The concept of parenting, at least at a high level, is one of those things where I had a good idea of what it entailed even before I became a parent. But “having a good idea” of what a concept entails and actually going through it can seen like two very different things.
If you were to ask me what I thought it meant to be a parent before you came along, I would’ve rattled off a fairly stereotypical list including diapers, no sleep, coffee, no time, and responsibility. Parenting is definitely all those things; I didn’t miss the mark on any of them, but I would say I underestimated the powerful undercurrent of the last one – feeling a such an incredible sense of duty to you.
This past week, your mother and I both suffered through food poisoning while enduring a cold + mild flu to boot. And let me tell you, we were in bad shape…like go to bed without even bothering to eat dinner bad. Your poor mother spent the entire night in the guest room trying to sleep and not disturb us, but was just retching every hour until even her saliva ran dry. I suppose I had it a little easier by having the sick in me build up until one magnificent moment when it expelled out of every orifice of my body with minutes of each other. I still remember the flash of white I saw in between my diarrhea and vomiting, as my entire body broke out into a cold sweat all in one go. I thought I had died.
But aside from those flash points, we labored through the day to help you carry on because it was just another day in paradise for you. It was in those moments where I was standing there toiling with giving you a bath or changing your diaper or rocking you to sleep that this sense of duty I had associated with parenting came alive. I could remember feeling so tired and pained, but only thinking about what I needed to do for you. I suppose because I had those feelings, I thought about going to sleep or taking medicine, but only after you were taken care of. And all this lasted for the five days we took to recover.
I wouldn’t say I don’t normally feel a sense of duty to you, but sometimes extreme circumstances that highlight such stark choices of choosing your self vs your offspring is what it takes to realize how amazingly powerful it actually is.
I suppose it’s a futile exercise to describe all this to you in a letter because it really is one of those things you just need to experience. And like all those other “you just need to experience” things, I hope you one day do get that chance.