One thing that I’ve noticed lately is how much my life is no longer my own. I guess on a highly metaphysical level we could argue if our lives are ever our own, but my point is a little less complicated.
As a young adult, and early into your life of autonomous adulthood, you have those day-to-day choices specific to who you are. You order a hamburger. You get to put whatever you wish on that hamburger. You get to eat that hamburger without fear of someone taking it from you: at least in most rational and reasonable settings.
When your first born child comes along there are obvious changes in your routine that indicate you are living your life for someone else – that you have begun a life that is not entirely your own – and this is a far grander realization than the efforts necessary to maintain a healthy marriage. You don’t sleep when you used to. You don’t eat when you used to. You don’t take a shower when you used to. Heck, there were days when I was home with our children when they were young, the oldest almost three, and the youngest nine months old, when I don’t know if I took a shower for three days.
Thankfully for parental sanity children get older and their minute-to-minute needs change. Eventually parents get to return to something that has some resemblance to the old routines. After this partial return to prior routines, that you no longer are living your own life comes to bare in the funniest little moments.
The easy to see moments are when your children are sick, but when that happens you typically worry more about your the welfare of your children than anything, until, of course, a non-life-threatening illness, like strep throat, keeps you away from work for four or five days.
The less obvious moments happen every single day. Some days, however, the frequency of these little moments coincide and become very obvious, like the scattering of small ocean waves, synchronizing, coinciding, and eventually combining to form one large rogue wave.
Last week such a day occurred. Soon after waking up I was in the kitchen. Reaching for the last Kleenex, in the last box in the house, my youngest came up and asked “can I have that?”
“Of course, son.” I said. How does a father deny his son a Kleenex?
A moment later I was about to pour myself a bowl of Frosted Flakes. My oldest asked if he could have some. I gave him the bowl I had poured. There were none left. I sliced the last two slices of cinnamon bread for toast. The youngest wanted those. I gave them to him.
They eventually went to school and I found a stale english muffin to eat. But after they returned from school the saga continued. Strawberries. Grapes. Pickles to go with the evening’s hamburgers. The last Girl Scout Thin Mint. They took them all. On this one day there were no less than ten items that I gave to my boys, after they innocently saw what I was doing, and wanted a piece of the action.
Are these moments some times frustrating? Sure. Particularly when I wasn’t even given the opportunity for the last Thin Mint. But how frustrating?
Really, not at all. These are my boys. Never were they being malicious in their requests. They’re impulsive. They saw something that dad was having, something they knew they liked too, and simply asked if they could have some too. If I had complained I know they would have shared with me, but what is the good in that? What is the good in wanting more of something I can easily go to the grocery store to replace? Seeing that my boys are always quick to share their ice cream cones, their snack-time crackers, and their hugs with each other, and with me, I know that I will always give them the last Thin Mint.