Tony Deyo is a friend who is crazy enough that he gave up a teaching job to pursue a career in the world of standup comedy. He is also fortunate enough to have married a wonderful woman who accepts the path he has chosen. I am sure that means she is a bit crazy as well, but it works for them.
One of Tony's bits on stage involved the fact that many of their friends were having children. He talked about a line he has heard repeatedly from friends who were new dads. When discussing their kids, the dads say, "Tony, I love my kids, but...," followed by a heavy sigh. If you have ever been a parent, I am sure you understand that statement. What troubled Tony is that his friends have never finished that sentence.
Parenting isn't easy, and it's not for the weak of heart. I happen to be just crazy enough to be the father of four children -- and we aren't even Catholic. It has always bothered me that no one ever warned us about having four children. My wife and I always felt like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie at the Alamo. We were very much outnumbered -- a situation that helped my wife and I create a strong bond as a natural survival instinct.
I am the first to admit that my children have given me great joy over the years, but I want to share some pain and challenges that come as a parent. The following are just a few examples:
When our last child was finally potty-trained, my wife and I realized that we had changed diapers for 10 years straight. What were we thinking? There are no two ways to look at that task. Having a positive attitude doesn't make that chore pleasant. In retrospect, I find it difficult to believe that was in my contract when I signed on as a father. Evidently, it was.
From the time our first child was born until our last left for school, our house could have been used for a double episode of Hoarders. Toys, clothes, sports paraphernalia, books and things we never knew the origins of were scattered from one end of the house to the other. For many years, the garage never saw a car. And I know childbirth is painful but... have you ever stepped on a Matchbox car on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night? I think those cars were designed that way to remind parents that they aren't in control of the situation.
Mealtimes were always interesting as well. No one ever told me how much food put in front of babies ends up on the floor. Had I known, I would have designed the kitchen with a big drain in the center and a fire hydrant in the corner. As they got older, it was meals on the run. Afterschool activities often meant that if you were going to get anything to eat, it would be at 55 miles an hour in the minivan on the way to a field hockey game, school concert or soccer match. Of course, we were late because halfway there, someone realized he had forgotten his soccer shoes and we had to go back to the house.
Sleep? As an Italian friend always says, "Fuggedaboutit." For some reason, kids can never be on the same sleep schedule as parents. When they are young, they get you up too early. As they get older, they are loud and up too late.
Even something as simple as wanting to watch something on TV becomes difficult. First, you have to sit with your children through some shows that should have never seen the light of day. And if you happen to try to watch something you are interested in, you will be interrupted a minimum of twenty-five times an hour.
I revisited these memories because we had a couple of our grandchildren stay with us recently. My wife and I just grinned at the toys scattered throughout the house. We talked about what a wonderful mess it was. We grinned as the youngest smeared food on her face and dropped some on the floor. We smiled and called the dog to clean up. I even grinned when the youngest needed a diaper changed. OK, I have to admit that I handed her directly to her parents for that task. (Don't judge me; I paid my dues.) My biggest grins came about 6:00 each morning when my grandson awakened me. Just the top of his head and eyes poked above the edge of the bed as he said, "Wake up, Grandpa. Can we watch a kid's show?"
By the way, Tony has had to change his act just a bit. He and Careyanne just had a son. I am sure it won't be long before Tony utters those five words: "I love my kids, but..." My only advice is to try to enjoy it all. I never realized when my children were little that it doesn't get much better than that 6:00 a.m. wake-up call. I now find myself saying, "I love my kids, but... they grew up too fast, and I miss those days."