Now I Get It
It's been said that the only way you can understand your parents is to have children. Having had both parents and children, I agree with this statement. Yet even raising your kids lets you come to know your parents better, there are things about them you still don't get. And every now and then, new moments of insight present themselves.
When I was a younger physician, the following interaction with my parents used to annoy the hell out of me:
Parent: Hello, Doctor Child, I just got the following prescription filled. [starts to spell name of common medication]
Me: [cutting to the chase] Oh, yes, that's such-and-such; it's used for (this condition), and its side effects include (this, this, and this.) Anything else you need to know about it?
Parent: You're right!
Me: Why are you so surprised?! I do this for a living. Of course I know about medications, diagnoses, and all kinds of treatments and stuff. Hell, you paid for my education; I'd hope you would expect me to know this stuff.
I thought they were idiots to get so excited over something so obvious.
Then I had kids. The start out as blobs and progress to rug rats. Finally they become bipedal and learn how to talk. But as a parent, in the beginning, you already know everything your child knows. His world is a subset of yours. You already know the answer to every question you ask him. And just think about how much of your conversation with an infant or toddler consists of questions. ("Where's that baby?"; "What color is the kitty?"; "What's this?" pointing to common object like a cup)
As he begins to go out into the world -- even if it's just daycare -- his experience expands beyond yours. I was kind of surprised at how incredibly cool I found this to be.
I'll never forget the first time I asked one of my kids a question I didn't know the answer to:
"Where's your baby brother?"
"Upstairs getting his diaper changed."
For the first time, I had an exchange with my three-year-old wherein he provided me with information I did not already have. I was amazed and thrilled! This was so cool!! And I'm sure he thought I was an idiot for getting so excited over something so obvious.
As time went on, my kids knew more and more stuff I didn't already know. And every time they did it, I was amazed and thrilled. And I suddenly realized that this was how my parents felt whenever I told them something they didn't already know.
Still, I didn't get what the big deal was about birthdays to my parents.
My father was 30 when I was born, which means that each time he turns the corner on a new decade, so do I. Each time he had one of those milestone birthdays, he'd recite the same old litany:
I don't mind turning 60/70/80, but I can't believe you're turning 30/40/50.Geez, Dad; what's the big deal? I certainly don't mind any of those "zero" milestones any more than you do. Hell, you're the one who spawned me. Why is this such a significant event for you?
Now I know.
Today, my youngest son is 20. No more teenagers. He's 20. How did this happen? He's 20. I didn't mind turning 50. I loved it! It doesn't feel any different at all. No big deal. But this, my baby turning 20, has caught me unawares.
And all of a sudden, I understand my father a lot better.
Happy birthday, NinjaBaker; my little one, little no more, but always a baby in my heart.
(Gee, now I know why my father says that about me, too.)