As you know from my last column, I'm a first-time-father-to-be. Also, I'll be a stay-at-home dad. Never having cared for a baby before, I've enrolled in parenting class so I can master the basics.
Like, how do I relate to a tiny creature who can't (yet) speak English, screams (as far as I can tell) pretty much the same way whether s/he's colicky, hungry, filthy, in pain or afraid and relies on me (and, less of the time, Emily and others) for his/her every need?
Not to mention—that kid's not the only one who'll be afraid. S/he'll be afraid because s/he's totally helpless and has no idea how to deal with the world. I'm afraid already because I will be, for the first time, responsible for caring for someone who is totally helpless with no idea how to deal with the world. (And I don't get to respond in quite the same ways!)
This is the biggest deal ever. Remember the classic test of whether something is major: “Will people still remember it in a month, a year, a decade?” Well, whatever I do, my son or daughter is likely to remember, one way or another, for as long as s/he lives!
And speaking of what I do—of course it has some relation to how my mother and father raised me. Guess what that means? Yep—in the coming years I'll be raising not only a child directly, but also likely one or more grandchildren indirectly. And so on down the line potentially ad infinitum …
There are lots of things I won't be able to do any more except as rare treats. Like sleep for eight or even more hours at a stretch. Or put on headphones and seal myself off from the world. Or use/listen to/display on my screen/print out any kind of language I feel like.
Or just blame other parents for their kids' behavior without a second thought. Yes, parents are responsible for their children ... particularly their young children. Once the kids start going to school, responsibility inevitably shifts. And by the time you have a teenager, I understand that control gets really dicey.
Or be the center of my own world. As a good friend—who is a mother herself—pointed out to me recently, being a parent means being to some extent secondary to your kid. I'll still be “Jeffrey Deutsch,” but I'll also become “John's dad” or “Kathy's father.” (Or maybe even “John's/Kathy's grandfather” to the ushers at his or her college graduation—I’m no spring chicken even now!)
My life is changing and it's never coming back. And it's turning into a mode where change is the only constant. If you think everyday life requires flexibility, wait till you start raising a child.
I've mentioned before that I hope my son or daughter is an NT. I also can only hope that if so, s/he may one day understand why Daddy sometimes behaves a bit differently from most people.
Will my own child look down on me, or think I'm a freak? (Yeah, parents tend to embarrass their kids anyway—mainly by breathing. Maybe at least I'll give mine plenty to talk about at school!)
Will I have a hard time understanding him/her? (Yeah, there's always a generation gap. Will my being an Aspie make things that much worse?)
Will I be unable to spot problems—dating or other abuse, drugs, alcohol, the wrong crowd—before it's too late?
Gambling’s supposedly illegal in this country. But so many things about having a kid seem like just spins of the wheel. Maybe whoever wrote those laws was never a parent!