A couple days ago I received a phone call from a friend, asking for advice related to her sick child. The boy was suffering from a lingering fever despite the fever-reducing medication that had been administered, and she was wondering if she should call the doctor or wait until morning in hopes that the fever break. The strangest thing about the phone call was that I was the one receiving it. My friend’s child is a toddler, and I am the parent of a daughter who is less than a year old. I cannot remember a single time in my life that a parent has called me looking for this kind of advice.
Parents ask me for lots and lots of advice in my capacity as a teacher, and more recently, friends of newborns have called, seeking my newfound expertise. But to call about a child older than my own daughter and seek advice in the realm of medical care was new for me, so I had to ask why she chose me.
She explained that although it is often forgotten, ignored and even discounted by many of my friends, I was previously married and raised a step-daughter from the ages of six to sixteen before her mother and I divorced on remarkably amicable terms. Although my daughter is just eleven months old, I actually have more parenting experience than most of my friends with children older than Clara.
While I often think of that time in my life as my previous life, I have a wealth of experience raising children. Not infants, granted (although that experience is coming fast and furious), but kids. In fact, one could argue that it’s more challenging raising a step-daughter, negotiating the world of dual-custody, than it is to raise a daughter in a traditional, nuclear family.
Hell, just getting my step-daughter to trust me was hard enough, a problem that most biological parents do not face.
So I find great amusement in the parents who take pleasure (for reasons I’ll never understand) in warning me about what lies ahead in my role as a father. These apparently depressed individuals, seeking to depress the rest of the world, love to go into detail about the difficulties raising a teenager, the struggles associated with a middle school aged child, and the stressful relationship that many mothers and daughters can have. They tell me harrowing tales of boyfriends prowling around the house, the fear associated with teaching a child to drive, and the perpetually locked bedroom door.
But I know this already. I’ve been through it. Perhaps these people have forgotten since I did not find it necessary to plague them with these same horror stories when their daughters were growing up.
I’ve also had people discount those ten years of my life, implying that the time I spent raising my step-daughter does not count toward my experience as a parent. All of the loving and teaching and punishing and battling is irrelevant in their obviously impaired minds.
So it was nice to be reminded that my previous experience as a parent, beyond that of raising my own daughter, is recognized and appreciated. I’m not looking for my phone to start ringing off the hook with calls about fevers, but to be told by a friend that my experience and skill is valued was a breath of fresh air.