As soon as my wife and I learned that we were finally having a child, I knew what I’d be hearing: “Get used to not sleeping!” “Say goodbye to your social life!” “Hope you like the sound of screaming!”
Later, when we learned we were having twins, I braced myself for double the stereotypical, good-natured ribbing that all first-time fathers get. What I wasn’t expecting was who’d do the ribbing.
I figured my non-parent friends would have something to say, but I was pleasantly surprised. Every friend who I thought would tell me I am “ruining” my life has been nothing but supportive. It’s my friends who are already parents who won’t shut up.
It isn’t everyone, of course. Plenty of my parental peers are perfectly pleased for us. But whenever I hear something snarky or negative, it always seems to come from someone with kids of their own.
It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re friends or strangers. Recently, I was teaching a class on time management. While discussing the demands of family on a person’s schedule, I mentioned that I was expecting twin girls.
“You’re never going to get any writing done again!” yelled a woman in the front row.
I tried to laugh it off, saying that I would just sleep less, but she wouldn’t let it go.
“That won’t help! You’re not going to get any sleep anyway. And those kids won’t do your marriage any favors either.”
I think that questioning the quality of my relationship with my wife is crossing a line.
Sure, sure, some may be trying to give me a friendly warning or good-natured advice. But I think that questioning the quality of my relationship with my wife is crossing a line. I also take exception when someone insinuates that I will be an inept parent because I’m a man, or that my children are going to be dishonest, selfish bullies no matter how I raise them. It’s hard to laugh that off.
I’m not new to hearing comments like this. My wife and I tried to get pregnant for more than five years, including one miscarriage and many false alarms. During that time, I would get so angry whenever parents made jokes that we were the lucky ones, as if years of grief and anxiety were somehow preferable to dirty diapers and a tiny person refusing to eat their veggies. While my wife and I tried to put on brave faces in spite of these insensitive comments, there were times I would have liked nothing more than to punch someone in their smug face.
It almost happened once. About four years into trying to have a kid, I was hanging out with some buddies at our weekly guys’ night. One of the men got a call from his wife asking him to pick something up on the way home. He overheard screaming in the background, and asked if she was having a hard time putting the kids to bed. She was, and he heard all about it before he hung up. Once he did, he gave me a snide smile.
“Hey Lindsay, you’re trying to have kids. You want one of mine?”
“No thanks,” I said. “I want a good one.”
There have been plenty of other times that I’ve been tempted to be equally as snarky. Instead, I’ve taken to using just one phrase to answer every negative comment that I hear from parents: “I’m ready. Bring it on.”
Of course, I know that my life is going to be turned upside down when the twins arrive. I know things will never be the same again. And I’m OK with that. Having a child was a choice my wife and I made together. While we don’t know everything that will happen, we do know that this is what we want. I want to be a dad, and if anyone has something snarky to say about it, they can go right ahead. I’m not listening.