HAVING A KID changes who you are almost at a molecular level. It is a whole new world that becomes your reality from the moment you first lay eyes on the tiny human. It is in that moment that you discover that amazement and panic can be felt simultaneously, along with a cluster of conflicting feelings that nothing you read or heard prepared you for it.
Even the reactions from other people (especially more experienced parents) would be equally confusing, reflecting the idea of “Congratulations you are a parent! How screwed are you! :D”. And so you begin to embrace one simple fact… YOU DON’T KNOW JACK!
My father is a very busy doctor who works day and night to support our angry mob which includes my step mum and 5 step-siblings (a newborn, 1- and 4-year-old boys, and 3- and 16-year-old girls). I am not a parent myself but given the age difference I consider the 4 tiny ones to be my own kids.
I cannot describe the type of bond I have with them given that I am not only their big brother, but also their acting father and authority figure. Ever since the 9th of December 2009, the birth date of the first tiny human, I turned from that 18-year-old dude to THAT GUY.
Here is what I have learned being THAT GUY.
Finding the beauty in the beast
When you are not yet a parent there may come a time where the idea of a baby seems beautiful and the other side of the fence looks greener. When you do become a parent, you realise that it was greener because it was fertilised by crap… literally.
In the first few days of my brother’s life my step-mum was still knocked out by C-section exhaustion, and the tiny human couldn’t eat properly because he didn’t know how to suckle yet. Since I have trust issues and a working knowledge of how maternity wards run, like hell I would let a nurse deal with my baby brother unless she was pretty experienced.
Before I know it I became THAT GUY, the guy who would have a smile on his face simply because his kid didn’t throw up after he ate, took care of the other end of that tract with the same smile, and spoke in a ‘Batman’ voice to avoid smelling contaminated oxygen.
Wait? What happened?!
Have you ever been that guy your friends would to turn to for updates on trends (music, games, gadgets, world news)? I used to be that dude. But now? I just found out yesterday that Paul Walker died!
Eventually, even my Netflix account only suggested kid’s movies. My phone gallery was full of random pictures of whatever was in front of the camera while my siblings were trying to take a selfie. My personal favourite: when hanging out with friends at 9 pm becomes a bit too late.
When you have a kid you will discover that the only time you can keep up with everything going on outside the house is between the time they sleep and the time you sleep. And my personal favourite is when they eventually decide on your behalf that your morning rituals (reading the news, poopy and shower time, and breakfast) are no longer an individual activity but rather a team sport.
Skills level: NINJA
THAT GUY is not just a poop filter and an entertainment buzz kill, he also acquires a cool set of skills equivalent to a newbie ninja.
Walking around a sleeping kid requires a combination of speed, stealth and silence. In just a month I was light on my feet, my ears became hyper-sensitive, and even more focused than ever. I could open any lock in the world, cook an entire dinner, hear a baby crying from 3 apartments away, and take a perfect shower without making so much as a peep.
Changing a diaper under 30 seconds is no longer considered an accomplishment, and other than food stains, a little pee-pee or poo-poo is one of the regular things I need to check for on my own clothes or body… I ain’t even mad.
Speed! Speed is a very important parenting skill because you have to be able to do everything in half the time and double the efficiency. Most of your meals have to be eaten either really fast or with one hand, and sometimes both.
Every trip outside the house is exactly the same as getting ready to go to the airport with no checklist, so most probably you’d have to pack everything just in case. Your average laundry load will be somewhat the same size, however, one baby load might contain no less than 50 tiny items.
Since it is hard to feel manly folding baby clothes, it is almost impossible to resist the urge to cram them up since they are already tiny, so I found that visualising your baby inside the clothes will help you resist tearing them up in frustration.
I have come to realise that being a parent is like being a frog in slowly boiling water, you don’t notice what’s happened to you because of how adaptable you have become to anything a kid throws your way.
HAH! You have no power here!
Anything that you can use they will use, aaaaand not really in the same way.
Food is not just nutrition, it is art that can be applied anywhere. Every single object you find special is some unidentified technology that is vital to acquire for their own survival, and a functioning technology must be fixed and set up back to its original state which is broken. The natural state of the house is messy and anything within reach is meant to be a present for them.
The perfect movie situation of how I feel as a “parent” is from the movie The Dark Knight Rises where Bane, the villain, is confronted by his sponsor, John Daggett, and his assistant Stryver. Daggett gives Bane everything he needs for his evil plan in exchange for owning Batman’s enterprise.
John Daggett: What. The hell. Is going on?
Bane: Our plan is proceeding as expected.
John Daggett: Oh really? Do *I* look like I’m running Wayne Enterprises right now? It didn’t work, my friend! And now you have my construction crews going around the city at 24 hours a day! How exactly is that supposed to help my company absorb Wayne’s?
Bane: [to Stryver] Leave us!
John Daggett: No! You stay here, I’m in charge!
Bane: [puts his hand on Daggett’s shoulder] Do you *feel* in charge?
John Daggett: I paid you a small fortune.
Bane: And this gives you *power* over me?
John Daggett: What is this?
Bane: Your money and infrastructure have been important… ’til now!
John Daggett: What are you?
Bane: I’m Gotham’s reckoning. Here to end the borrowed time you’ve all been living on!
John Daggett: You’re pure evil!
Bane: I’m *necessary* evil!
That is exactly how I feel every time I try to discipline the kids even a little bit: necessary evil, like Bane, only with a touch of regret. Whenever some bad behaviour pops out of nowhere any parent would do what they think is right to correct it, which is pretty much all the time. It starts at the age of 2-3 and it never ends.
At some point you realise that you are THAT GUY, the one who tries to correct everything in their child and discovering you do the exact same thing (Eating ice-cream for dinner, not eating veggies or healthier food, staying up late etc.).
The conclusion of that realisation is almost always “Holy F*** I have to be my father!” and it builds up to another realisation that dads are not judgmental or irrational with their expectations. They just want their child to be better than they are even if they know how good it is to be ‘bad’.
THAT GUY has it all
Even though THAT GUY has to go through stuff people without kids go through, and even though 80% of the time people would consider being him would be hell, there are those moments that makes being THAT GUY the best thing that can ever happen.
Remember one of those times where you almost had a crush on a toy commercial, and your reaction when all of a sudden, your mum or dad gets it for you? That’s the reaction you have when you get your kid something. Being THAT GUY, you will find yourself feeling more joy in spending money on your kids than yourself.
And similarly, you’ll feel guilty when you get yourself something – even the necessities – because each dollar you spend is a dollar less for your kids.
There is no denying the fact that all men love being needed, even if we complain about it. And you won’t find anyone who will need you more than someone who knows nothing and depends on you for everything.
You are the protector, since they are not developed yet to handle any real danger.
You are the interpreter and the presenter, since no one would be able to understand them when they are young, or metaphorically when they are older.
You are the provider, everything you have is theirs because they have nothing else.
You are simply everything! And for a fraction of some days you are not Bane, you are Batman, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight!
And I don’t know about anyone else, but I love that feeling.
Photo credit: AFP/Relaxnews