Tuesday, April 22, 2008


My parents never had energy.

I always wondered why they had to rest after dinner or work. I knew their fatigue wasn't due to some ailment or chronic condition so I thought in my infinite teenage wisdom that they were just apathetic old people that really didn't want to do anything. To them, I thought, the status quo was utopia. An evening after dinner watching Dan Rather or getting ready tomorrow's dinner or hanging out on the deck if the weather was nice seemed to be--in my overly self confident, myopic punk-15-year old mindset about as static and boring as you can get. I remember distinctly thinking, "I'll NEVER be like that when I get older."

Boy was I wrong.

Throughout my adult like, energy was never a problem. I worked during the night, worked out, played sports, went without sleep. It was fun and exhilarating. Even with my first child, my wife and I cruised along with the view that we could handle anything. When my wife and I drove home and walked into the house with our second child on October 25, 2007, everything changed. My mind and body went blank. The energy that I was accustomed to having was suddenly drained. My ability to process information quickly and without hesitation was severely hampered as if someone took my brain, pureed it in a blender and poured it back into my head. I swore I could literally hear it sloshing around at times. Sure it was all psychosomatic but the feeling seemed real enough.

Maybe this feeling would go away after a little bit of time. A new baby was home and maybe I was a bit nervous. Two kids? WOW.

Here we are 6 months after the fact and my brain is still a liquefied amalgam of tissue, nerve fibers and organic molecules that are SUPPOSED to work together to facilitate cognitive ability and memory. I can assure you that aside from holding a job, pouring juice and queuing up old Bob the Builder VHS tapes, my brain no longer works..

There is just enough brain activity left for me to come up to this conclusion:


Don't get me wrong. I love my kids. I would step in front of a moving train to protect them...if I had the energy to do it. Its just that having two children is exponentially more time consuming and more taxing mentally than one. Just like I am sure that three kids is 25 times more draining that two, and so on. I was the first of FIVE KIDS so I should be used to a higher degree of chaos. (I use the word "chaos" in the most loving sense) Now I realize why my parents didn't relish extraneous activities. Its not that they didn't want to, say, throw the ball around. They just had no energy left in the tank. They were tapped. Their reserves were on "E" and the only way to recharge was to catch up on world events with Mr. Rather or read the weekly Parade Magazine about some family who has 12 kids and how they share a 3 bedroom house. I always wondered why they always read or watched about something that was more chaotic (world events) then our day-to-day life. It made them feel better. After all, who is having a better day. The family with 5 kids or the family of 12?

I now have an appreciation for what my parents have been going through since 1978 (the birth of my second sister). Its not that didn't have energy as I thought back then. Its that all of their energy was poured into us kids each hour of each day. Sure I understood that my parents went out of their way for us when we were growing up. But it wasn't until I became a father that I realized how great their endless sacrifices were that they made for us. Its not that they had no energy for fun, its that their energy was used up to allow us kids the freedom to have a ,life at the expense of theirs.

For them, incidentally, the child-rearing ride is about to end as my brother is about to graduate from college. My everyday life with 2 kids and mental fatigue is just beginning. I tell my parents what I am going through and all they have to say smiling is:

"Paybacks are a bitch aren't they?"


Anonymous said...

Hey! What about all those baseball games parents coached and/or attended?! times five kids on any one summer night?! times 3-4 times a week?! and maybe double games on one night?!
Granted it is a fact that our brain cannot remember all events and they have this clever ability to filter out certain memories (this can be a good thing); however, 15 yr olds tend to be cavalier re the old folks anyway. This Dan Rather memory appears to be one of those events - one that has been filtered out a bit too much and is somehow still stuck somewhere in a 15 yr old's mind. (Yes, parents get tired and grumpy but sitting occasionally on the back porch renews their energy).
Coaching and/or being a parent spectator for 5 kids breaks down this way, beginning at the age of 5yrs: the oldest received 17+ yrs of parents' sports attention & support, the next child 13 yrs, the third and fourth likewise 13 yrs, and the 5th, 18yrs and still counting. Sprinkle in a few years that overlaped w/double games and today's present pick up games, my memory and addition spells 29+ yrs consistently spent at being a supportive parent and spent w/a fairly high energy level.
Keep yourself rejuvinated and hydrated so time spent w/your children will be energy filled. Time passes quickly. Have no regrets. Smile and laugh and keep your cool. Love those kids first; sleep later. Don't keep count of too many games until you are my age. Live life to the fullest by being present to yours. And, remember,sometimes, the back porch will be your only refuge as you'll be too tired to do anything else. Hang in there...these are the best years of your life!

Anonymous said...

geez Jane, he didn't say you sat around all the time, he WAS saying that your only way to keep going was the occasional news program or 4 minutes sitting on the deck. He's on your side!