A colleague sat down in my office yesterday to vent. His woman is going to bring a child into the world in 16 weeks.
“I am a little perturbed,” he said.
“I find that I am spending all of my time doing stuff for others and none for myself” he laments.
“At work?” I ask.
“No. With my girlfriend. I have to go shopping for this baby. I have to convert my office into a baby room. I have to paint. I have to go to doctor appointments. I have to help her with this and that. It sucks.”
“Ohhhhhh. Well” I say, “You are having a baby, señor. Your life is no longer your own. But, I have to say, I assumed you would have understood that having a child means that your life as you know it is over.”
I mean is this not obvious? Do people have to actually have kids to realize that? Maybe it is sort of like coping with death. Maybe a person has to go through the same phases: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This colleague of mine seems to have made it to step two. I’m not really sure he’ll ever make it to the acceptance stage, but one can never tell about these things.
Actually, parenthood has me going through all of these cycles every day. The kids bargain, I get angry, the kids get depressed, and I pop a cork from another bottle of wine, assuming that liquid wisdom will bring proper elucidation into what this life of a parent is all about. Then depression comes and then another bottle and so on. We die every day I think. With any luck, we end the day somewhere near acceptance, just to wake up to denial all over again.
So naturally, being a good friend, I explain all of this to him. “Your self has died,” I explain. “Your kids now rule your life. The mother will steer you around this way or that like a puppet–she is the puppeteer. The kids whisper into the puppeteer’s ears, coaching her on where to move you next. You can try to fight the puppeteer, but you will lose. You should just go straight to the depression stage, I advise. It will save you time. Years and years down the road, with any luck, you might make it to the acceptance stage.”
My pep rallies usually go over quite well. People like when we are frank with them, right? Maybe not. I thought he might cry right there at my desk! This has happened to me before, so I knew just what to do. I pretended to have something to do and left. I wasn’t rude. I slapped him on the shoulder and said, “best of luck.” Crying is not my thing. People with kids have to put up with this emotional nonsense whenever they go home….every damn day. The last thing I need is some grown-assed man going through the emotional stages right there at my desk. I mean I’m no psychologist. He should have known better than to come to me for comfort. But hey, this is the same guy who didn’t know having a kid would change his life. He’s dense.
I mean the kid is only half baked and he’s already whispering in the puppeteer’s ears. He’s done. He will no longer ever have a life of his own. He will live to drive his wife and kid(s) from here to there. He will give them all of his money. He will start watching Disney instead of Kung Fu theater. I could have been more brutal, you know. These little people take a man’s dignity. He will have to buy a minivan. He will carry purses and things that look like purses. He will find himself baby talking to the little dictator. He will feed it. He might even have to clean feces from it. I mean they shit themselves and then smile at you. Do you know why? Because they KNOW that YOU have to come clean them. It’s not because of gas or any other excuse people give for why babies smile. They are laughing at us.
But because I am making progress in my psychological advice giving, I held that part back. He might notice me chuckling at him soon. I know it’s coming. And because he’s a glutton for punishment, he will come back for more of my advice. Misery loves company after all.