Published on September 15th, 2015 | by Richard Black0
Parenting: The Counterintuitive Proposition (and Why There’s a Smoldering Crater in My Backyard)
I dropped my daughter off at school the other day I was feeling pretty good about myself. We were two weeks in to the year and Darcy hadn’t been bitten by anyone or anything. I’d been able to get her dressed everyday without sending her off without a vital piece of clothing. Her lunch was always packed and the only person who was more excited to see her in school was…well…me.
We parted ways at the door of her classroom and I walked back to the car to drive all of six blocks home because my concern about the environment takes a backseat to getting my daughter to school on time. I might be on the ball but I don’t have the patience to shepherd a five year old over six blocks and particularly when I haven’t been drinking. I know. I know. It’s always five o clock somewhere but the other parents gave me some odd looks when I showed up with a mimosa last week as well as a magnum of champagne and a carton of orange juice for the walk home.
I’d just stepped in to our house and was struck by how remarkably silent it was. The TV wasn’t blaring, Darcy wasn’t pulling on my shirt or whining for another frozen tube of yogurt and I wasn’t yelling at her to put on a pair of shoes/flush the toilet/come down for lunch or really perform any activity for the seventh/eighth/forty second or five hundred and twelfth time. I had the day entirely to myself and felt…slightly uneasy at the prospect.
Some may find the thought of being sans child to be liberating and, I’ll be honest, I was surprised by my reaction. I’m an introvert by nature and would generally prefer to have my scrotum waxed by a leper than spend time with other people excluding my wife and daughter of course. Aside from being puked on and catching every possible disease I’ve ever heard of five times a year my biggest complaint about raising a child is that I only have about fourteen minutes in any given day to myself and that’s if I’m constipated.
The relief I felt at being alone lasted all of three hours. I spent the bulk of the morning digging out an invasive form of honeysuckle in our backyard with a shovel, then a pickaxe and finally with two metric tons of fireworks. After calmly explaining to the police that I had no idea why there was a smoking crater the size of a large SUV in the middle of my yard and casually mentioning that the kid a few houses was a firebug I went inside to look for some Agent Orange and a flamethrower to finish the job.
Instead of going downstairs to search for dangerous defoliants I decided to grab some lunch and the strangest thing happened. I rummaged around the freezer amidst boxes of pizza from Obama’s first term in office and burritos that could have been on the last Apollo mission before I caught myself about to ask Darcy what she wanted to eat. The silence resounded and it took me a few seconds to remember that my daughter was, in fact, in school. The lack of noise was unnerving but I did my best to ignore it. My daughter would be coming home in a few hours after all. I thought about chiding myself, recalled the fact that I wasn’t really sure what “chiding” meant, sat down to my flavorless freeze dried burrito and realized that there would soon come a day when Darcy and I would be parting ways for much longer than an hour or two.
My concern, as always, was for my own mental well being. After spending almost twenty years with Darcy I’m worried that I’m going to become overly emotionally attached. It’s only been five years and, apparently, I can’t spend seven hours alone without obsessing about her absence some ten plus years from now.
I thought about seeking counseling. Not that very day because I had a lot to do and I certainly wasn’t going to make an appointment. I walk a fine line between procrastination and Zen Buddhism but I was open to the possibility that I might need professional help. Who was I to argue if, one some day, serendipity intervened and I happened to be following a car in the nearish to mid future that ended up at a therapist’s office? Certainly not me.
After giving the matter some more thought I reconsidered and focused on the real problem, and, as I’ve often concluded, it wasn’t me. My epiphany went even further. It was the institution of parenthood itself that was to blame. No one in their right mind would ever consent to having a child if they were given the real scoop. Think about it for a few minutes and then imagine a greasy used car salesmen throwing you the following pitch.
“Now I know you’ve had your heart set on one of our Asian models but let me show you this leasing opportunity that just showed up on our lot. She doesn’t look like much now and she’ll take a little work but she’s going to look great in a few years. Sure you might have to spend about $100,000 to get her where she needs to be but just think about how good you’ll feel when she’s in tip top shape and ready to face the world.
“Of course by the time that happens you’ll just have to let her go. These things have a mind of their own,” yuc, yuc, yuc, “by the way you do not want to keep these things for more than twenty years. The best thing to do is to let them go. Trust me I speak from experience. There’s also a lot of maintenance involved. And they can be a bit temperamental but at the end of the day I’m pretty sure you’re going to love her. Are you interested in the extended warranty? It doesn’t cover parts or labor but does have a liquor clause I think you’d be interested in?”
There’s a reason why having children usually involves sex. Nothing less than the inexorable power of billions of years of evolution could compel any seemingly rational being to trade a few minutes of spirited humping for a lifetime of ungrateful servitude.
Raising a child is a raw deal and not the really cool one that involves Arnold Schwarzenegger making quips and blasting away at a bunch of dirtbags. The relationship between parent and child is inherently unhealthy from the get go. There’s no give and take. Sure you might get a hug every once in a while, a sweet and awkward smile from time to time or an occasional term of endearment but those moments can be few and far between.
Kids are great and cute and wonderful but when it all comes down to the brass tacks of the matter they’re emotional leeches just a hair shy of narcissistic sociopaths. Every so often my daughter tells me that she loves me but she also uses the term to describe her feelings about an umbrella or a ball of lint and that is because kids are ignorant and unworldly and a little stupid. Until they’re in their late twenties children need constant guidance because they have the preservation instincts of horny lemmings and as parents well, we’ve signed on to keep them intact in the hopes that they will, some day, leave.
It’s a counterintuitive arrangement but the alternatives are much, much worse.
As much as I love the idea of having Darcy stay in our home for the rest of her life I’m fairly certain that the reality would be simply awful. I’m not excited about my daughter leaving me for a burly welder named Darla or even a stint at MIT. Those prospects are, however, infinitely preferable to the thought of my daughter spending the rest of her life in our basement while she gets her jewelry business off the ground and spends her nights tripping on shrooms and having tantric sex with a bass player named Dave.
In the end I know that my daughter’s departure is, most likely, inevitable and perhaps even for the best. Almost every woman I’ve ever loved has had the good sense to leave me at some point. Of course they’ve also shown the even better sense to try to rekindle our relationship at some later date, usually after a series of poor life decisions and a few bottles of wine.
The obvious exception, of course, is my wife who still hasn’t left me in the first place for reasons I have yet to fathom. I love you Laura. By the way there’s a huge smoldering crater in our yard. Don’t worry. I’m fine and I think I found a way to deal with that little shit down the street.