I ate nine Krispy Kreme doughnuts in three hours, ran 22 sprints up the 24th Street hill the next morning, and adopted a reenergized outlook on dad life that is holding up better against the daily onslaught. I refuse to walk anything back from last month’s diatribe because they were all valid points and I have a lot more to add at a later time. But at least some of the time, I can try to inch toward understanding rather than indulge in masturbatory complaining.
First, this is neither here nor there, but you should know those nine doughnuts included only one glazed. Krispy Kreme is best known for its original glazed, which can be consumed in a few bites. A fat child or dog could put down nine. I chose dense, colorful, grossly sweet, filled-and-or-frosted types because I am all man.
I have manly desires and compulsions that can be at odds with rational thought. My wife showed me an email that referred to the decision to have kids as being pre-rational. I really like this description for some reason. I think it makes me feel less crazy or stupid.
Perhaps having kids doesn’t fail the rationality test, but rather the answer is N/A. Based on what I consider to be fairly universal measures of quality of life – disposable time and income, liabilities, freedom, stress, sex life, sleep, etc. – having kids is not a rational decision if the goal is to optimize the numbers here.
But you could say that about decisions everywhere in life. The ultimate man’s man, GOAT Tom Brady, nixed his retirement to start another season in the NFL at age 45. He could probably make more money at this point focusing on his business ventures. He could certainly enjoy a lifestyle with less strain and essentially a blank check to experience anything in the world including his children.
Instead, this middle-aged many-millionaire wants to give up all his free time to be the target of linebackers half his age and one hit away from not being able to chase his kids for a year or longer. That’s not entirely rational depending on the metrics on your list.
Sure, Tommy gets to play a sport he loves. Yet there are plenty of folks in more mundane professions who continue to work even if they don’t need the paycheck. I don’t picture a lawyer’s day-to-day as being outright pleasurable, but I know of lawyers who keep putting in the hours and putting off retirement.
Hobbies too. People don’t make a T-chart of perks and lifestyle and decide to pick up ultramarathoning. I haven’t gotten paid to write since I was 24 and never look forward to forcing out a blog post every month. I just do it because I feel compelled without needing to question why.
Even something as ingrained as marriage might not be a rational decision at face value. Hang on, you want to reduce my freedom and personal space and increase conflict and obligations while consolidating sex life to one source? Come (never) again? Everyone knows the risk in not having a diversified portfolio. Severe downturns can happen. This year Tom Brady likely will rack up more wins than times I get laid, not even including the playoffs.
So maybe last month when I characterized having kids as an oblivious if not reckless “default” decision, I had the wrong frame of reference. It could be thought of more as a calling than a decision, one that can’t be broken down in terms of everyday utility.
We kicked off the Covid-delayed era of classmate birthday parties this month with consecutive Saturdays of small talk with adults and bounce-house-jumping with children while making a conscious effort to avoid giving off pedophile vibes.
This was one of the responsibilities I imagined about family life as a young single lad that always made me retch. Especially in the bubble of Orange County, Calif., I was dreading desperate housewives ambience and mind-numbing conversations about golf, grills, vacations and potty training. I mean, why not just get right to it and vomit into each other’s mouths, right?
It wasn’t bad though. I kind of enjoyed myself. There was Chick-fil-A, Costco pizza and a french fry cart. I consumed moderately and didn’t touch the sweets.
Watching my 2-year-old experience his first parties filled me with a visceral joy. The first one was for his undisputed best friend, a blond girl about 20 percent taller in the same Mandarin immersion program.
They’re not quite advanced enough to play together, so they play in parallel. I can still hear in my mind my boy’s high-pitched squealing and giggling as they frolicked in separate but adjacent universes, and it makes me smile.
I presume posting pictures of children not related to me violates some sort of internet etiquette, so let me just tell you this one is adorable and you’re missing out:
The besties were heartbreakingly split up two days later when the girl moved up to an older class. Thus the second party ended up being their reunion after a long week apart. I spotted her as soon as she arrived, snuck up behind and dropped my son right in front of her face.
It took a short moment of recognition, and then she swallowed him up in a hug. My son doesn’t really know how to hug and normally just sticks out his chest at a 45-degree angle. This time he actually hugged back with his little arms. I had never seen him do that, and I melted.
In an even more touching moment, the parents put in great effort to corral the children for a group picture. Inexplicably, my son the usual wallflower gravitated toward front and center and popped up his shirt to flash the abs. There had been no prompting, encouragement or contextual relevance, as there never should be for this type of maneuver.
I hadn’t planned on teaching him the hallowed shirt-pull move until high school. I don’t know if this was a triumph of nature over nurture or he’d been watching his old man’s highlight reels, but I never felt so connected. The insecure peacocking was something I did a lot in my younger confused days, and I have a paternal duty to support him through the phase.
The rest of the weekend sucked. My son crawled out of his crib for the first time right after the party rather than give us a nap and our one opportunity to address a backlog of tasks, thereby kicking off yet another era in which dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 in the morning no longer earns me the right to an uninterrupted 35-minute workout that has been the one thing I can control, the linchpin of my sanity.
As I’ve said previously, there are euphoric highs being a parent but the baseline existence is quite low. It doesn’t seem to add up, and the idea that it’s not supposed to could be useful.
Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month until I die or you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.