Every so often I’m struck by the realization that I’ll probably be changing my son’s diapers until my dying day; that my back will ache more as he continues to grow and I continue to grow old; that many friends and activities which are accessible to me now will become less so and eventually disappear for me as Joey leaves the ‘cute kid’ stage and enters adolescence and adulthood, requiring more of my time, energy and attention; that life may become considerably more lonely.
After the wave of self-pity and depression passes over and through me, there is another realization: I love my son so much it hurts, I am incredibly lucky to be Joey’s daddy, my life has a clear purpose, and this job ain’t for wimps.
So, pardon me if I laugh hysterically when you wring your hands over which elite pre-school waiting list to choose; when you worry that your three-year-old might need corrective therapy to address his crayon-holding deficiency; when you hire a private motivational coach for your kindergartner, who just isn’t stimulated enough to succeed in a global economy; when you force Junior to listen to Mozart while he struggles with chopsticks over his sushi happy meal.
Make no mistake, I’d be laughing at myself also. Our oldest is 23. She grew up in the “positive action” generation (you remember the song about Positive Action Kids?). Everyone is a winner! Everyone gets a trophy! Shit doesn’t stink! We hovered over her until it wore us out. We used all the ‘controls’ available to us and our means. But I think Samantha realized what bullshit was at an early age, earlier than most probably. She told us, in her way, “You guys made your mistakes. Let me make mine.” She made plenty, in all shapes and sizes. And she came out the other side and is an amazing adult.
And now there’s Joey and everything he represents. We still hover, to an extent (his lucrative, sometimes languid and static lifestyle demands it). But we’ve learned to let him crash on his own when he can (though we provide enough pillows for a soft landing). We’re not helicopter parents any more. We’re more like dragonfly parents now, capable of hovering as fastidiously as any other controlling parents, but ready and open (and expecting) to move in another, completely different direction (as situation and whimsy and necessity demands).
Basically, there isn’t enough time to wallow in depression and self pity for very long. There are diapers to change, a growing child to lift and feed and enjoy, places to go and pillows to place.