This Wasn’t in the Brochure

We were driving home tonight and my wife reached over and touched the back of my neck. Her hand felt warm and the connection went straight down to my toes. It was nice to feel her say hello.

It had been a good day, but a long day, and the girls were tired and quiet in the back seat. I didn’t hear anything at all. The constant sound of parenthood wasn’t there for a time and I was enjoying it.

There is a lot that goes along with being a parent. There are so many emotions and lessons and challenges and triumphs. Too many to catalog, really, but I guess that is a big reason I started this blog in the first place. I wanted to try.

I wanted to write about the innumerable joys that come with being a father, and I have. And I wanted to write about the difficulties that are part of it all, too. And I have. Quite a few of my posts have been a bit redundant, I know – some stuff happened, I was happy/sad/mad/reticent/ knocked unconscious, I then hugged/yelled/smiled/did yoga/got pooped on, I gained a new perspective/learned a lesson/washed my hands, and then I wrap it all up with a clever little ending at about 800 words.

I like those posts, I really do, and I’m glad I have written them. It feels good to write it all down and helps me to process this journey in a way that I don’t think I otherwise would. It’s also nice to have people actually read them. Judging by the page views and comments this blog gets, there are no less than a half a score of people who really enjoy what I write, and upwards of 10-15% of those people aren’t directly related to me or named Yara.

But what I haven’t written (at least directly) is the So You’re Going To Be A Parent Public Service Announcement post, or better put, the post about why in the hell there wasn’t a Public Service Announcement about what parenthood is really like before you actually become a parent.

Granted, if you are a teenager there is plenty of that sort of thing to dissuade you from becoming a parent prematurely (and for good damn reason). The trouble is it is done in the same way that adults try to dissuade teenagers from doing anything – by trying to scare them with imaginary tales of getting high and running over their baby with a Zamboni while trying to order tacos. Folks, teenagers don’t scare easy and they like getting high and tacos. If you want to keep kids from having kids, tell them what it is going to be like when said kids are three. And then five. And then fifteen. That oughta do it.

But I digress.

The PSA that we are sorely lacking as a society is the one aimed at the semi-rational adults who have convinced themselves that now is indeed a good time to start that family. That is what I was thinking about in the car tonight as we rode along silently and my wife touched my neck, which reminded me of a time when we used to ride along silently and my wife would touch my neck (you were wondering when I was going to come back to that, weren’t you? Me, too).

What I’m picturing is thirty second spot on late night tv with a dad who may or may not look a lot like me – disheveled, unshowered, slightly paunchy from strangely timed meals made up of the shit his kids wouldn’t eat and sporting a look in his eyes that is equal parts joyful, infuriated and flabbergasted (or joyfurgasted). He has no lines in the ad, but you hear his two kids voice over 123 questions (actually only 3 questions, but each is rephrased 41 different ways), 9 arguments about 12 different things, 16 stories that never end but start over 3 times each and whining in 5 different languages. You never actually see the kids long enough to know if they are boys or girls, but you know they are there because things are broken and/or spilled in a random pattern around the room throughout. Then you hear the sound of one of the kids being hit in the head with a floor lamp (which is surprisingly unmistakable). In the end, he is startled to see a strange woman that he doesn’t recognize walk into the house until she reminds him that she is his wife and she is simply home from work. Then the screen goes black and the words “You sure?” appear.

But that PSA is never going to get made, and do you know why? The Procreational Imperative. (which I may have just made up, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?) Survival of the species, people. Multiply or die.

My theory is that it’s all part of nature’s conspiracy to get us to continue to make more people so those people can empty the earth of all its natural resources, turn those resources into useless shit, buy the useless shit and then throw the useless shit away.

I know nature is making billions on this, I just haven’t figured out how yet.

But the puzzle pieces are all there. First, there’s the whole horniness thing. We are biologically compelled to want to make babies. Duped into doing something that produces someone who will thereafter prevent us from doing what we were trying to do in the first place. For a full half of our species it is damn near our sole purpose for existence. Hell, more than half of the useless shit we do end up making and buying is directly related to the desire to participate in the baby making activities (cases in point: Corvettes, Rogaine).

Second, the byproduct of the baby making (a baby) is damn near the cutest thing we can possibly imagine. Think there isn’t a biological reason for that? Think any of us would tolerate these screaming poop factories that keep us up all night if they looked like mini-Bea Arthurs? Hell no. Just as our libidos are, it’s a trick. Then, when they start to leave that ambiguous adorability that is babyhood, they start talking and what is the first thing they say? “Mommy” or “Daddy”. And with that you are further duped into loving this little thing with everything you have. (Note: They don’t learn “No” or “I hate this family” until much later. I looked it up. Makes you think, doesn’t it?)

