One of the fun things about fatherhood is how one’s offspring greet him when he gets home from work.
The Goose, while monumentally adorable, is not the most affectionate child on earth. She’s not into hugs and kisses, unless they’re a game that make her giggle. Instead, she likes to show me what she has or what she’s doing.
I got home today from a long day at the office, and once I’m inside holding a pile of mail and juggling with my coat and other accouterments of the working man, I hear a noise.
I look, and a plastic ball has come down the stairs and hit the hard floor.
“Hi Goose,” I say.
“Dada coming!” I hear, followed by three more small plastic balls coming silently down carpeted stairs to land in a clatter on the floor below.
Parenting is a lot like marriage. When you first conceptualize it, you can pretty well guarantee that no, it’s not gonna be exactly like that. When the Missus and I first got engaged, I had this neat idea that we’d end up being missionaries to foreign lands, sharing the love of Jesus and being tourists all at once. We’d go camping constantly when we weren’t missionarying, or even when we were. We’d figure out the secret of making millions of dollars without having to work. A good chunk of those millions would go back into various ministry pursuits, God. Just saying. There’s still time.
So when I first became a parent, I had all these ideas of things I wanted to do with the Goose at some point. I think marriage tempered me, because a lot of these ideas are still feasible. What got me all wonked up this time was that the Goose has not yet been old enough for any of the great things I’ve wanted to do with her. Without knowing it, I’ve been planning for the years between 4 and 20. Here is a list of things I want to share with the Goose, or do with her, or… you know, apply whatever applicable verb.
- I can’t wait to read certain books to her. Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, the Narnia books, The Wizard of Oz, anything by James Herriot. This is a small sampling.
- As I was looking at my bookcase for other books/authors to add to #1, I saw some books I have on backpacking. I’ve only done it once, but I absolutely love it! I can’t wait for the Goose to be old enough that we can start out doing short backpacking trips together all over the Midwest – Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois, Hoosier National Forest outside of Bloomington, Indiana, and maybe some other places too. You know, start out small, start out close to home.
- I can’t wait until the Goose can back up my sweet blues riffs on bass. If that’s what she wants to do. I’m a bit of a polymath when it comes to musical instruments, and I have all these ideas going through my head for what things would sound like if only I had four arms or a bass player. Or heck, she could do the sweet blues riffs, and I’ll back her up. Whatever. Maybe she’ll be the perfect drummer. And maybe I can live vicariously through her drumming. OH GREAT I’M DOING IT AGAIN. Back to that in a minute.
- I really want to teach the Goose how to make a good cup of tea. I love tea, and while having tiny tea parties isn’t perhaps the manliest thing for a male social worker to be doing (quit laughing!), it would be an excuse to have wonderful tea and make memories with the Goose. So what if the cups are tiny and flowered? So what if I have to wait for Peter Francis Giraffee to have the first sip? There aren’t many things about which I’m persnickety, but I do know how to make a good pot of tea – green, black. rooibos, chai, whatever! I’m no expert, but I do the simple parts right, like getting close to the right temperatures. It’s rewarding to make something that’s good.
So back to the all-capital letters in #3. I’m assuming I’m not alone in wanting to craft my child into my own image in order to either live vicariously or have someone to “back me up”. It’s really important that I step back and allow the Goose to form her own interests and hobbies. If she doesn’t want to build cigar box guitars and make bottleneck slides, that’s, well, okay WHO DOES THAT??? I do that. Maybe I’ll make an Etsy and sell that stuff, if I ever get some personal time. Hey, I said quit laughing!
Yeah, that was another thing I didn’t anticipate about parenthood. Other parents always said, “Enjoy the free time you have now, because you’ll never have it again!” Haha, I thought, maybe you just weren’t prepared to be a parent. I’ve got this thing under control.
And then I didn’t sleep for three months.
Marriage was like that too. The Missus and I were going to communicate perfectly, and never have issues. And then ten seconds later happened, and we were arguing about something. And I realized I was really selfish. Not all at once, mind you, but just generally over time. I’m still really selfish. And I still think I’m not.
Don’t let this talk about expectations daunt you, though, especially if you’re a prospective parent. One of the best things you can do is make plans, because making plans implies that you’re thinking hopefully about the future. It wards off depression! And it’s just good for balance. To go all therapisty for a moment, Becks’ Cognitive Triad discusses the idea that how you view yourself, the world, and the future has a big impact on how you live in the present. If you are making positive plans for the future, even if they’re just fun ideas that may or may not happen, BOOM. You’ve got one leg of the depression triad kicked out. Now tell yourself that you’re a good parent and that the world is okay!
Easier said than done, of course. Remember, I live with my parents. They’re not bad parents. Heck, they’re probably wondering when we’ll get the heck out.
I’m pretty sure that my folks are setting a good example. If the Goose gets down on her luck in the future and needs a place to get back on her feet, I’d like to think I’d allow her to stay with the Missus and me. Maybe her husband will play a sweet saxophone.