A few months ago I had a guest post run on a parenting blog. In it I talked about the effect that having kids has on our selfishness. Check it out here.
That wasn’t the whole story though. There is another aspect to this that word count limitations kept me from conveying. And since I’ve already pioneered splitting posts into parts on this blog, I thought I’d complete this concept with a part two.
Anything at all
It’s true, children take our selfie-ishness. When they pop into the world we take our focus off of us and place it on them. At least to some degree. The annoying part though, the part that has driven parents nuts since the very first baby entered the world and started complaining about their needs, is that children don’t take all of our selfishness. Ha ha! No, no. If they did, and turned us into completely selfless servants, then parenting would be infinitely easier and there would be far less blogs on the topic.
Kids take just enough of our selfishness so that we know what we are missing. For instance we know when we’ve burned a full day of taking care of every single one of their needs, while being fairly certain the last time we peed was yesterday.
As a parent, have you ever wanted to do ANYTHING AT ALL?!?! Yeah, me too. And when I say want I’m not even talking about normal wants like, “I want to order pizza for dinner,” or “I want to go get a coffee.” I mean something like, gee, I don’t know, “I want to sit down in a chair,” or “I want to say a complete, uninterrupted sentence to the other adult in this house.”
It is my personal belief that kids have a sixth sense about our wants. Mine could be playing in another room buried under a pile of toys, when all of a sudden like dogs, they jolt their heads into the air, sniff, and know that I have set my sights on our comfy love seat. Then they wait. Their ears turn unnaturally to better pick up the sound of me surrendering all my weight to the couch cushions. Once that happens they roar down the hallway with some kind of need that only I, and standing back up, can fix.
“Dad! Oh did you just get comfortable? Actually, that’s far from relevant. I’m hungry and thirsty. Also Roman felt it was necessary to coat himself and most of the bathroom with Vapor Rub.”
So far I’m just talking about wants. I haven’t even got to needs such as working, cleaning, and the daily required maintenance on the machine of life. Those things we need to get to when we have a “spare second.” Kids are no respecters of needs either. They don’t care if I need to work. Their need of “getting the TV to turn on” far outweighs my need of trying to make money so we don’t all have to sleep at the YMCA.
Kids just roll your wants and needs into a giant ball and weigh it against their own. Guess which one usually wins.
And therein lies the friction.
In this friction I find my most frustrated moments on planet Earth. When my children step on the time I have mentally, and foolishly, allotted for me, my selfishness rises up and screams, “Unfair!” For instance, after laboriously hand-crafting an afternoon snack for each of my precious angels—usually just dumping Cheez-Its in front of their face, directly onto the table like a winner—I sit down on the couch to play the guitar because, surely a snack will buy at least five solid minutes of “me time.” And again, once my cheeks hit the cushions—yes, those cheeks—that is the moment one of them decides to tip over their milk glass, like a defeated chess player does with their king. Except in this case somehow I’m the loser as the milk makes its way across the table soaking everyone’s crackers. Do they have the faculties to clean it up properly? Nope. Stand back up Dad. We need your attention and energy.
I thought I had time for myself. I earmarked five minutes and set it aside as sacred in my mind. Then it was stolen from me. This robbery, this injustice, is what lights the anger-fire in my belly. Can’t I just do something that I want to do? Why is this so hard?
The alternative would be standing next to the table, like a servant, waiting patiently for someone to spill their milk. And if they did I wouldn’t be as angry because I would have been focused on taking care of them instead of me. But kids are smart, if I was in the vicinity their milk would magically remain upright. Allowing me to think that maybe next time they won’t spill it and I’d have five minutes to do something that I want to do. I continually fall for this trap, and the above scenario repeats. It’s mind games. And they are chess masters, always five steps ahead of my free will.
When we say raising kids is hard I think this is a major aspect of it. When we become parents we still have things that we want to do, or frankly need to do outside of raising children. And kids don’t give a flying crap about that. The ideal scenario would be for me to become completely selfless and never need to get anything else done, ever. But the odds of that happening are about as good as me being able to sit on the couch while my kids are awake.