Finally, once these adorable little babies who inspire us to begin tender parenting blogs grow into kids who inspire us to write blog posts like this, a switch seems to go off in our brain that prevents us from passing the valuable truth about parenthood on to other would be parents. And the older we get, the less we pass on to those miserable bastards who are considering procreation as a wonderful next step in their journey on this manipulative rock we call Earth. In fact, not only do we not remember to tell the childless of the truth, the further we get from our own childlessness the less we remember about pretty much everything. Ever notice how the now grey and withered few who do make it back to childlessness only say shit to you like “enjoy every minute – it goes by so fast”? When? When does it go by so fast? I’m convinced they are all just delusional – another trick by Mother Nature herself. She’s a wily old bitch.

So, to the kidless masses, consider this my Public Service Announcement to you. Yes, parenthood is full of beauty and love and joy the likes of which you could never otherwise know. Yes, you will learn more about yourself than you ever could have had you stayed carefree and devoid of any real responsibility. Or at least that’s what you will think because you, too, will have been duped. The brochure is misleading and incomplete and I think a lot of the pictures were taken with wide angle lenses.

Consider this your clever little closing, wrapping it all up into a neat little conclusion: Caveat Emptor.

And if there are any oak trees or kangaroos or baby seals reading this who want to help me figure out the money trail and how nature is profiting from this grand conspiracy, I adhere very strictly to whistle-blower laws. I just want the truth.

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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22 Responses to This Wasn’t in the Brochure

  1. Brother David says:

    Still, the best thing we humans can ever do is create another human, and invest in that human, the best of ourselves, and our ideals; in the hope and expectation of making that human a representative and “doer” to improve our world and society of humankind. I am so very proud of my wonderful daughter; and she said to me recently, just in passing, that she was so glad that I have instilled in her the concept of being a “human doer” rather than just a “human being”. It was a matter of some discussion among she and some of her college acquaintences recently, as they contemplated and determined how they will affect change and guide and improve our world. We must have faith in our children, and have input favorable to their ability to make significant change and improvement in our world and our future. I have been blessed, and I am very pleased and proud to be parent to such a child and represtative of our future.

    You too, my brother father, should be equally, or more, proud to be instilling your wonderful daughters in the same manner. I certainly admire each of them for their amazing awareness of the world around them, and look forward to their growth and contributions to our “family” and the world.

    • As much as I see your point and agree with so much of what you said, I don’t think I agree that the best thing that we can do is to create and nurture and teach another human to be part of the positive change that we envision. I think it is one of the best, though. I believe that the best we can do is to be that change ourselves, which, of course, serves as a model to guide our children along a similar path, but still allows for our own contribution. A lot of what this admittedly tongue-in-cheek post (as well as one a while back called ‘After the Fairy Tale’) gets at is that I don’t think it is our duty as parents to lose ourselves in our parenthood. Rather, it is our duty as parents to be the strongest, kindest and best person that we can be and from that place we can still be the wholly present and dedicated parents that our children need and deserve. With all of this said, I don’t think you were saying that we should lose ourselves in our children – these are just my thoughts on whether the nurturing of our children is the best that we can ever do.

      Thank you, as always, Brother Father, for your time and your thoughts. I hope you know how valuable they are to me. And thanks for the story of your incredible daughter – you have raised a special one in her.

      • Carla Peak says:

        I really loved your post Mitchell, but I love your reply to Brother David just as much. Being a parent is indescribable, but now I’m working on doing just what you talked about, being the strongest, kindest, best person possible…how did you get there so young?

      • Thank you so much for your kind words, Carla. I don’t think I’ve gotten anywhere yet, but I’m doing my damnedest while on the journey.

  2. J i m says:

    You can’t handle the truth! Sorry — it’s a reflex.

    Just this week I had a co-worker (and parent with kids about to leave the nest) tell me that he envies me being a dad with young kids and how fast it’s all passed by. All I could think about was being told to drink “poo-face shutup juice” by a 3 year old. Your point on this was cracking me up! You called it — Mother Nature is one wily old bitch (possible bumper sticker idea?).

    Thanks for making me feel connected on a night when being parent wasn’t as rewarding as it looked in the commercials.

