Becoming a parent does change things. I’ve heard that nearly my entire life, but no one has been able to successfully explain what the hell the statement means. It just rings a bit hollow as an unexplained truism. However! I think I’ve figured out a couple of ways to explain things; or, at least, explain how becoming a parent changed me.
Watching Bram discover the world allows me to discover it again. I used to boast that I’d never lose a childlike sense of wonder, but watching the little bear wig out over a train or an orange car shows me just how much I’d lost of that amazement. One of the completely unexpected and undeserved benefits of being a parent is the ability to relive those first moments of wonder vicariously. This vicarious feeling is sweetened and enhanced by a nostalgia born of remembering things you’d forgotten you’d known. Being with Bram when he saw a freighter leave the mouth of the Cuyahoga from the Coast Guard Station at Whiskey Island provided me with layers and layers of emotion stretching from my own childhood: nostalgia at that level of enthusiasm, the joy of remembering some moments of my own toddler experiences; and into the present: vicariously experiencing that emotion again, gratitude at being present for your own child’s moment of satori, and pride that you in some way facilitated the process.
Extrapolating from here, I imagine that grandparents feel much of the same; a third chance to experience childhood with the added bonus of a second chance to experience parenting.
I’ve gained a whole new perspective of appreciation for the parenting examples of my parents. When I find myself in a situation where I’m unsure of how to proceed, I can think back to what worked and didn’t work on me, and adapt those lessons to whatever I’m trying to figure out with little bear. If I find myself second-guessing or unsure of my decisions, I know I’m just a phone call away from a total pro.
So, parenting has changed my life by the addition of context; vicarious nostalgia by allowing me to compare my childhood to my son’s & a whole new reference manual of behaviors coming from what I observed about parenting before I became one myself. I understand that some folks don’t get why others would want to be parents, and that’s cool. For me, it’s already provided a wealth of new and old experiences that I never would have expected, and that I expect will never end.