Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

On plans and parental growth  §

We need a plan.

It’s becoming more and more clear to me that we don’t have one, and we need one.

We are operating in microtime—one minute, one hour, sometimes one day at a time, but rarely more than that. We chase fires and put them out, but we have no idea where the next fire will occur, how many there will be, or what in hell’s name we will do with ourselves if they ever stop appearing.

— § —

This is the sort of thing that kids do to you.

Before they’re born, you go plugging right along through life, assuming that identity is essential. Mom gets an inkling of something different first, during gestation, but it still doesn’t really register.

Then, they’re born.

Time stops.

Everything disappears—everything but your children. Even yourself is hazy, if not invisible.

You marvel at them as you realize it’s been weeks since they were born.

You measure their lives in months.

And suddenly, you look at yourself in the mirror and realize that years are passing and have passed.

And that, during those years, precious little, if anything—apart from daily feedings and daily hugs (which I do not wish to minimize in any way)—has been done or even thought about.

— § —

Parenthood is a kind of time machine, the only one known to humankind. You step onto the parenthood train and while the rest of the world continues to age, time to pass around you, inside the train time stands still.

— § —

Slowly, imperceptibly, time has begun to move again. The oldest is going to be three years old very soon. She now spends most of the day taking care of herself.

Before anyone calls child services, I’ll qualify that and say that I mean this in comparison to the way things were just short months, or even weeks, ago. Constant attention and hand-holding are no longer required (or demanded). She feeds herself; she plays with herself; she has her own opinions about what she wants to do next; she turns away from hugs because she’s busy; she helps to care for her brother.

Brother is still young—just a year old—but now, having seen how things progress, we can more clearly see what’s on the horizon.

In another flash of time, both of them will be in school—and time will be passing again for the parents. The world will exist; the sun will rise again, set again; the rain will fall again; there will be things to do again that do not involve caring for little bodies and minds; these “other” things will seem important again in all of the ways that they haven’t—that they have been completely invisible—since 2010.

— § —

But we don’t have a plan.

Our plans right now amount to things like “get them both off of the bottle” (just achieved) or “find a nice second class of some kind for toddlers to take them both to once a week.”

We have had no particular discussions about what we are to be doing in ten years, who we are or have become. We talk only about them.

This is as it should be, and the experience has been everything to us. But the experience doesn’t last forever; it is our job to send them, eventually, on their way, independent human beings with life trajectories separate from (though forever related to) ours.

— § —

If you were to ask me what I “like” right now, I wouldn’t have an answer that isn’t child-centric. I like spending time with my daughter and son. I like playing in pretend tends. I like pulling children in a wagon. I like picnics at the “castle park” with horrible but oh-so-special McDonald’s food. I like Saturdays at “music class” where we sing and dance together.

But if we’re already seeing hints of “I have my own life, thanks” at two-and-a-half, it’s going to be untenable to have only this set of likes at five, or at ten.

There was once more to us than this.

There must be more to use than this once again.

But it will have to be rediscovered.

— § —

Step one is to confront the fact that we don’t have a plan.

Step two is to actually begin to talk about creating one.

— § —

But step zero is to force ourselves to take a long, hard look in the mirror every day—and perhaps several times a day—in the mirror right now, between the fires that we, at present, continue to endlessly chase and extinguish.

Because in order to confront the fact that we don’t have a plan, we will have to come to the realization once again that there is a “we” at all—two people that exist, as separate from our children, and who will be here, together, as they grow up and spend less and less time with us until, if we are successful, they spend hardly any at all in the end.

When that happens, I’d like to think that we’ll be living full, fulfilled, exemplary (for our children) lives still, rather than being stuck on the train, frozen in time, long after our children have disembarked—or worse, clinging to them as they try to do so.

— § —

Step zero, here we come.

Steps one and two to follow.

Probably not easy, but exciting. And necessary.

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