I think everyone can remember a time when they were a kid and questioned their parents on why they did things a certain way. Some questions were easy, and you’d receive a direct response. Others were more philosophical in nature, and you’d receive an almost-cryptic answer followed by “you’ll see someday when you have kids…”
Those philosophical gems of wisdom from my parents finally came crashing down on me the other night. The funny thing is that I can’t even remember the stupid questions I was asking as a kid, nor the (probably) made-up responses that my parent’s’ came up with to satisfy my simplified quest for knowledge… I just remember hearing “you’ll see someday when you have kids…”
Brenden had a hard time getting to sleep the other night because of some bad gas. Pam was exhausted and tried everything, then called in “Dad” to figure it out. After about 15 minutes with Brenden, I finally got him to sleep. Unfortunately, he woke up 30 minutes later crying. Pam really did need her sleep, so I told her that I would take care of it; 3:00 AM and tired as well.
I brought Brenden into the nursery and sat on the rocking chair while holding him upright, resting his head on my shoulder. That seemed to do the trick. A little burp here, a cheerio-smelling fart there… and there he lay sleeping on my shoulder, as I willingly rocked, wide-awake, into the morning.
And as I rocked there, that’s when my parents’ wisdom (which was enigmatic up until now) slammed into me:
Here I rock. I do so because I love Pam and she needs her rest, and I love my son who needs his rest as well (with the added benefit: if he’s sleeping, he ain’t screaming!)… And I’m unhesitatingly sacrificing my time to ensure both Pam’s and Brenden’s comfort. I look down at my tiny little son and that, right there, makes this sleep deprivation so worth it. Regardless of whether I vocalize it or not (because all men tend to fall into the “manly” trap – a heroic, prideful disciplinarian of little words), I would unconditionally do anything for him.
And then my mind flashed back to 30 years ago: there’s my Dad rocking in some nursery room, trying to calm and sooth some helpless bundle named “Snakeye,” so my exhausted Mom could get a little extra shuteye… and doing it for the exact same reasons that I now do it 30 years later:
Unspoken, unconditional love.
I never knew. Maybe you explained it to deaf ears, gave a simplified reason to get the inquisitive kid to quit asking crazy questions, or fell into man-mode and never really did explain it deeper other than “you’ll see someday when you have kids…” It doesn’t matter; hell, I’ll probably end up down one of those same roads. But, I now know.
I think I cried myself to sleep the night I had that revelation. Happy Birthday Dad. That realization was a huge gift I just got; hopefully it’ll be a huge gift back to you, knowing that I know… now…