I came to this revelation based on a visit with my oldest daughter, Rachel, who was married nearly a year ago. She insisted on seeing my wife and me a couple of weeks ago on an upcoming Friday evening. I, of course, am never opposed to seeing my kids; in fact, over the past few years, I’ve tried finding reasons to meet with them or at least give them a ring once a week or so. I’m told that’s what makes you a good parent of adult children. However, in this case, the intensity of my daughter’s insistence on seeing us puzzled me. It’s simply not like any of my kids to insist that I see them immediately.
Something was up but I had no idea what and so I do what I always do in these situations. I punted. That is to say I drowned the nagging chorus of possibilities in a good stiff drink. There was one possibility in particular I really didn’t want to consider, but which my wife insisted on foisting upon me anyway.
“A baby silly.”
“What? She’s been married less than a year. She was just accepted into UT. She doesn’t even like kids.”
“No;” Heidi insisted. “You’re confusing her with you.”
“She said she can’t stand kids.”
“She said that because she wanted to be like you. She’s matured a lot since then.”
“But that means—I’m going to be a grandfather? ” I queried rhetorically aloud, the disbelief oozing from my pores like a teenager’s acne.
“That’s what it means gramps.” she shot back as she brushed past me with a load of laundry.”
OK; so here’s the deal. I got married very young for a number of reasons, one of which was to get the child-rearing out of the way while I was still young and had the energy for such things. I don’t like being around children, but I thought it was my social and Christian duty to have kids and to properly raise them. I know that sounds horrible to most people, and to be fair, it’s a very bad reason to have children. Sorry, but when I went to college they didn’t offer classes with titles like “Raising Kids; Is It for You?” or “So You Think You’d Make a Good Parent; Think Again.”
Had I taken such a class I would have realized that the fact that I think kids are a pain in the ass would disqualify me for father of the year in perpetuity. We’re not supposed to say out loud the kinds of things that roll around in my head but the truth is I think kids are selfish, a lot of work, and they often smell bad.
Now to be clear, I am always kind to and protective of children in spite of the fact that I don’t like being around them. If I see you abusing a child or even a dog for that matter you can consider yourself fortunate if you don’t find yourself staring down the business end of my pistol. Further, I’m overwhelmed by the irony, that had I attended classes with the aforementioned titles, I would have missed out on fathering the three children I did have, whom I so dearly love. I wouldn’t have missed that experience for the world; that doesn’t mean I like kids more generally.
Anyway, back to my oldest daughter and her upcoming announcement. Rachel and her husband Joe showed up on time and Heidi sat us in the living room as I waited with bated breath for the news I hoped was not coming. But it came nonetheless like an unstoppable freight train—indiscernible ultra-sound and all.
Now for most people the introduction of a child and by extension that of a grandchild is a blessed event. It’s a wonderful time when a new life comes into the world and it’s pure and untainted. I get it.
The thing is, though, it just raises a lot of questions about the responsibility for someone else who is totally helpless and dependent on you, or in this case my daughter. Somehow I’m missing that gene that endears most people to children. They see those big eyes and hear the gentle coo of a child and it melts the heart. All I can really think, though, is about how they spit up on you when you burp them and how they spend half of the first four years of their life either crying or exclaiming “NO!” when you try to feed them vegetables.
But in that moment I thought about Rachel. This was a huge pivotal event in her life. I kept coming back to what you most want for your children. You want them to be happy—not happy at any cost, but you want them to be happy within the framework of a civil society.
From the time each of my children was born, I simply wanted to raise them to be responsible, happy adults, who worked hard, were good law-abiding citizens, and generally left the world better than they found it. So part of me was really happy for Rachel. Besides, as a friend put it, they get to deal with the hard part and you get to enjoy spoiling them.
Still, I wasn’t really prepared for moving into this chapter of my life, which forced me to admit that I was no longer young. I’m middle-aged. Wait; no I’m not. I’m departing middle-age-ville and headed for senior-town.
As I looked into the abyss of my scotch glass the words kept echoing in my head: “We’re going to have a baby daddy!”
There are moments in life when you have to reach down inside you and grab something akin to courage so you can cope with something you didn’t plan but must confront nonetheless. This was one of those moments. OK; it wasn’t exactly like confronting mortal combat—but seriously; I’m too young to be a grandpa. Or am I? Yet one more question I can’t answer.
It occurs to me that one measure of wisdom is to tally all the questions you can answer and weigh them against all the questions you can’t. As the sum of the latter approaches the sum of the former one could be said to be accumulating wisdom I guess, because when I was young I knew everything. But with each passing day I become less certain about everything.
I don’t know. Maybe she’ll have a boy. Then I can at least teach him how to pick a fly off a horse’s back at 100 yards with a combat rifle. We’ll see.