It’s always been my philosophy to engage in any and all adventure within reason. I have gone skydiving, hiked mountain trails, traveled to foreign lands, acted in a play, started a punk rock band and even had a bit part in a movie.
The one adventure that still terrified the shit out of me was having kids, but I could put it off no longer.
I once held the idea that having kids was a disastrous act reserved for spoiled suburbanites, entitled ghetto-dwellers, or saps too stupid to use birth control. I thought the human race was a doomed enterprise and the sooner the planet was turned back over to the hump-backed whales, baboons, tapirs and sloths, the better.
But circumstances blessed me in semi-adulthood with much younger siblings and I found my tolerance for dealing with children. When I was an underemployed bum living in my father and stepmother’s basement at the age of 24, playing with my stepbrothers and dancing to Johnny Cash songs with my young sister were among life’s few joys.
Over the years many of my friends have married and had children and I have watched people I once saw launch fireworks indoors or drink a jug of Southern Comfort at 10 in the morning suddenly in charge of small human lives and doing a good job of it.
Plenty of people with experience told me never to get married, but everyone I know who has had kids, no matter what misery has befallen them since, recommends having kids with the highest of praise and encouragement.
It’s a natural instinct. Everyone with a soul has the need to leave something behind in this world as a monument to the fact that they have lived. Few of us will wield the influence that will make our names live after for many years. History only has room for so many Caesars, Michaelangelos and Einsteins. But if we have kids, we’ve guaranteed at least a small piece of us will live on. We have made our mark in the world in some small way and shown we are secure enough in our personal survival to make more of our own kind. Of course part of this is ego-driven. I happen to think I’m a good person and that the world could use more people like my wife and me.
So it was with gusto and success that my wife and I set about to conceive. We soon learned that we were having twins and that they would both be girls. We debated names and set about preparing for their arrival.
Nine months passed by quickly, and it was soon time to deliver the goods to a phalanx of family and friends. With great patience and perseverance, my wife brought two beautiful baby girls into the world. They are perfect and destined for great things. If they are anything like me and my brother, they will fight like hell spawn for the first eighteen years of their lives.
So far my brief foray into the adventure of fatherhood has been all it was promised. I have a deep and abiding love for many of my family and friends, but if any of them crapped their pants while they were visiting me, they would be taking that all with them. True parental love is getting human feces on your hands and somehow not minding.
Living in New York City, raising children will be a difficult task. The cost of living is very high, waiting lists for good schools are long; there are dangers everywhere. The city is not designed for the modern conveniences of child-rearing. The streets, sidewalks and shops are too narrow for double-wide strollers, car seats, and screaming toddlers.
We have vowed not to become the worst of what I have seen in child-bearing among the many strangers I encounter in the Big Apple. A lot of people think that because they have reproduced that their lives are somehow more thrilling or important than others. The parents who have thrived in some of the “upwardly mobile” areas of the city have made their neighborhoods by-words for some the worst kind of overindulgent rot the human race has seen since the fall of Rome. I promise on my life and on the blood of my children that I will not become such an effete, self-satisfied, latte-breathed snob that are overrunning parts of Brooklyn and even Queens now. If that happens, I hope someone runs me down with a hijacked city bus.
There are many scary events on the horizon. These kids will get sick; they will say embarrassing things in public. They will refuse to eat their vegetables and maybe set fire to the cat. Eventually they will start dating, go to college and ask us to pay.
I don’t want to think about these terrifying things. I’ll save some money and make all the preparations I can, but this is the greatest and most consequential endeavor of all. There is little one can really coherently do but embrace parenthood as another great adventure. It’s the adventure where the stakes are the absolute highest and that you will never feel really prepared for.
Wish us luck.
The first poem of the year has been posted on the Impolite Literature blog. The poem is entitled “The Greatest Borough” and it’s an homage to Queens, which I contend is the city’s greatest borough. You may disagree.
One of the perks of working as a financial journalist is that you sometimes get to go to parties in nice places where food and drink are free. It doesn’t make up for working for years without a raise and being in constant fear of being laid off, but it’s nice nonetheless.
Last evening was one such party, a charity event put on by people in finance.
Ostensibly my coworker and I were there to meet people that would help us do our job. Schmoozing with financial people is part of my job, but it’s a part of the job that I am bad at.
I dressed well enough and was pleasant and polite and still had no hopes of blending in. Members of the financial class are their own race, though they are made of different races. They can look through you as if you are not there and walk with a confidence that bristles with a condescending hostility and feels perpetually offensive and false. I wore a nice suit but maybe there was something in the way I said thank you to the caterers, or the fact I thanked them at all, that gave me away as decidedly not one of the financial class.
There’s nothing wrong with finance, but the people who work in the higher echelons of finance today are not cut from the same material as the people who invent things or pioneered and forged new industries. They are custodians of other people’s money and often speak in a gloating jargon that moves lots of money but creates little of value. I’m sure many of them are decent people and good at their job, but they do not possess the fire of the technology entrepreneurs or venture capitalists I met during previous jobs.
After thirteen years of working in financial journalism, I have actually gotten worse at the art of fitting in at these types of gatherings. My motivation for the easy smile and the glad-handed talk has waned. But I am glad not to fit in among this alien class. Somehow I feel that in the important calculus of life I’ll have more to show for it at the unspoken reckoning at the verge of the great beyond.
I ate as many miniature lobster rolls as I could without making a spectacle of myself and made my discreet exit after putting in a respectable amount of time at the event. I briefly enjoyed the sights of the city on the first really warm evening of the spring before making my descent to the subway for home.