Prior to Sean’s arrival, I had some pretty lofty ideals about child-rearing. And since I had no children, I had a special license to make all kinds of proclamations about what I would and would “never” do if I had them. That license has since been revoked and I’ve had to relax a few of those ideals to accommodate my new reality. And eat a few words. Okay, a lot of words. And apologize to a few people. Okay, a lot of people.
Before Sean: “I will never take my kid to McDonald’s.”
After Sean: “I will never take my kid to McDonald’s without someone small enough to follow him up into the play yard tubes.”
Before Sean: “I will never turn my den into a giant toy box.”
After Sean: “A toy box makes a very nice coffee table.”
Before Sean: “I will never let my kid watch TV.”
After Sean: “I will never let my kid watch TV unless Dr. Phil is on.”
Before Sean: “I will never go more than two days without working out.”
After Sean: “I will never go more than two years without working out.” (This one may yet again be revised.)
I’m still desperately clinging to “I will never drive a mini-van. Ever.” and “I will never let my kid drink soda.”
Along with relaxing a few standards and exorcising the word “never” from my vocabulary, parenting has also taught me to lighten up and take time to enjoy the simple things in life. For example, before I had a baby, I was particular about my clothes. I enjoyed dressing up and wearing nice clothes. Now I simply enjoy wearing clothes without someone else’s boogers on them. This became apparent at church recently when, right there in the house of God on the wings of a precious little sneeze, my son launched a snot rocket directly at me. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. I heard a cute little “ka-choo” and turned to see the look of horror on the faces of the brethren. A small girl cried out, “Gross!” followed by a chorus of “eeee-yew”. If only she had yelled “Duck!” But it was too late, I was hit. Oddly enough, after the projectile snot incident, we had the entire pew to ourselves. And no one asked us to lunch.
In the same way, I used to really enjoy eating out at a nice restaurant. By the time Sean was 6-months-old, I was happy if I could just eat sitting down. These days I am happy if I get to eat from plate that doesn’t have a chunk of someone else’s previously chewed pot roast positioned as a garnish. It’s the simple things.
Having children later in life teaches you that if you have a teachable spirit, you will never be too old to learn, never too old to admit you were wrong and never too old to change your point of view — in other words, humility. It also teaches you that if you don’t want to have to apologize to a lot of people, don’t use the “n” word (“never” — what were you thinking??) and to appreciate any time you get to wear booger-free clothing.