    • It was all I could do NOT to include a comment on a lack of truth handling ability. I DERIDE your truth handling! I’m glad you picked up my slack, though.

      If “poo-faced shut up juice” isn’t a bumper sticker, then nothing is. And I am glad to connect in that way as well, my man. While this may have been a decidedly ridiculous PSA for people with GOBS of free time, the heart of it was right there with you (as well as the motivation for writing it).

  3. TheJackB says:

    This parenting gig is one hell of a ride.

  4. talleygilly says:

    So. Well. Said. Bring on the PSA :). Telling the truth about parenting doesn’t take away from the joys we still get, but I think more essays like this remind us 1) parenting is extremely difficult and that this is in fact a normal condition (not an indication that someone is a terrible parent) but also 2) Realize it’s okay to not have kids. A good friend of mine with teenagers (they are great kids, not difficult, particularly) admits that if she knew how hard it was going to be to raise children, she wouldn’t have had kids. This doesn’t make her a rotten mother (she’s actually a natural), and she loves her kids, but if she had known what she knows now, she would have done things differently.

    • talleygilly says:

      P.S. My favorite clip on parenting from Jason Robards – “There is no end goal in parenting . it never, ever ends.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t6IIdmOIOQ

    • I was wondering what kind of a reaction I would get to this one because I feel like the somewhat harsh reality of parenting isn’t always addressed in this parenting bloggy world in which we both walk. Granted, I addressed it in a pretty silly way and it isn’t like I get a whole lot of readers from said world, but I was interested nonetheless. I think your friend’s attitude is probably more prevalent than anyone really admits to only because they are afraid to appear like demon parents. I think that honesty is terribly important and it would be refreshing if it were discussed with more candor.

      I’m glad you liked it – thanks for reading.

  5. Wolf Pascoe says:

    Chopper Pop has a thoughtful post on this theme. He comes down heavily on one side, but argues well. It’s called “Who I Should Be Kissing First.” http://chopperpapa.com/2012/04/who-i-should-be-kissing-first/ — I’m leaving a link to this post on his site as well.

  6. Shannon says:

    Incredibly well played!

    Though…if you wait long enough the PSA plays-out in real life. As someone who didn’t get married until just North of 30 (and TD was post-40), we live through the PSA among just about all of our friends on a regular basis. For us, even horniness is no match for small child barf and having to pay for college (I kid, I kid…sort of).

    • Why thank you, Shannon. Good to know that the info is getting through Nature’s sticky web of procreational misinformation. And that last sentence may be the funniest thing I have read in a long time.

      Thanks for reading. Go Bruins.

  7. Brochure? I didn’t even get the brochure, even if it was full of lies 🙂
    I have a 20 year-old, 17 year-old, and 4 year-old. I am here to tell you that I understand where you’re at, but it does fly nonetheless. And part of why a true PSA doesn’t work is because no one would believe you anyway. I could share all sorts of information about teenagers. But it is so hard for anyone with young children to think of their kids as teens, and then even if they do, they would not believe their kid could get involved in any of the scenarios I could present. And alas…who wants to burst that bubble anyway? They will learn. As did I. Parenting never gets easier… it just gets different at different stages, and you’re either well-equipped or not for what your kid presents you with at each stage… and so it goes!

    • You didn’t get the brochure? Oh, it was lovely – nice matte finish, frosty pictures of families galloping through meadows, full options package. It was very nice. And a shameless pack of lies.

      When I talked to my mom about this subject she basically gave me the same answer – no one would believe it anyway so why spoil the surprise? Besides, it is fun watching the looks on their faces. Onward we go….

  8. Jamie Lynn says:

    I love when I literally laugh-out-loud, and I so did picturing the wife-coming-home scene! Thank you for re-framing this whole “thing” we do. They DO love us, though. My almost-4-year-old told me so just two days ago. Him: “I love you so much because you bought me the Lego City Police Station.” Me; “I’m so happy you like it. Do you love me just because I’m a good Mama even if I don’t buy you something?” Him: “No.”
    Awesome…

    • I love that you did laugh out loud (or ‘lol’ as the kids are saying these days). I also love that our little angels are so adept at not letting our heads get too big about what a smashing job we are doing. Keep the Legos comin’, Ma.

  9. Susan says:

    Borrowing a favorite expression of the 15 year old who lets me live in her house (and drive her around, and cook her meals, and worry myself blind over her while I love her like a crazy person…) – You Represented!

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