A thousand years ago the Shmata Queen yelled at me because I hadn’t gotten a colonoscopy. Even though she took great pleasure in stories about my digestive distress she told me she thought that I was being ridiculous because I hadn’t given some doc the chance to explore my nether regions. I explained that I do things in my time and on my schedule to which I received some sort of growl that sounded like “men” and assorted mumblings that probably weren’t complimentary. I of course responded with a hearty, “I love you too dear.”
Somewhere before, in between or after this conversation my parents expressed their
frustration concern regarding my desire to do things on my schedule. Now you’ll forgive me for the lack of precision regarding the chronology here, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because this is how I have been my entire life. My mother likes to tell the story about how when I was around a year they thought that I might be deaf.
Apparently I didn’t always respond to them when they called my name and they began to grow concerned. So my father conducted his own test of my hearing. He stood behind me and banged on some pots and pans. According to family legend I turned my head and glared at him as if I was irritated that he had interrupted whatever I was doing to entertain myself. Important side note for those who are new to the blog. When I was five I got in trouble for doing something and was sent to my room. Not long after I was sent there I came back out and challenged my father to a fight, with the premise being that if I won I would be allowed to come back out.
In case you are wondering he failed to entertain my idea and I remained stuck inside my room.
YOU believe, because it is one of the last self-evident, incontrovertible truths, that raising a child is one of the most influential jobs in the world.
And that’s why you will find what comes next so difficult. All those extra bedtime stories read, violins purchased, chess clubs driven to, trips to the museum made, cosy fireside chats delivered; all the arguments over homework and bribes, all the blueberries served, all the guidance offered, all your values instilled, all your world-view shared, all the worry, heartache, effort, blood, sweat and tears of being a responsible parent. All the things you do that make your child special. It’s all for nothing.
Or, as Bryan Caplan, the American academic and author of the new book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, puts it: “Adoption and twin research provides strong evidence that parenting barely affects a child’s prospects. If parents gave themselves a big break – or redoubled their efforts – their kids would turn out about the same.”
I’ll let you chew on that for a bit. I expect that I will probably blog about it at length. But in the interim let me share with you the best thing that my father ever said to me. Ok, I can’t say for certain that it was the best, but it is up there.
A few years ago dad and I were hanging out together. I don’t remember why or where the family was but I remember telling him that I was frustrated about a few things. It was the sort of conversation that we probably wouldn’t have had before I became a father in large part because he would have told me to suck it up and I would been pissed off by it.
Truth is that I expected the same sort of response this time, but I was so irritated that I just blurted it out. And that is when he surprised me by saying that he used to worry about what I would do career wise but that he didn’t worry any more. That is the abridged version of the conversation, but you get the point.
It might sound silly, but sometimes when things feel rough I think about it and it takes the edge off. So thank you dad, you still make a difference and an impact in my life.