I once promised some of my friends that I would never be “that dad”. While I was sure of what that meant at the time, I am not so sure anymore. I promised myself and others that I would not so radically change my interaction with the outside world that I became a different person entirely. I promised myself and others that I would continue to maintain my relationships, and that I would never make friends feel as though they “just don’t get it”.
While married without children, I had occasionally been hurt by people that acted as though I could not understand what it was like to care for another person so selflessly, since I did not have children. Most of my friends were ridiculously cool when discussing parenthood, but some were less sensitive and even insulting on occasion. As a minister and social worker, I was hurt by the implication that my understanding of love and compassion was not complete.
I knew that I understood parenthood in the same way that Sam Neil understood raptors in Jurassic Park, before he ended up on that crazy island. We can only understand a beast so much until we end up cornered by one in a museum (or nursery). Luckily for me, my little raptor is less prone to eat me than he is to vomit on me.
While I do understand that parenthood is transformative, and that parental love can evoke both unquantifiable joy and heart-wrenching pain, I maintain my insistence that my understanding of love was never lacking, and that nonparents are often subject to unfair judgment and subsequent outsider-status.
Now, as a parent, I struggle to convey this same understanding to my friends and family who are without kids. Though I still espouse these beliefs, and shout them from the blogosphere, my absence from their lives likely speaks volumes more than my rants. I can easily state that they still belong in my life and relate to me as close friends, but the hours and days I spend taking care of my child seem to cut the heart out of my argument.
I hope that my friends still know that I view them as close, loyal, and relatable, even as I live a life that is occasionally vastly different from their own. I now understand that some truths will be hidden from non-parents, but I also understand the pain that this implication can cause without sensitive efforts to help others understand. I hope that I speak of parenthood honestly, lovingly, somewhat objectively, and most of all, inclusively.