Wonderful fights between narcissism and worthlessness

The Kids

on August 2, 2012

I’ve known I wanted to have kids since high school. I never had a relationship that lasted over a month until after I graduated college, mind, but through my later years of education, I already had a future full of sprouts thought out, to the point that I worried about the inevitable marital problems when kids came along and I didn’t give my future wife enough attention (I also knew I’d rather not be a single dad, but would rather be a single dad than a single dude if I never married. College thoughts). Obviously, I’d want to spend every waking moment with my kids.


I didn’t have these thoughts in a vacuum. I love kids, then and now, immensely. I always got along great with children and had a lot of fun playing with them. It was a great chance to do a number of things I loved that I dreamed of passing on to my potential offspring. LEGOs. Games, phrases, and sayings. Super Nintendo era RPGs. Babies made my heart hurt, because I wanted one so badly. And, while it never really came up until post-college, I was also rational about my desire. Safe sex was tantamount, and I required a much better financial situation (that I’m still nowhere close to, which is a fun realization) before having a child was ever an option.


There was a lot that was unrealistic about my thoughts and dreams, but second only to the fact that I had no remotely realistic conception of the mother I wanted these potential children to have besides wife and mom was the reality that I had never spent any significant time around children. I’d babysat once or twice, here and there, and I’d played with my young cousins plenty. But that’s not raising a child day to day and dealing with the constant contact of parenthood. That’s the day away from the family unit dynamic, with other people and things for a child to do wholly independently from her or his parents, including people like me who love to interact with kids an afternoon at a time. This was my interaction level with my little brother and sister, who were born my freshman year in college. Come home for a weekend, hold them, chase them, play pretend, read a book at them as they get disinterest across surprisingly well, drive home, don’t see them at all for a week at least.


Then I moved back home post-college, and got my illusions about what kind of parent I’d be shattered by reality.


I started to lose the absolute cult-level adoration I had of all children. I started to become bored by my siblings, annoyed by them. I felt like an asshole as I listened to them describe our grandmother’s dogs with the most basic of details and wish they’d go away. Oh, I could still grasp that these were wondrous thoughts they were having for the very first time in their existence, finally able to piece a story together about the facts of life for things that weren’t them; other, distinct creatures. But it annoyed me when I just wanted to finish listening to a This American Life. My handling of day-to-day moments also horrified me. I was short, too quick to anger. I held resentments. I employed shame from time to time to try and teach lessons. And I hated that I did it. I’d yell; occasionally, but I had always assumed that I, as a mentor to youth, would NEVER yell at a child. Surely my words would suffice. But they never did. My brother become proud and willful quickly, and my sister soon joined him, and I had nothing but horrible parenting tools left when they wouldn’t accept my “No,” or listen when I told them it was time to leave my room so I could watch “Adult movies” (videos with swearing).


And most times, it was me needing to get a point across desperately and bungling it awfully. The most standout instance was a walk with my partner, my dog, and my brother and sister this summer. It was supposed to be a walk to the end of the block and back, but it was a beautiful day and a lot of fun, and I usually walk my dog further than a block, So we went down the length of the drive at the end of the block that culminates in a cul-de-sac. Brother and sister were getting out far ahead of me, but they were in eye sight. They came back towards my partner and I and passed us the other way as I told them to stay closer. No listening. Then they kept getting closer and closer to the turn back towards home where I’d no longer be able to see them. I was having some leg problems that day and could not run, just hobble-walk faster than my regular pace. And I started to do that as I was yelling after them and getting no response. They turn the corner.


Once I turned the corner, I could see my sister on the sidewalk. She had not come back and stayed close, but she was on the sidewalk, which was good. But my brother was in the road. And I was scared, and furious, and felt like I had let him down by not being able to run after him, and trusting him for the walk. And I was screaming as loud and hard as I could at him to get out of the road. A truck turned onto our street at one point. Not being able to do much else, I screamed at the top of my lungs until my brother was at our house, safe. When I caught up to him in our driveway, I shouted at him about not listening to me, how dangerous it was, and how we’re never taking a walk/bikeride together again. At some point, because I’d been walking my dog, I said something to the effect of him needing a leash if we ever go out together again. I can’t remember the exact words, but I know I said something that awful. That my 5-year-old brother deserved a leash for not practicing proper safety. He looked hurt, and turned away from me. And, as it always does, it hit me how I was being a shitty person. I absolutely needed him to understand how wrong what he did was, but instead I taunted him, and said hurtful things, and got loud. I did apologize to him for what I said and how I handled it, and he listened more intently as I then tried calmly to explain why that was wrong, and why he needs to be safer. It ended well. Surprisingly.


Is this normal and just thoughts we’re conditioned to put away? Part of the brilliance of Louis C.K.’s parenting jokes is that he talks in raw language about feelings he’s had that he makes ring true and hyperbolic, in the same way “I want to throw you out of a window” is hyperbole but exposes an underlying feeling (of being angry at someone, not forced flight trials), while also making you feel that it’s true when he says his daughters are his world or that he could never leave his family because of how much he loves them. It’s considered brave and envelope-pushing to have a parent character in media, especially a mother, express resentment toward her child, or present the parenting experience as anything less than a life-changing miracle. That’s the way I viewed being a parent before spending real time with children, year upon year (only the two, but, still). And I’m still letting go of the notion that, when I become a parent, everything will fall into place, and I’ll just magically be more patient, more caring, more attentive, and better at communication and boundary setting out of nowhere. I do still want kids. I do. And anymore, I think those traits will come. But they’ll come with the years, as my old wants, and needs, and habits, and the old me, is molded into something new by constant interactions, fights, arguments, triumphs, moments, and sleepless nights, whittled by hours upon hours of constant interaction with children, adopted or otherwise, who I get angriest at when they put themselves in danger disobeying me.


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