Taken at Sloss Furnace, Birmingham, AL
Copyright Jesse Hart, All Rights Reserved
I’m tired. If I discuss racism, inequality, or really any social issue, I’m ignored or told I cannot possibly know what I am talking about from my position of privilege (I am a white male). Instead I get to watch from the sidelines as wave after wave of rhetoric and uninformed drivel gets spouted at the American public as if there is no possible way any other view is worth considering, and watching the pendulum of bigotry and divisiveness swing from one side to the next.
I truly hope that one day people open their eyes and understand the most basic concept required for us to be able to move toward an honestly better Society: labels and classifications of people cannot continue to exist, or we will always have issues with discrimination and inequality.
As long as we reinforce the notion of self-identification with a particular group, we divide ourselves based on similarities to others. We create the very divisive structure that we claim we want to see eliminated. Unfortunately, many do not want to see these structures removed from Society. How else can a political nominee measure demographics to try to mobilize specific groups to vote? How else can an insurance company classify individuals to “customize” rates in order to preserve their bottom line? How else can social constructs negotiate for preferential treatment or special privileges? We have grown accustomed to the power struggles among groups of people, when we should be tearing down these constructs and forcing one simple question onto everyone: what is best for the human race?
I certainly cannot claim to have all of the answers or to have a roadmap leading us from our current struggles to the promised land. I know, without the slightest doubt, that our first step is to honestly look at each other as equals instead of looking at the idiotic notions of separate classifications of people based on any physical trait. Unfortunately, as I get older, I realize the likelihood of seeing my dream come true becomes less and less likely with every passing year. Maybe, at this point, I have to just keep the world from changing me instead of hoping for change in the world.
Prior Post(s) in this series:
Ask any parent what it is like to have a child and you will probably hear some variation of “it’s such an amazing experience; I don’t know how to describe it,” or “I’ve never experienced such love and joy.” There is a large amount of truth in each of those answers and their assorted variations, but every parent leaves a lot of things unsaid. There truly, and I mean that with all sincerity, just are not proper combinations of words in any language that can convey what it is like to have your own little spawn creating a whirlwind of… not terror… umm… well… crap. We’ll come back to that thought. Maybe providing some lessons I’ve learned first will provide enough background for us to come up with the ending of that statement together.
Lesson One: “If I can reach it, I can try to eat it.”
I knew a kid was prone to putting anything into their mouth and at least trying to bite it a few times. That hasn’t surprised me. What has surprised me, however, is that pillows are the greatest thing ever invented for trying to eat. Consistently. To the point where my son’s excitement to see the pillow and lunge for it, jaws agape, like a little vampire diving onto a plump, chunky human after weeks of fasting seems to be normal behavior to us now.
And hard plastic? You would think that would be tossed aside quickly in favor of any number of hundreds of other items we now possess, but a hard plastic toy seems to be the second best option. Lesson learned. The more logical the thought of something being a highly sought after chew toy, the less likely my son will choose to chew on it.
Lesson Two: “I will show you the true power of the digestive system.”
Chemical warfare. There is no other phrase that even possibly encapsulates the odors a child can produce. I have smelled many, many things in my lifetime that were unpleasant, and even borderline unbearable. There are times when my son will turn, look me dead in the eye, and then let rip the most unholy of odors while laughing maniacally (ok, in fairness, he just smiles and giggles slightly, but I interpret that as the infant equivalent of the Joker’s hysterical laughter in this situation).
Not even a group of adult males binging on Taco Bell and Krystal after a night of liberal consumption of libations can compare to the destructive power of an infant’s normally functioning and fully operational digestive system. Lesson learned. Invest in gas masks, febreeze, lysol, and powerful vortex fans to push airflow throughout the home…
Lesson Three: “I can still be ridiculously cute, and you will still fall for it.”
I’m pretty sure every parent has the same basic idea bout their own child. Genetics should require such behavior. Seriously, if my son was not as cute/handsome/adorable as he is, I can see how ignoring him could be an option. Or donating him. Or trying to return him to the hospital. Being adorable has to be the baby equivalent of a genetic defense mechanism, ensuring parental attachment and continued survival into adolescence, when parental investment is too great to scrap the project and start over.
Seriously, how could you not fall for this face? Lesson learned. Your child possesses innate kryptonite to keep you from trying to pawn him/her off.
Lesson Four: The joy of watching a child grow, and the happiness they bring, really cannot be explained.
Think of the following string of descriptors: excitement, apprehension, confusion, joy, fear, frustration, exhaustion, love. Yeah… children are an emotional train wreck slamming into a psychological roller coaster at the apex of the first hill. Every milestone is a combination of excitement that the minion achieved something new and apprehension at how this new skill translates into getting into something you haven’t thought of yet. The classic example is learning to crawl, because as a parent you become ecstatic for a fleeting moment that your child figured out movement (a complex concept), followed by the immediate realization that your child is now capable of getting into things that you used to place safely out of reach (and the dread that comes with realizing your child can now stalk you). Lesson learned. Kids are wonderful, you just have to learn to focus on the positive moments.
Lesson Five: There is a different kind of love a parent possesses for their child, and it should not be in any type of competition with the love each parent holds for their significant other.
This is one of those things that tends to be overlooked, and yet is absolutely an important distinction to make. The love I feel for my son cannot be explained. I didn’t choose to love him, I just did. I didn’t find him attractive and court him, he just showed up and I was smitten. I can’t choose not to love him (well, ok, technically I could…). On the other hand, I did seek out my wife. I found her attractive and courted her, wanting to spend the rest of my life with her by my side. These are both manifestations of love, but they are absolutely a different kind of love from one another. Neither is stronger than the other. While this isn’t necessarily a lesson my son taught me, and I’m taking a break from the humorous aspect for this point, it’s something that has become that much clearer having a child. Just keep this one in mind and make sure you focus on both relationships properly, ok?
Lesson Six: Fear is a strong emotion. It will test you.
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering…Come on, did you really thing I wouldn’t work that quote in when I decided to add a point about fear to the list? Children will test your ability to overcome fear. How close do I let him crawl at light speed toward the edge of the couch before I stop him from diving head first onto the hardwood floor? How big a bite do I let him keep of that teething wafer, or whatever solid food we’re trying today? Am I putting the fracking car seat in correctly or does it just look and feel like it is correct, lulling me into a false sense of security?
I’m suddenly an overprotective father. How? I’ve never been overprotective that I’m aware of. It is a constant line I have to remind myself to be mindful of, and force myself to accept some things as part of the learning process. It isn’t always easy. Lesson learned. Having a child will make you suddenly question the safety of everything you are doing, even though you know full well you did plenty of stupid stuff as a kid that should have killed you.
So, how do we finish that statement I couldn’t figure out how to finish earlier? Well, I’m not so sure we need to. After all, we’ve made it this far without the proper combinations of words to describe the ups and downs, the joys and frustrations, the sheer excitement and mind-freeing angst of raising a child. What’s another few hundred years before trying to come up with another way to describe it to someone else?