My family went to dinner the other night. As we all got of the car, we stood at the back of the vehicle and waited for several cars to pass by until we crossed the parking lot to the restaurant.
As we walked, it occurred to me: Neither my wife nor I had not protected either of our children from wandering in front of the oncoming traffic. We hadn’t held a hand. We hadn’t extended the Uncrossable Parental Hand right in the midsection. We hadn’t even made that attention getting parenting noise you make when halting children. You know, that “Bempbempbemp! Stop!”
And why had we not done any of those things? Because at this point, at 12 and 15, I’m pretty much done parenting. World, they’re all yours.
Ha! Little parenting fun. Of course, I’ll always be parenting. It’s just that now, it gets to be way more hands off, figuratively and literally.
I know lots of people love the time when their kids are babies, but I’ll be honest with you — my kids are way more fun now than when they were little. And you may say, “Mike, your kids are not there for fun.” To which I reply, “Yeah, well, my wife doesn’t really like superhero movies, and I don’t like going to the theater by myself. Check. Mate.”
Babies are fine. Toddlers are fine. Young kids are fine. (OK, correction: Toddlers are terrifying little menaces bent on world destruction and maximum pain infliction, on themselves and others, sometimes by accident but most often by an insane inability to predict effects from their misguided causation. But we can go with them being fine.)
I like that my kids are now making their own decisions and they actually understand the consequences, before and after. I like that they’ll sit down and watch political debates and actually ask questions about what’s going on. I like that when they tell me they’re hungry, “Well you know where the kitchen is” is a perfectly acceptable answer.
And sure there are pitfalls ahead. There’s driving. Dating. Breakups. But I can deal with those. I think. For one thing, I’ve always found myself to be a pretty reasonable ear to bend in times of crises. Granted, it helps when the person is receptive to fatherly advice, which they definitely weren’t when they were little, because small kids and reason are not allowed in the same room together. Thus, any attempt at explaining a bad situation through logic or analogies would be hopelessly lost. Now, they can at least see the big picture.
When we got into the restaurant, we were talking about how things are different when the kids were little vs. now. Sure, it’s not all better. Hey, parents with little kids! Here’s one fun fact you can look forward to — when they stop ordering from the kids’ menu, your bill goes up fast! Hooray!
But it’s mostly a lot easier. Another example — this was a sushi restaurant. Three of us wanted sushi. One didn’t. There was a time when the lone holdout could make dinner out one of those “Why do we even try?” moments. But now? We can pretty much power through one dissenter. “If you don’t want sushi, find something else on the menu. If you don’t see anything you like, well, I don’t know. Just starve. Or something. But we’re eating sushi. So hush.”
And lest I sound like too much of a crank, it was fun when the kids were little. I had a blast playing with them, teaching them, tending to them, and just trying to be dad. But it’s just better now. For one thing, I can go get sushi and watch a superhero movie. And I’m pretty sure they won’t get hit by cars on the way.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.