The man he wants to be, and the man he almost is

8 Oct

As the pregnancy marches inexorably forward (28 weeks down, another couple months to go), there’s time for some last minute panic. Ah, panic is not the right word. I’m cool like cucumber and smoother than the silkiest pajamas. But I’ve been getting this feeling that if haven’t begun something, I won’t start when the kid arrives. If I’m not adventurous, how will I become so later? If I don’t have the habit of running, how will I ever make time for it?

Case in point: a colleague at work was talking about how she had intended to go to a conference with her partner and their newborn, someplace not terribly far, maybe Chicago. A plane ride, for certain, but it’s not, you know, hiking or something. But she decided against it. Too much trouble, a little nervous, immunizations, a range of what-if’s. Totally legitimate.

And I kept thinking, I want to be those people who strap their kid to a backpack and hike them up the Na Pali Coast (or as we call those people, Kim and Todd). I excitedly browse the web for 29 tips for traveling the world with kids. I want to be that guy, that dad who builds a frickin’ space balloon with his kids, who goes to see fields of sunflowers in Turkey with the little ones.

But alas, I know I am not that person. At least I am not now that person. I suggested to my colleague that she could travel with the kid, it will probably be not as big a hassle as they imagine, that it will get easier, that it takes practice. And she said, you know, I have never really been that person. And I don’t know why I would suddenly become that person now that I have a baby.

So I’m stuck now thinking that I’m just likely to become more of who I already am.

My uncle once talked to me about those in our family who have moved to California (I was on my way there for graduate school). And it sounded as though they had moved to Mars and become nutty. But then he kind of paused, and said it doesn’t change you so much as it takes whatever you already are, and makes you much, much, more of that. Easygoing? California will make you crazy laid-back. Aggressive? You’ll become a monster. And the people from the Abrams portion of my family become much much much more Abrams-like. Stubborn, outspoken, idiosyncratic (yes, I come by all of these traits honestly).

I’m wondering if, in the end, having a baby is like moving to California. There’s a lot to like about it, people who do it seem to think that everyone else would if only they could, it seems like a new frontier, but in the end, it makes you a completely extreme version of yourself.

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2 Responses to “The man he wants to be, and the man he almost is”

  1. Ivy October 8, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Hmmm. Very interesting question.

    If I were being brutally honest, I’d say that the first 6-9 months are so entirely consuming that it’s tough to “improve” oneself – it’s mostly treading water. And that’s if you’re lucky…you will miss things you took for granted previously such as sleeping through the night, going to dinner and a movie (even if we have a sitter we find ourselves too tired to do both), etc.

    I do think having a kid forces you to “stretch”. We always dread travel, but then always say afterwards that it wasn’t so bad. It demands that you prioritize, strip away the fluff and pare down to what is really important and essential in your life. And so while that sometimes makes you “more you,” it might also mean that you decide something is important enough to make time for it…and therefore the time limitations act as an accelerator for any change you want to make.

  2. Davin October 8, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    Um, yeah. I agree with everything Ivy says, but my real response to this post is as follows:

    You should purchase and play through Fallout: New Vegas before the arrival of your offspring. Just trust me on this one. I occasionally read previews, and choke back tears that videogaming has largely been another sacrifice on the altar of parenthood.
    Oh, and then never tell me spoilers about the game. Not until my life changes and I can play through it myself, anyway.

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