I bet you’ve been in a conversation before, you know the type, with an older adult who is attempting to give you the wisdom of their years. You nod agreeably as they pontificate, murmur a little assent here and there. Suddenly a little rock is launched into the conversational windshield. You get a phrase like one of these:
“This is the most important decision of your life” (to the newly engaged). “Your college degree will be the best thing you ever buy” (to the graduating senior). “Parenting will really change you” (to the sleep deprived new parent).
It’s kind of like they just stuck out their tongue and said “NaNaNa – I know better than you do what your life is like!”
You pretend to agree.
Maybe you don’t even think about that phrase again. But I do. Man, I think about these types of phrases for the next couple days, weeks, sometimes months. I guess you could say they’re my pet peeve.
Why do these types of phrases bother me so much? Well, like all pet peeves, it’s sort of irrational how much it bothers me. Because I know the person telling the story just wants to give both their own opinion and experience even if it’s a little dramatic.
Most of all, I hate that the person telling me this type of thing knows something I don’t know. Are they right? Is getting married the most important decision I will ever make again? Was my college degree the best thing I’ll ever buy? And that last one – am I really changed by being a parent?
As to this last one, I’ve been thinking about it a lot as I walk on the cobblestones to and from the Salem Public Library. One mile there and one mile back, every single week since last July.
So far I’ve decided I’m not really changed. Thank God. It really would have been tragic if I began to like heavy metal, lost my sense of humor, and watched TV five hours a day. Mostly, I’ve realized parenting has changed a lot the process of my life, and less of the content. The biggest single change I’ve had to make is to pursue deeper. I used to pride myself on being what I called a “generalist.” I had an idea that I was good at a lot of things and I could spend energy on taking part in fifteen (or whatever) activities every week. No longer. I’ve simply got less intellectual focus hours in the day and I’ve got less friendship hours. I have to remind myself these things are not “good” or “bad” they simply are.
Having a family didn’t change who I was, it simply meant I had to look at my priorities. I had to decide that some priorities were good, but they weren’t the most important. That’s what changed my process, or the way I live life. Not everyone has to have a baby to realize they want to spend more time doing the things they love instead of things they just like, but I did. While those things I haven’t spent much time on in the past year I would like to be doing more of (movies, restaurants, soccer, café time with friends), I wouldn’t want those at the expense of some of the other valuable things I’ve gotten (like good family memories, and deep time spend in study). And who knows, there will probably be time to balance the things I love and like again in a new way later in life.
But, even having pondered the depths of that trite little phrase “Parenting will change you” and found a small nugget of truth – Don’t say it to me. I still hate it.