Last year, I wrote about an experience I had as an ignorant, childless young man. While standing in line at the drug store, I cringed as young mother talked with a friend while her kid called for her attention over and over and over again. "OH MY GOD WILL YOU JUST ANSWER THAT FREAKING KID?!?" I thought.
I walked out of there thinking, "What a bad mom. Why would she ignore her kid?"
Today, I know who was at fault in that scenario: Me. Well, not at fault. Just ignorant.
I've tried to explain parenting to non-parents before, but I know I was unsuccessful. Because there is no explaining it. You've simply got to be a parent to comprehend parenthood. Period.
Most people know the theoretical basics:
- Sleep deprivation
- Less free time
- Pee, poo, etc.
Those things certainly happen (especially number 3), but that's just the tip of a Titanic-class iceburg.
I'm directly responsible for a human being's survival on the planet. Let me say that again: It's up to me to keep her alive. Literally.
Her education, personality, happiness, adult relationships, tendency to be a nerd ... all me (at least initially).
Think of all the people you'll meet in your life. Your parents, co-workers, boyfriends/girlfriends, the guy who delivers your Kung Pao Chicken. You know thousands of people. You like several of them. You love few. The ones you love earned your affection over time.
Not so with kids. I loved Grace more dearly than any other person I've ever met the instant she entered the world. I mean in that exact nanosecond she leapt to the top of the list. I've known my wife for 10 years. I've known my parents for nearly 40. She shot past all of them in less time than it takes you to blink your eyes.
I can describe that kind of love to you, but unless you've been there, you won't really get it.
I certainly didn't get it before I had kids. There were times I thought I did but, man, I had no idea. Occasionally I'm confronted with the ignorance of non-parents, and I just have to smile and nod.
My sister recently visited one of my old haunts with her boyfriend. She was telling me about their fun evening ...
"...So Chris said -- you know Chris..."
"No, I don't. Who's Chris?"
"Wh -- how am I supposed to know the bartender?"
"Isn't that your hangout?"
"Oh my God," I said. "Like 8 years ago. I don't hang out anymore."
"Oh," she said.
That's okay. We're just living on the same planet, but different worlds.
Last week, I read a post on The Unofficial Apple Weblog* that had me laughing. Recently, Apple announced that people could rent movies from its popular iTunes Store. Several parents -- myself included -- complained about the 24-hour time limit (A rented movie must be viewed within 24 hours of the first time you click "Play" before it disappears). "I just don't have time," we said.
"I hardly see why Apple (or any company) should have to answer for parents' inability to get their kids to stay in bed," the author wrote. She also referred to parents complaining about the limitation as "The Mamfia," and said, "I appreciate that finding time to watch something can be difficult for parents...."
No, you don't.
But I can't get angry. The author is no different than young Dave, annoyed with the mom in the drug store. Call it Pre-Parenthood Ignorance. Once you're in The Club, you get it.
Until then, you absolutely do not.
*Full disclosure: I write for The Unofficial Apple Weblog.