Friday, August 25, 2006

Some thoughts on time and kids

Time's a funny thing. It seems like before we had kids, we were in this timeless bubble. We'd go out to plays and dances and clubs and bars whenever we wanted. We'd travel, we'd just hang out, we were a cool young couple going out on the town. There was a cafe/restaurant down the street from our apartment owned by an Iraqi guy who loved the fact that we were this young couple in love, and would give us cardamom-laced coffee on the house. Life was good, and it seemed like it would go on forever.

Having kids ends that timeless phase, and the clock starts ticking as soon as the little one comes along. Don't get me wrong, I love being a dad, and wouldn't trade it for anything. But here I am, 15 years older than I was when I was last childless, now a late 40-something instead of an early 30-something. I still can't believe my daughter is starting 10th grade, or that all the kids I met when she was in kindergarten are also now 10th graders. Kids I remember just yesterday being toddlers are suddenly fifth graders.

The time has flown in some ways, in other ways it seems like my daughter's birth took place in another era. I realize that seven years ago my daughter was 8 and my son was 5; seven years from now, she'll be 22 and he'll be 19. It'll be a different world. And by the time my son finishes college, I'll be in my mid-50s. Yikes!

The dads I see now with little babies and toddlers are so young. I identify with them, but on the other hand I realize they're from another generation, probably born when I was in high school. I remember that when my kids were that age, older kids and teenagers were in another universe, they weren't on my radar screen, and I don't think I even knew any parents of older kids.

In a way, I think maybe being a parent is the time in the bubble, but not a timeless bubble. We popped into that bubble in our early 30s, and will pop out in our early 50s. We'll be the same, yet fundamentally changed. We'll once again have our time all to ourselves, and be able to do whatever we want whenever we want, but we won't be that young cool couple anymore, we'll be that old couple, and I don't know if old couples can be cool...

Cross posted at daddychip2


Granny said...

Old couples can't be cool? News to me.

Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog. Just thought I'd let you know. I just recently discovered it and let me tell you, it is refreshing to hear a man's point of veiw regarding fatherhood. Don't get me wrong, I love reading my list of momma blogs. IMO, there just isn't enough men talking about fatherhood and how it transforms them. Maybe one day that will change. Compared to 20 years ago, it already has. Thanks for sharing.

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

"Cool" -- my understanding (amatuer and professional cultural historians: feel free to slap me upside the head if this is wrong) is that cool evolved in black culture as a compensatory response to feelings of political and social powerless. It meant (on shaky ground here!) a sense of zen-like detachment coupled with a high level of street smarts. Jazz evolved as the musical expression of the cool sensibility. White dudes started listening to jazz and absorbed the sensibility. And cool mutated and migrated into the wider culture to mean two things: ironic indifference to change and ahead-of-the-curve engagement with new popular cultural developments (once jazz was that development; it was displaced). And I think that's probably why it's hard to stay cool after you become a parent. First, ironic indifference is not really an option -- or at least, I think it's pretty freaking hard to keep your cool in the face of the ways parenthood changes your life. (It's worth noting that zen-like detachment is, however, a desirable quality for parents to cultivate.) Second, you don't really have the time or energy to stay ahead of the curve culturally. That takes work and there is a point of diminishing returns after kids arrive.

So, maybe it is hard to stay cool after you become a parent. I do know people here and there who have managed to stay relatively "cool," but they either have to stay cool for professional reasons or they are really, really committed indie rock hipsters. Of course, then there's deep down cool -- that detachment and concentration that allows you to see reality as clearly as possible and never lose sight of what you want. You meet people like that; they're rare. Maybe that's the cool to which us old fuckers should aspire.

Anonymous said...

Once your kids become young adults, they can help you reconnect to cool, in the cutting edge meaning of the word, if you loosen up enough from having to be the parent to let them. It is so nice having adult kids.

Chip said...

granny, I don't know; from the perspective of a 20-something couple it didn't seem so. From the perspective of a 40-something couple, it's uncharted territory that is exciting yet scary (as a commenter on my own blog put it).

And if the answer is yes, I think it'll be a very different kind of cool than the earlier one, just because we've lived so much life since then.

I guess my main point isn't even so much about "cool," but about the changes that we undergo as parents, from the time we pop into the kid-parenting bubble until the time (in our case the 21 years later) when we pop out of it. Helen, it's nice to hear that, I had a suspicion it would be great but as I mentioned, it's uncharted and unknown territory for us at this point.

Mom101 said...

I guess there are two perspectives - that your life as you know it ends when you have kids

or that life as you know it begins when you have kids.

Cool is a mindset, not a stage. (And I know that wasn't the focus of this post.) People who are cool are cool, children or no, youth or no.

Chip said...

mom101, yes, life as you know it definitely ends when you have kids. And a new kind of life begins. But then, when the kids leave home, I think yet another new kind of life begins. I'm seeing that on the horizon and just wondering about what it will be like, and how different it will be from our previous kid-less life...

Anonymous said...

This may be as uncool a statement as a mid-30s dad of 2 can utter, but once you have kids, much of the stuff that either used to make you feel cool or that you admired as cool in others seems like nothing more than vain self-absorbed preoccupation. I mean, holy crap, who the heck has time to keep up with what's cool? Doesn't having all that time mean you don't have enough to do? And, frankly, who the fuck cares about these crappy bands that'll be gone in 6 months anyway?

Smirking familiarity with pop culture trends may be a sign of cool ironic detachment, but it also means you don't have all that much going on, kiddo... Get busy, dammit!

Or maybe it's just my jealousy rearing its head, jealousy at all those 20s hipsters in my neighborhood who have nothing but free time.

vermontdad said...

Well, it's not jealousy for me. I really do get concerned about the distance my 10 y.o. can achieve from others through too much immersion in a youth culture which is predominantly based on acquistion or mere trading of symbols. I read Jeremy's definition of cool and feel almost nostalgic, for a type of cool that meant detaching from something negative. This other attitudinal detachment is something else, and it looks corrosive to me. As a dad in the new age, I'm trying like hell to link my kids up with compassion and connectedness.

Sorry to morph the original topic, but this truly is what keeps me up at night.

Anonymous said...


Time is a small four letter word seeming very insignificant but the meaning of it and the sense of the word time is extraordinary.

Time consist of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years. In mere seconds we make decisions, lives are born and lives are taken away and in mere seconds lives are changed forever.

Only if we had the ability to control time, we could go back and right our wrongs, make better decisions or we would tell someone we love them one last time.

Time is extraordinary, when time passes it gives us the ability to heal emotional wounds, watch our children grow up and watch our children have children.

Time is something we all want, we want more time to do the things we haven’t done. We want time to stop so we can finish the things that we have started. Time is precious and should be cherished.

Now I understand why people say “Live in the moment,” because as precious as Time maybe it waits for nobody!!

When that second, minute, hour, day or year has passes we can’t get it back.

So take the time to enjoy your life, your wife, your children.