Quick Thoughts About Parenting That Have Come To Me Recently

there are whole new colors of feelings

There are feelings in parenting that are really hard to describe unless you’ve had them. I don’t think this is necessarily unique to parenting; I’m sure there are unique feelings in mountain climbing or novel writing too. But it’s definitely true about parenting.

These feelings differ in magnitude and character from anything else. Magnitude: for me at least, it’s really opened up at least one or two orders of magnitude. (reminder about log scales of pleasure and pain1) Character: well, they’re different.2 Hard to describe how! But some candidates:

It is telling to me that the examples I suggested are all work, and all negative. I understand there are order-of-magnitude and very-very-different positive experiences too. I’m getting there.

But as I’m writing this, I feel the need to reassure you, dear reader, that this is not the typical “dan gripes about parenting” post; there are new deep thoughts and feelings here! let me get to them…

a mom’s love is like the sun

it’s: incredibly powerful, constant, and present without trying. A dad’s love is like a 10^17x nuclear reactor: able to get to the same order of magnitude, but it’s much more unsteady and you have to build it up. But nevermind that. It’s pretty incredible to even witness a mom’s love for her kid! Sometimes as the dad, that’s part of your role.

maybe it’s time to be initiated

I struggled phrasing this section, because I want to leave all the “shoulds” out of it; they have been painful for me. But I’m getting the signal that my growth path now is like passing through an initiation. In a sense I already have (am already dad) but I’ve been kind of “reluctant dad” and maybe it’s time to accept the role of “enthusiastic dad."3

As with most initiations, it’s a choice, but one you rather want to take. The young men in the tribe could just skip the coming-of-age ritual but that usually leads to shame and dishonor or worse. I think the fact that I’m feeling like I’m being presented with this means the decision has already been made.

How does this look externally? Probably gradual. There’s a line between “being an enthusiastic dad” and “looking like the epitome of enthusiastic dad” and I don’t think I’ll ever be the latter. But I am still figuring out what that’s like.

it’s a good thing I’m not spinning

If you have not enough energy for your life’s demands, that sucks, obviously. But if you have too much energy for your life’s demands, or rather, too few demands for your energy, I think that can lead to problems too. (see as example, maybe, the stereotypical trust-fund kid?) You need demands, and they need to be worthy demands.

Pre-kid, I didn’t have Big Purpose. I didn’t dedicate my life to curing cancer or ending racism or saving the environment. And I may have been in danger of “too few demands for my energy.”

Well, that’s not the case anymore! Now my scales have tipped the other direction. But at least I have more demands, and they are worthy!

  1. I realize I’ve failed the “dan write something without linking to log scales of pleasure and pain challenge (literally impossible)” ↩︎

  2. I guess it would be surprising if they weren’t: “your kid bonking his head is like opening a soda to find that it’s flat, but times 50” ↩︎

  3. Really something like “between accepting and enthusiastic”. “Enthusiastic” is a lot of pressure. But I’ll say “enthusiastic” for the sake of this post. ↩︎

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