As a parent those words don’t mean what they once did.
Recently we were at birthday party for one of Levi’s friends. They had a children’s musician performing. He was really good, very entertaining. Levi was loving it, so therefore I was loving it. But there was this moment when I was kind of floating outside of myself, scanning the room. I saw my son twirling wildly with some jumps thrown in, and I saw his little friends bopping along to Old MacDonald. Then I saw the birthday boy’s dad in his plaid button-down, toe-tapping and head moving up and down in time to the music. If you took the music away, it would have looked as if he were at an actual concert. And there I was in my geeky glasses and weekend-casual, hooded sweater sitting on a floor drumming on my leg, upper body swaying forward and back. I looked around at the parents — some were singing, others were clapping. As I took all of this in, I became a little freaked out: like who am I? And how did I get here?
As someone who never wanted kids, someone for whom having a kid just wasn’t even the smallest blip on the radar, being at a child’s birthday party and “rocking out” to some Old MacDonald, just didn’t feel real or even quite right. Now perhaps all parents feel this sense of discord in some moments regardless of whether they wanted kids or not. It just suddenly hits you that this thing you’re doing, which seems completely “normal” in the moment, isn’t normal at all. In fact, it’s just weird. And it’s just weird because it lacks any kind of harmony with the sense of self you once had. And have you figured out a new or different sense of self that feels at all logical? No, because you don’t have enough time to realize how strange all of this is. As a parent, you just keep moving forward.
I came back into my body. I wasn’t trying to fight my way through a crowd to the stage at an Ani show. I wasn’t consuming illegal substances at a Phish concert. I wasn’t getting caught up in mosh pit at any number of hard core shows. Hell, I wasn’t even sitting in a seat listening to Tori Amos or Neil Diamond (even though there were disco lights) or Dar Williams. I was sitting on a basement floor at a children’s birthday party trying to figure out how I became this person that I never in million years anticipated becoming. And I’m wondering if the lip syncing Old MacDonald-ites around me are trying to work out this same sense of confusion.