One of the misconceptions about having children is that upon having them, life as you know it ends, replaced instantly by a slow march to the grave, peppered with diapers, carpools to soccer, toy encroachment and the desperate longing for the silence that finally comes at bedtime each night, solely because it is a temporary reprieve from your life sentence of indentured servitude to these horrible tiny people you made, who are barely half your height…
Oh my god, my life really is over.
NO. This is a happy piece. Stay focused, Shane.
Kids are great. That’s where I was headed.
One of the reasons my kids are awesome is because they allow me to relive my youth in continuing stages. It began with Sesame Street, which has not changed much at all since the 1970s. I found myself singing along to the pinball song (One-Two-Three-FOUR-Five, Six-Seven-Eight-NINE-ten, ELEVEN TWELVE!) and “Noom-na-noom-na-noom”-ing with that cartoon typewriter guy and becoming almost giddy to discover that Super Grover is still a hapless dipstick. I also introduced my kids to Tom and Jerry (which is still hilarious, though some might argue inappropriately violent) and laughed along with them (and Jerry) each time Tom got his face blown off by TNT. I taught them how to play Pac-Man and Galaga and still maintain that my proudest parenting moment was the day my daughter got her first 1-up in Super Mario Brothers. I gave my son all of my Hot Wheels and Matchboxes (which I saved for twenty-five years because they were once my absolute treasures) and even tried to give my daughter my cherished “Blue Doggy” stuffed animal that I slept with every night when I was a young boy. She passed. I’m guessing she passed because at this point, he looks like something a hobo salvaged from a fire.
The point is, kids keep you young. More importantly, they keep you in touch with the young person inside of you. When I’m most introspective, I don’t feel much different today than I did as a kid. Obviously I have more experiences and knowledge from which to draw on as I face situations in my life but my core personality isn’t much different. I still like lots of the same things. There is a youthful part of me that still misses playing with Matchboxes and Legos. I miss watching The Muppet Show and laughing at cartoons. Part of that is nostalgia but another part is the little kid inside of me that still yearns for simple pleasures. Having an excuse to revisit them without feeling silly is one of the greatest perks of being a parent. I see my old Matchbox cars strewn around the house and each one is connected to a specific childhood memory. Kermit dodges Miss Piggy’s advances on a DVD playing in the other room and a part of me is ten again. I step painfully on a weird triangle shaped Lego in the middle of the night and although I briefly want to punch some tiny kittens in the face, the pain subsides and I remember the hours I used to spend creating intricate Lego worlds as a kid. (It doesn’t stop me from hucking the triangle Lego at the wall, hard.)
Parenting is tiring. You are forever changed after you have kids, stolen from your own youth by a new responsibility to tend to someone else’s youth. It needn’t be a miserable experience filled with longing for the days of “going to the movies on a whim” or “remembering what it’s like to spend time with your wife” or “eating a meal without having to break up an effing crying fight in the other room for once”. Buy your kids some Legos. Watch Star Wars with them for the first time. Explain to them that the Typewriter Guy on Sesame Street used to make sense back when typewriters existed. Take advantage of the opportunity to live your favorite parts of your own youth through the eyes of your kids’ youth (you know, as long as it’s not unfulfilled dreams or whatever. Keep it cool here, guys. I’m talking about buying them cap guns or teaching them marbles, not making them into dancers or violin prodigies purely because you missed your window and need to make up for lost dreams by treating them like programmable kidbots).
Your kids can unwittingly give you the gift of your own childhood all over again AND you can edit out the parts that sucked (maybe don’t introduce them to the band “STRYPER” nor buy them all the seasons of Small Wonder on Blu-ray NOR talk them into getting a “starter stud” in their left earlobe that will float in and out of various stages of infection for three to five years. Still have a hole scar.) My kids are still under ten. I still have “using walkie-talkies” and “crank calling the neighbors” and “lighting my sister’s dolls on fire with gasoline behind my parents tool shed” to look forward to teaching them! Lucky, lucky children.
Point is, take advantage of the good parts about having kids. After all, youth need not be wasted on the young.
Waste it on the young at heart.