Having a child has taught me a lot about myself, and the large rainbow range of emotions that I did not always know I had. I guess that’s both the pro and the con of being a parent.
A note going to the heart
Last week I picked up a note to write down a schedule for combining my work, my wife’s work, and taking care of our coughing daughter. It’s still a pandemic out there, and coughing children — even if not ill — are not wanted at school.
My four-year-old asked me why I had a note. I answered her I needed to write something down. She — currently prone to taking a random word from any sentence you say and turning it into a question — responded with ‘write?’
‘Yes, I need to write down a schedule,’ I replied.
‘Schedule?’ was the not unexpected reply to that. Now, continuing in this vein will eventually lead to a circular argument or mental collapse, so I changed tack.
‘You know what,’ I said, and drew a heart on the note. ‘You’ve been drawing hearts on everything. Here, I’ll write ‘I love you’ inside it.’ I followed up by doing so and handed her the note.
She proceeded to grab the note, then tore it to pieces. I blinked. ‘Er, what?’
She continued tearing.
‘What, you don’t love me?’ I asked, partially in jest. Of course, I walked right into that one.
‘No,’ was the harsh reply.
‘That’s not very nice,’ I sighed, shook my head and left her with her slightly flustered mother and went upstairs. You might be wondering why I didn’t become angry. The reason is twofold: she might say she doesn’t love me, but she won’t go to sleep without a kiss goodnight either. Also, I’m not going to gaslight my daughter and force her to say she loves me if she apparently doesn’t mean it.
A few minutes later, I’d started my first video meeting of the day upstairs — pandemic means work from home — when she came running into the room.
She shoved a heart drawing into my hand with ‘I love you daddy’ inside. Then she added note which had been dictated to my wife ‘I love you daddy, but if you give me notes I’ll tear them up.’
Children think in mysterious ways
I still don’t quite understand what the heck was going on inside her head, but I think this anecdote illustrates my point very well. In the span of an hour, my daughter had made me stressed for having to reschedule my day, annoyed me with inane questions, hurt me, and warmed my heart, even if the whole episode left me flabbergasted. A rainbow of emotions, in other words.
And like they say ‘never a dull moment’. A child can make you feel disgusted for pooping in the middle of the room, ashamed for throwing a scene in a super market, and filled with joy when they come running into your arms after a day at school. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Having a child can be a rude awakening if you were under the illusion everything would be fluffy clouds and rainbows. And there are people who think that, and they can suffer for it when they have a child. There are rainbows, but ‘red with anger’ is also a part of that rainbow. But once you get used to the less pleasant aspects, you can enjoy the highs. And the less pleasant parts slowly go away anyway.
Likewise, people who never want children — which is fine, by the way — often fear those negative parts. Truth be told, there are days I’d rather see gone, but there are also days I’ll carry to my grave as pearls of joy that enriched my life.
From a valley to a mountain
My brother had a baby recently, and that brought back a lot of memories. I remembered the sleepless nights, the chilling sense of being in over your head at the deep end of the pool, and the adaption to a new normal.
I also remember the first time my daughter smiled, me feeding her tiny drops of milk while she suckled my finger at one day old, and swaying her to sleep in my arms. And looking back, every phase has been different, with its own horrors, and its own triumphs. A rainbow of different events and feelings, that has truly enriched my life.
Some people find this climb up the rainbow so fun they do it a second time. I personally find one time enough, but I’ve written about that before. What is not in those earlier posts, is that I have found things only get better as time passes. You start out with a flesh doll that does little more than cry, eat, and poop, and you end up with a fully capable human being. I’m not there yet, of course. My human being is only a quarter done to adulthood. But she can already reason, think, and do things that pleasantly — or unpleasantly — surprise me.
I don’t think I’ll ever give a ringing endorsement for having children. It has to be something you choose for yourself, not something you do because somebody tells you it’s great.
But I can tell you I think it is great to climb the rainbow. If you can handle it, and even when it isn’t great all the time.