been told this by many non-biased sources, so I feel safe in repeating the delusion here)- but not able to read yet. There goes the ready answer of "why don't you go to the library and find out" that I remember my father firing off to questions which he found uninteresting and for which he didn't have a good answer. We'll get there eventually, and I'm confident that this response for Ken will foster a similar love of the library that it fostered in me (enough to encourage me to volunteer at our local library from a young age, and then work at the library for my first job, by the way).
For now, however, this lack of literacy means that I get to be the one to find the answers to Ken's questions and relay them to him in a language he can understand. And repeat the process ad nauseum for each of the million questions that arise from the first answer. Really, I've learned about some great topics from culinary history to engineering thanks to this practice, but I've also lost countless hours of work/sleep/play time, brain cells, and much of my sanity in the process as well.
This isn't the only task that I had never thought that I'd have to take on as a mother. In fact, I will be the first to admit that there was much in my life now that I hadn't envisioned as part and parcel with parenting, and I have no doubt that more roles will pop up as we age as a family. I've had to become an advocate for my child with extended family and non-family that don't share Dwight and my ideologies and philosophies. I'm an interpreter between my child and others who don't quite speak Kennish. I'm social planner, organizer, family historian, photographer, document keeper, therapist, taxi, macaroni and cheese gourmand, negotiator, movie/music/TV/radio screener, and occasional wrestler and safety net. And that's in a good week.
Maybe I was just hideously unprepared beforehand, although I like to think not. I read the books. I went to parenting classes. I took developmental psychology, albeit for my psychology BS, not in direct preparation for parenting. There was even a time in which I thought I would condemn myself to early childhood education, so I had a few education classes as well.
My point in all this is two-fold. First, there's no such thing as "prepared" to be a parent, it doesn't happen. One can be more or less prepared, but like the loss of a parent, gaining a child is not something you can ever be truly prepared for. This fact, added to the statistic that currently half of US pregnancies are unplanned, and parenthood as one of the most important roles a person can take on, scares the bejeezus out of me. It also reminds me that I should have stuck with psychology for my career, because the need for trained therapists is very clear.
Secondly, to all the people out there who have not yet had the task of raising the next generation, please try to be a little more understanding of children and parents. Everyone who is now a parent has at one time been not a parent; we understand the draw to remain childless, and on some days really, really wish we could go back to those days. I appreciate the opinion of those who choose not to have children, and applaud your ability to recognize your own limitations and priorities. I'm not saying that the world should stop for children, but you were a child once as well, and children are most definitely human, so please don't act as though they are worse than plaque infested rats. Yes, they can be an annoyance; yes, they can be vaguely disgusting; yes, they can be rude, but you don't need to ostracize parents or act as though the world is ending because there's a tantrum going on across the room. If the parents are trying to handle it, then let them, don't add to their stress. We all deserve a little compassion in this life, and the next generation deserves the opportunity to learn and grow, just as you were given once. If nothing else, consider yourself helping the future by modeling patience and compassion instead of distaste and condemnation. Is that acceptable?