Tuesday, April 24, 2012

So What Is Parenting?

The other day I said I was going to have guest posts from many of you answering this question. Since the sickness from hell has taken over my house, I'm going to start today. This first post was written by a single male friend of mine (in real life....yeah I have some real life friends, too).

So, I present you with Paul's thoughts on parenting!

Who's Your Daddy?
by Paul Weston

Parenting is one of those things that is difficult to describe. We all have our own opinions on what makes a good parent, or a bad parent. We have different views based on our cultures, norms, and upbringings, as well as personal situations. There is no test to take to become a biological parent, no license to acquire, nor any formal training. So many of us have said when we were younger that we will never end up like our parents, yet that is the only training most of us have. We mix that with our maternal and paternal instincts, find what we liked, what we didn't, what was effective, and what was not, mix them all together, and hope to God that we don't screw up our child(ren)'s life forever.
Me? No, I don't have any children. Well, they already grew up and left the nest. Even that doesn't make sense. I'm not old enough to have children all grown up. I suppose my case is unique. I don't want to delve too much into my personal life, but I do feel that it is important to share. I helped a single mother raise two great children. I was not dating the woman––she and I worked together, and what started out as watching her two children for a couple hours while she was at work, turned into such an amazing relationship with these young people. Taking the teenager roller skating on a Friday night, and going to the little girl's D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Graduation in fifth grade. It was a great deal; I got to skip all the diaper changing and crying. These kids were already 8 and 12 when I met them. She is now 21 and I was the best man in his wedding.
We don't really talk too much anymore–just on rare occasions. They grew up and have their own lives and families now. I was a parent to them, but no longer.
I have two nephews, and they are simply amazing. Both under the age of four, I remember all of their lives. With one recently out of diapers and one who cannot yet talk, I get to experience their lives every week. They have two loving parents, and I only see them once a week. They are not like my own children; I am in no way responsible for them, yet I love them all the same.

I am a "young" professional. I work in an office, Monday through Friday from 9-5. I am social, and I love my friends and life. I am single. Different days, I feel differently about this. I have a five-year plan. In that five-year plan, I want to buy a house, I want to get married, and yes, I want children of my own. I want to name my children, and I want them to know me as Papa. (Said with a childlike French accent.) I am not looking forward to the sleepless nights, the potential colic, and the nearly inevitable fact that my child(ren) will be allergic to everything under the sun like I was. I do not want to deal with the "terrible two's" or the rebellious teenage years, or the fact that, even if they don't really mean it, my child may someday utter the words "I hate you!" if I tell him/her that s/he cannot have something. I don't want to accept the fact that if I have a daughter, she will someday meet a man (hopefully) who will become number one in her life, and I would no longer be that man. I am not looking forward to my son being able to beat me in sports, or run faster than I can, and him finally realising that I am not Superman.
Well, yeah, put it that way, then why would I want to bring another life into this crazy world? Love. Plain and simple. When you look into the eyes of someone you love, your entire world stops for a moment. No matter what happens around you, the only thing that exists is the two of you. It's the circle of life. Maybe it is a little egotistic, but children tend to emulate their parents, and that is such a great flattery, is it not? Children are awesome; they ask what other people have been taught not to say. They openly stare, they say inappropriate things, and discuss their bathroom habits at the dinner table. They smile, but the parents get embarrassed. They have an innocence that at some point in life, we lose. They have faith, and don't understand racism, bigotry, hatred, or even politics. They are the future.
For all intents and purposes, I cannot truly talk first-hand about parenting since I do not have any biological children, but then again, it's like adoption, right? I never went through legal proceedings, but those children were no less "mine" for the time that I "had" them than for an adoptive/foster parent. Children do not have to be biologically yours to be yours. There is no magic book with all the secrets of parenting. We will all make mistakes, and wonder if we're good parents. We will do something that we think no other parent has done and that it makes us horrible people, but, I'm sure you are not the first person to walk out to your car and leave your child in the carseat inside the restaurant. Sure, you'll see the scornful glances, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a deal. I think parenting comes down to being able to realise that you will make mistakes, and that there will be times when you are the centre of your child's universe, and the day will arrive when you are no longer your child's number one. Those are emotions that will be the most difficult for me. It hurts to lose, and to lose rank. It's an emotional demotion. We will forever be remembered by our children, and clearly not forgotten, but the time will come when someone else takes over our previous job titles. That is the part that scares me, and I don't yet even have a child.
In lieu of all that, there is something to be said about being able to hold a child in your arms, or when they start talking on their own. (Even though we may wish they would actually STOP talking once in a while) Seeing that smile on their face and know that you helped create that...wow, that is such an awesome feeling. I can only imagine what it would be like. I want to raise a child with my own beliefs. They may change later in life–kids will make their own decisions–but I want to give that foundation. The ability to watch your child grow up, albeit too fast, to when they attend school on their own, go on their first date, graduate, get married themselves, all that. I want to do that. I want to play soccer in the backyard. I want to build a blanket fort, build a campfire and make s'mores. I want to be the "cool" dad who lets his kid invite a friend to join us for dinner at the "nice" restaurant. (When really, it's moderately priced, and the kids don't eat as much, anyway.) I want my kids to have sleepovers, and I want to get angry that they stay up until 3AM playing video games or watching TV.
Honestly, I cannot see any reason why people would not want children. They keep us sane, and drive us crazy all at the same time. There may not be a book that gives new parents all the answers for all the situations that life will throw at us, but the adventure is half the fun of it.
I could be completely wrong. I do not know. Like I said, I don't have children of my own, and even when I "raised" other kids, it's not like I was there 24/7 with them. Sure, during the summer, there would be times when I would be around for three or four days in a row, but who am I kidding? I never even spent a week straight with a child. Any time they cry, I give them back to their parent. Will I be ready for that on my own? Will I be ready to change a diaper? I'll never know unless I give it a shot. (And no, I'm not offering to change any diapers out there.) The journey of parenting is on-going, this I understand, and there will be many, many peaks and valleys, but I want to take that voyage. I want to test myself just to see if I can do it. I want to assist in the forming of a mind–the making of another individual who will contribute to society.
I am single. I am a guy. I have no children. I am happy in my life. I am willing to turn it all upside-down to change some of those. I want to say: I am married. I am a guy. I have two children. I am happy in my life. For some reason, I feel that I will say all of those things.

For the record, Paul, I have known you for 15 years now. I have seen you grow and change, and when the time is right I have every confidence that yes, you will be ready to change a diaper. You will be an excellent father someday.

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