A few years ago I was on the phone with an acquaintance who had recently moved his infant child and babymama into his home after some sort of relationship hiatus several of us thought, frankly, would be permanent. He was in the honeymoon stage of being a new little family and regaling me with the story of the first house party he had in his home and how it seemed to meld seemlessly with the apartment’s new function harboring a family. He said he was walking through the house back to his guests (stoned, of course) and he caught a brief glimpse of himself. “I looked in the mirror and saw I was carrying a beer in each hand, a pacifier in my mouth, and I thought, ‘Oh man, I’m a dad!'” His voice carried a lot of wonder, joy, and disbelief, and not a little fear.
Remembering this conversation now, I’m pretty sure I was on the phone in my old apartment uptown, pregnant maybe, but not yet a parent. I didn’t have a lot to go off of from personal experience raising babies, but I remember I was nevertheless irked by this story. First off, how could a man who hadn’t been present for the pregnancy and birth of his own child do anything but humbly eat crow for a few months? He’s a dick for not being there, plain and simple. To my way of thinking then (and perhaps now), you can’t take pride in being a dad because after some period of time cowering from reality you’ve made the generous decision to bring Baby home, and so far in the first coupla days it’s going fine. Give yourself a year or so of doing the right thing and knuckling down to it, then you get props. I’m picturing a needed Boot Camp for daddies and then at some point if they’ve put up with it long enough and with a good demeanor they get some respect (maybe). Sure, not a generous frame of mind, I admit. It’s too bad I’ve known a few deadbeat dads in my time, because it hasn’t softened me up any.
Secondly, I confess I have a judgment against parents who party regularly in the homes where their children sleep. Now, I’m not a hardliner on this issue. God Knows my parents did it; I also know I always felt safe in their care. They weren’t snorting rails of coke or gathered around some giant cock-shaped bong or anything, and they didn’t leave us with Whoever so they could stay out all night. I just remember knowing they drank and, a few times, seeing them smoke pot. Fast forward to the Now, and of course I drink and smoke (cigarettes only) and do so in my own home (well, I don’t smoke in my home, or at least not often… damn our current awareness of the evils of secondhand smoke!).
So – I guess it’s the drugs. If I’m honest, there is a tingling sense of fear at the thought of Something Happening (a child cutting himself, a sudden violent fever in the middle of the night) and both the responsible adults in the home being incapacitated, even in a small way. To think of myself sitting in the emergency room holding my toddler while having a buzz on – even in a non life-threatening situation – turns me off. And maybe it boils down to this: I had a relatively free young adult life to blow my mind on Mad Dog, mushrooms, acid, polio pot (three things I enjoyed and one I didn’t, quiz-takers!) and whatever else we could find in good ol’ Grays Harbor and I did my share. But I have kids now. Someone has to be the adult in the household. Those days are over for me, at least for some time, and I don’t mind at all.
I’m not even going to waste my breath further defending what works for me and my little foursome; neither am I going to go on at great length explaining that I don’t hold sweeping, fixed judgments on those who are more relaxed about their substance abuse as it works with caring for young children. I haven’t seen a lot of unsafe behavior from my friends, and I hope I never do; I just see some choices I don’t intend to make. And as I’ve said before in other entries, if I could easily get my hands on some good downers I really would pop one a night to get to sleep. I guess I’m just too lazy and chickenshit to make an effort there.
Today my cold is worse. A rather nasty headache, completely stuffed-up sinuses. First came the hard part this morning: asking my husband to stay home for the day. Then comes an even slightly more difficult chore for me: not doing housework, or sewing, or any other damn thing. Easy to sit down at the computer and rant about some long-ago, near-forgotten snippet of a conversation.