Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Those People Suck, But Maybe I Do Too

Photo: Wolfgang Staudt, Flickr Creative Commons

I obsess over many interests. I can tell you the ins and outs of the art and science of brewing beer. I can talk knowledgeably about breweries who don't even distribute their products into my state. I have a nearly Rain-Man-istic knowledge of college football. I spend time trying to figure out how to work USTA tennis tournaments into my schedule and have driven back and forth to cities three hours from my home just to play matches on a week night without having to take off work. I spent two days researching the Sentinelese last week just so I could... well, just so I could know more about them.

I've never read a parenting book. Never obsessively searched the web looking for ways to make sure I'm not serving as an anchor for Little Gandhi's future. As a two-year-old I gave him forks and table knives to eat his food. I've never freaked out when he fell. I don't worry when he starts to run a fever.

I'd like to think that I'm a good dad despite the fact that I'm not as interested in fatherhood as I am about The Office. I'm not saying I hate the kid or that I even resent him. In fact, we spent yesterday evening running barefoot down our dirt road for almost a mile before coming back home. We looked at the blackberry flowers, compared our foot prints, and pretended one section of road where the trees press in close was the jungle, full of lions, hippos, and "Africa birds." Little Gandhi improvised a song about going to granddaddy's house and another about going home. He asked questions. I tried to answer them. We watched the train go by from across the field and picked up a large granite rock (dragged by the road scraper from the nearest RR intersection nearly a mile away) to throw into my parents' pond. I enjoyed it. He enjoyed it. Our feet got dirty. He actually curled up under my arm instead of my wife's while we watched The Backyardigans until it was time to go to bed.

Still, it bugs me a little bit that I'd obsess more over a television show like Good Eats, or a bunch of people on some island in the Bay of Bengal than I would over my own son. Maybe it's just that he's always here and I can't really obsess about things that stay too close.


Courtney said...

I think your last sentence is exactly right. It's easy to feel like you obsess over things that aren't right in front of you, whereas taking an interest in something like your own kid is far more normal, and therefore doesn't feel like an obsession.

Plus, though I am definitely not an expert, I get the feeling that parenting is much more of an emotions-driven thing than your other, more academic interests. You can read all the parenting books you want, but in the end, you're going to do what your gut tells you is right, even if it's not always logical.

Julie said...

Yeah... I think it's a good thing. So many parents become baby-talking machines. I understand that your child is a miracle but it's nice to be able to converse about other topics. I think you would resent parenthood if you did not have outside hobbies and I think you'll be a better parent for having interests other than your child.

Jacob said...

Children aren't miracles. Having children is doing the same thing that stray dogs and cats do so well that we have to have ad campaigns urging people to get their pets spayed or neutered. Junkies have kids all the time. Birth is about as magical as dandruff.

That being said, I know from personal experience that it doesn't feel like that with your own (at least if you're in the position of wanting the kid instead of it being a badly timed accident or mistake).