So this weekend this really nice guy who we know only casually--we only bump into him about once a year, but always enjoy his company--asked us in a very casual, small talky kind of way, "So, how's parenthood?"
Now, this is a question which we, Brandon and I, have obviously thought about a lot. A lot. We have talked about it. We have written about it. We have pondered its nuances in the bright lakefront sun, and in the dark diaper-filled nights. What do we think about? We think about parenthood, and what it's like, and how it has changed us.
So it was interesting that when this friendly person (really, he's SO nice) posed the question to us, point-blank, we sort of started and looked at each other, and at Elliot paddling around on the grass in front of us, chewing on Brandon's cell phone, and said, "...well...you know....good...it's....good....?"
I mean, how do you answer a question like that? In that place--a park, in a crowd of people? He was interested, but he clearly didn't understand that his question is a very hard one and the answer lodged close to the bone. You just can't ask, "how's parenthood?" in the same way that you'd ask, "how's the new Of Montreal album?" or "how was your trip to Wisconsin?" The question is too intimate. You can give a casual answer--"Oh, great! The best thing I've ever done!"--but it feels so cheap to answer such an important question with a cliche. Sitting there, stymied, I felt like my only options were to be inappropriately confessional with someone I barely know, or to reduce the most transformative experience of my life to a platitude. Which, basically, I refuse to do. So I didn't answer at all.
It was an unfair, if unintentionally so, question. But ever since he asked it, I've been pondering my non-response. I realize that this is a question I will be asked again, by other well-meaning if non-comprehending folk. So I think I need to figure out some way to respond. I've been trying to think of a quick answer that still captures some of my ambivalence about the experience. But how do describe to someone on the outside an experience that changes such bizarre parts of you?
Imagine a world in which you would get poo smeared across your pants, and in which changing your poo-smeared pants would not be the most important thing you had to do. Imagine a dried puke stain on the floor that has been there for three days which you just haven't had time to clean. Imgaine knowing that if you stay up late tonight it will be years before you can really catch up on those lost hours of precious, precious sleep.
Imagine your body as the most comforting, most beloved, most nourishing, most perfect part of another person's world. Imagine spending your days with someone who is fully in the moment, always, who has no sense that this moment's pleasure, this moment's pain, will not last forever. Imagine watching that person sob, because you weren't careful enough, and he fell, and now blood is steaming down his perfectly in-the-moment face. Imagine being able to make that person laugh. Imagine watching him reach for you, with no knowledge that the way he loves you will ever change, and with no fear that your love for him will be anything less than perfect. Imagine wanting your love to be perfect, and knowing that no love ever is. Imagine knowing that you can only come to know this person as a person if you give him up as the baby who loves you, your body, so unconditionally.
Imagine knowing that like Siddartha, like Adam and Eve, your baby too must leave the garden. Imagine knowing, for the first time, what all those stories really mean.
I guess my shorthand answer is: I think parenthood is great, Dan. I just don't think it's to be taken lightly.