Traditionally parenting is heralded as a rewarding and worthy journey to embark on. The moment couples have children, they immediately begin telling everyone they meet that they should come along on the parenting trip with them. Swearing by the joy it brings, they proselytize heavily as if there was some sort of bonus the hospital shelled out for the additional pregnant mothers you bring in. Perhaps there’s some rewards program involved. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but the idea that parenting is always rewarding is nonsense. To be blunt with you, neither does it always feel like a worthy journey. Rather, it is a costly journey.
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While parents often paint the picture of glorious moments with their children and rant about the absolute joy that oozes out from the bond between them, parenting can also be descried in numerous other ways which aren’t so pretty. For every parenting quote there is a cheerio in a shoe, which crushes as you put it on but you’re running late for work so you forget about it. That is until you feel it breaking down with every step you take, a subtle reminder of what is awaiting you at home. It’s only later when you’re finally off the clock that the cheerio, now in powder form, comes back to your memory as it pours out and hides in the jungle of the carpet.
For every social media post with a caption about how parenting has changed someone’s life and they can’t believe it, there are teeth marks to show it. Usually there is a beautifully edited and properly posed picture attached with such a caption. But what you don’t see is the maniac that was prowling in the grocery store, missing only the Jaws theme song to accompany him, while he took his teething rage out on your shoulder, neck, bicep and whatever other body part was available at the moment. You thought it would be a quick trip. You only needed a can of beans, some flour tortillas, ground beef, shredded cheese, lettuce and perhaps a muy picante salsa to go along with. Taco night, it’s supposed to easy right? Instead what you got was a test on how durable your epidermis is and a revelation of how much patience you truly don’t have.
Don’t be fooled, my friend. For every Instagram milestone, you know the one where the baby is laying on a decorated blanket in some adorable outfit with gorgeous calligraphy pronouncing an official age to you, there were limits exceeded to get there. You didn’t know there was a limit on how many times you could sing Louis Armstrong’s’ What a Wonderful World, did you? Were you aware there were only a set amount of times you could hear the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song before going completely insane? (It’s 38.4 times. You usually lose it mid song.) Did you know there was a sign that someone wanted you to read something for them? I wasn’t aware either, but it’s actually hitting them directly in the face with the corner of a book. It does the trick. Aim for the eyeball if you really mean business.
A costly business parenting is. Like spending $136 on a bike trailer to pull your son around in. You spend two hours setting the bike rack up on the car and then building the trailer while he’s trying to climb in it the whole time. You load the bike, the trailer and the child in the car and head for the trail. Sure, it took longer than expected to set everything up, but, hey, you’re on the road, almost there. You’ve waited almost two years for this experience, since you found out your wife was pregnant. The thought of pulling your son around on your bike seems like one of those rewarding moments everyone has been chatting about. You’ve arrived. You park and look back to tell your son in the car seat about the experience he’s about to have only to find out he’s asleep. You sit in the car for two hours, scrolling through your phone wondering why you even tried. When he wakes up he’s hungry and you realize you didn’t bring any food pouches for him. You both head home with a terrible case of the grumps.
Don’t get me wrong. The little toothed smiles are worth it. Kisses from a being you created yourself, are everything they are said to be. Hugging your little one tightly is an experience that is difficult to describe. But parenting isn’t like those MasterCard commercials where everything is priceless in the end. Everything is costly. Parenting is costly. And yes, when things come at a cost, there is something you get in return for what you paid. But you pay. Rewards don’t come freely in this game. Hear me on this though, in case you think I’m suggesting a different route than fatherhood, I would spend everything all over again because in the end you truly get your money’s worth. Fatherhood is costly, but what a purchase it is.
Blake Nail writes from Ohio with his wife, son, and annoying cat. His book of poetry about fatherhood, WINDEX: poems from an expecting father, is available on Amazon.