As an adult, you may think you've roughly mapped the continent of love and relationships. You've loved your parents, a few of your friends, eventually a significant other. You have some tentative cartography to work with from your explorations. You form ideas about what love is, its borders and boundaries. Then you have a child, look up to the sky, and suddenly understand that those bright dots in the sky are whole other galaxies.
You can't possibly know the enormity of the feelings you will have for your children. It is absolutely fucking terrifying.
When I am holding Henry and I tickle him, I can feel him laughing all the way to his toes. And I realize, my God, I had forgotten, I had completely forgotten how unbelievably, inexplicably wonderful it is that any of us exist at all. Here I am with this tiny, warm body so close to me, breathing so fast he can barely catch up, sharing his newfound joy of simply being alive with me. The sublime joy of this moment, and all the other milestones – the first smile, the first laugh, the first "dada" or "mama", the first kiss, the first time you hold hands. The highs are so incredibly high that you'll get vertigo and wonder if you can ever reach that feeling again. But you peak ever higher and higher, with dizzying regularity. Being a new parent is both terrifying and exhilarating, a constant rollercoaster of extreme highs and lows.This is so well put that I have a lump in my throat and goosebumps on my arms.
On the flip side, I was recently describing parenthood to a childless friend. Before relaying what I said, I have to issue the disclaimer that it was at the end of a particularly rough day with Owen and Marcus. Here's how I explained it:
To imagine parenthood, imagine extreme happiness. But imagine that happiness coupled with the following. Imagine doing a task that you don't want to do, something like unloading the dishwasher or scrubbing a counter. Now imagine that you can't do this task because a little life form is demanding your attention, screaming about some inconsequential circumstance, or impatiently insisting on your help in finding an item that they, the little life form, misplaced despite your warnings about losing things. So there you are, not able to do a task that you don't want to do because...well, because you decided to do something as crazy as having a kid.
I love my kids dearly. Being a parent has transformed me into a better person, a better man. But it's important to keep in mind that my decision was not made based on logic or reason. It was a crazy decision. I gave up my life. The moment Owen was born, life was no longer about me and my hopes, dreams and concerns. There's no logic in that decision. There's just this thing called love, and I'm eternally grateful to know it.
So, yeah, parenting is a wonderful mishmash of contradictions that somehow sums to net happiness. As the author above notes at the beginning of their post, it's that 1% that makes all the difference: