Saturday, December 23, 2006

Where are You Going for Vacation? To Parenthood

Surveying my dining room strewn with suitcases, toys and other essentials, it's impossible to avoid marveling at the sheer volume of stuff. Besides never sleeping again, morphing from a care-free, unburdened creature of impulse into a trudging, lugging human Blackberry is probably the most shocking aspect of parenthood. I've been a parent ten years. I'm still shocked and awed.

It takes considerable internal fortitude to fight the urge to never go anywhere ever again once kids enter the equation. Home has bedrooms and cribs and multiple bathrooms. It has my bathroom. My bed. My space. Mine, mine, all mine.

At this age, I'm not interested in sharing. Oh excuse me, do you need to use the bathroom? I can wait. I can wait. No, you go ahead. Conversations like that don't happen at home. I want to go to the bathroom? I don't belly past someone in the hall and wait in line. I go (most times I make to the bathroom). I want a Coke, I take it. No asking. No couches. No pretending to be rested after sleeping on the 20 years young used-to-be-master-double-bed that resides in the guest or kids bedroom and smells vaguely of a forgotten diaper.

This from a woman who likes to travel and see new things. The joy gets sucked right out of the experience nine suitcases and three arguments (this won't fit!) later. But fight the urge, I do. Ever the optimist, my drive to expose my family to all that's great and wonderful pushes my concrete experiences into my subconscious.

"Trying the vacation thing again, 'eh, Melissa," a friend said today.

"Yes." He gives me a knowing smirk.

"Trying to erase the last one?"

"Yes, actually, I am. Although I don't think anything could erase the memory of that misery. I'm trying to do what that forsaken cruise was supposed to be: peace and recharging. Good luck to me." He laughed.

Our family is going to the beach, staying in a two-bedroom condo. The weather is predicted to be in the 50s and 60s with rain coming and going. We're bringing books and flash cards (my kids groan) and there will be football and more football. I'm hoping for a walk on the beach and maybe a sand castle or two, even if we're wearing sweats and jackets. It's still the beach and the ocean.

Hope. I hope Little Toot doesn't blow his stack tomorrow after deciding to giggle and jump in the crib until 9:30 p.m. tonight. My seven year old, wise-beyond-her-years, daughter said, "Are we flying to the beach?"

"Uh, no."

"I'm not so sure about this....."

"You worried about Little Toot?"

"Yeah, he's going to freak out in the truck for that long."

I hope not. I hope he's happy. I hope they're happy. I hope it doesn't rain the one inch predicted tomorrow for our drive. I hope. I hope. I hope.

You know Ben Franklin's definition of insanity? Sure you do. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. By this definition, my grip on reality has been shaky for, well, let's see, now. Yes, I've been insane since the births of my sons. Certifiable. In fact, I think insanity was what conceived them in the first place.

Family, any way you look at it rationally, doesn't make sense. By having children, a person decides to rip selfishness away. I've had selfishness wrestled out of my clawing fingers. Having children illustrated just how attached to my way I have been and continue to be. I've had to moderate some. With all due respect to Oprah, having dogs just doesn't provide the built in growth experience children give.

People conceive children in the primal urge and narcissistic desire to see what a melding of these genes would create. Plus, babies are cute--especially the babies we create. All the other kids are ugly, by comparison. And not nearly as charming. And other people's children are miscreants. And not all that bright. But our children will be gorgeous, smart, well-behaved angels.

And we have them. And they exceed our expectations. I remember howling when my girlfriend said her baby's poop "smelled like sugar cookies." Yeah, right. Research seems to bear out her insanity. Parents, it turns out, suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. Once trapped by their kids, they find that they identify with them and show loyalty to their cause--forever. It's truly amazing to watch the transformation. It's even more amazing experiencing it. It's a trip.

Where am I going? Not crazy. I'm already there. I'm going to be with my family, to create memories, to rest (ha!), relax (gales of laughter) and hopefully, have fun. Crazy and family. It's the same thing.