My wife and I are extremely fortunate in that our older daughter, Clara, is head over heels in love with her brother, Charlie. In the seven months that Charlie has been with us, Clara has yet to demonstrate a single moment of jealousy or anger towards him. Not one. Instead, she says things like, “Isn’t Charlie adorable?” and “I love my beautiful baby brother so much!”
This is not what we expected when Charlie was born, but we are thanking our lucky stars every day. As a result, these are two of my new favorite photographs of my kids.
I’ve been showing these pictures to friends and colleagues over the past couple weeks (almost always when asked), and at least a handful of people have taken a look and said things like, “You just wait. Things will change between the two of them,” and “Just wait until he can walk and talk. Then all that love will be out the window.”
I will never understand why some parents feel the need to constantly mitigate and attempt to erode the enthusiasm of parents with children younger than their own. These are the same people who seem to take pleasure in telling pregnant mothers and the parents of newborns that they won’t sleep well ever again and that their days of seeing a movie in an actual theater are over.
They say things like, “Just wait until she can walk,” and “Middle school is going to be hell,” and “That toddler cuteness won’t last long.” They take pleasure in reminding new parents about the expenses associated with parenting, the frequency of childhood illnesses and the amount of energy that children demand on a daily basis.
I cannot tell you how many times a parent has warned me about the degree to which my life would change with children, and rarely in a positive way. Their warnings almost always center on the future loss of sleep, money, freedom and peace of mind.
As a result of this experience, I have dedicated my life to counteracting these miserable naysayers. I make it a point of telling new parents about the joys of parenthood whenever possible. I talk about how happy my children make me every day, and how watching them grow up has been one of my greatest joys. I actively refute the negative claims of these scoundrels at every turn and have become slightly belligerent at times in an effort to preserve the hope and joy of new parents.
I’m also sure to warn these pregnant mothers and parents of newborns about the army of parents who are apparently so unhappy with their own lives that they must ensure that everyone around is not too happy, too hopeful, too joyous or too optimistic.
Honestly, what kind of person listens to a father describe his children’s loving relationship and then thinks it’s a good idea to tell him that it won’t last long?
Even if it’s true, why not let me find out for myself? Why cast a pall over this precious moment in the life of my family? It’s not as if these warnings will inoculate me from future sibling strife. I’m not going to be better prepared for future brother-sister battles because of these spiteful, petty warnings. These admonitions serve no useful purpose other than to mitigate the positivity of the moment for a parent like me.
If you are one of these parental naysayers, please do us all a favor and shut the hell up.
If you are not one of these purveyors of pestilence, please do the new parents of the world a favor:
Make it a point to share some of the joys of parenting with these people.
You don’t need to purposefully attack the nattering nabobs of negativism like I do (though you can’t imagine how much fun it is), but at least offer an alternative view of parenting. Talk about the happiness that your children bring to your life. Be specific about the moments that have brought you the most joy. Remind these parents about why they chose to become parents in the first place.
Also, tell the doomsayers that I sleep more now with children than before they were born. Tell them that I saw ten movies in the theater last year and more than twenty during my daughter’s first year of life.
And please let them know that while it’s true that we have less spending money because of our children, my wife and I have used that money to purchase some of the most happy and blissful moments of our lives, so it’s been money well spent, damn it.