Alex Barnett thrills in his son’s ability to enjoy a moment with unbridled passion, but he looks forward to not dealing with in-the-moment meltdowns.
My wife and I have a 3 year old son. We love him so much, I cannot even describe it. There’s just one problem with him – he acts his age.
I don’t mean the diapers and the crying. Nor am I referring to the incessant asking of “why?” Or the need to refuse to comply with just about any instruction. No, I’m talking about the fact that he doesn’t have the adult capacity to plan ahead.
If you – the adult reading this – are going on a trip, the night before the trip you pack your clothes, you print out your boarding pass, you email yourself the hotel information. My son doesn’t understand planning like that. So every day when we drop him off at daycare, just as we walk in we’ll see some kid wearing a baseball cap, and then all of a sudden my son decides that he can’t make it through the day without a baseball cap on, and he’ll lose it.
So, the next day I put my son’s baseball cap on his head, and everything’s fine and dandy till that other kid arrives at daycare right behind us, and he has a knapsack. Now, there’s a tantrum about the knapsack.
Okay, fine. I get it. I’m learning. So, the third day, we have my son’s hat and his knapsack, and – wouldn’t you know it — the other kid walks in with sunglasses on. So, now there’s a meltdown about sunglasses. And, not just any sunglasses. It has to be the Spiderman sunglasses.
So, the next day, we get to daycare, and we’re ready. I mean, we’re ready-ready. My son has his baseball cap, a knapsack, Spiderman sunglasses. Perfect. Except now that other little kid (the little F***er!!, as I like to think of him) walks in wearing a watch. A watch! Are you kidding me?! Where’s he going that he can’t be late — the board meeting? Kid can’t even tell time, but he’s got a watch! So now my son needs a watch. And, not just any watch. It has to have Mickey Mouse and Dusty Crophopper and three other cartoon icons who are created by different production companies, making it impossible to find them all on the same product unless you create a DIY version at home by engaging in Trademark infringement and pirate their images to put on a kids’ toy.
By week’s end, getting my son ready for daycare involves gearing up like a businessman going on a weeklong trip that involves not only office seminars but Outward Bound adventures as well. That is to say nothing of the countless hours spent going to toy stores to find just the right cap, knapsack, sunglasses, and watch (oh and plastic tumbler for daddy to drink a giant shot of bourbon out of).
And, then, damn it, somebody shows up and they have a Lightning McQueen car. And, not the Matchbox car size Lightning McQueen. Not even the “fun-size” or the McDonald’s Super-Size-Me size. It’s so big, it might actually be the actual Lightning McQueen.
And, that’s when I gave up. That’s when I realized that I’ll never get this right because my son can never tell me in advance, “hey, you know what dad, in order to be ready for school today I need my hat, my knapsack, my Spiderman sunglasses, my watch, a life-size car, exactly 12 Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers – not 13, not 11, exactly 12 — a light-saber, a compass, a Doc MacStuffins stethoscope, 2 jars of Play-Doh, and the Director’s Cut of Toy Story 1, 2 and 3.”
He can’t tell me he needs all that because even he doesn’t know. He won’t know till he sees someone else with that stuff. Because he’s 3. And, when you’re 3 you live in the “NOW!” Everything in your existence is about this precise moment right NOW! You don’t care about later at all. Who cares about later when something is amiss right NOW!
By contrast, as an adult, you’ve learned to think and analyze and over-analyze. You realize that there are things such as preparation (as well as remorse). You live in the “NOT NOW!” You live in the time just before or after “NOW!” anticipating how great or bad something is going to be and thinking about all the things you have to do to avoid “NOW!” or to make “NOW!” happen (or, conversely, think about how great or bad something was and wishing you could go back to it or make it un-happen). Indeed, that’s why we invented social media – to talk about we’re excited about or afraid is going to happen or to lament or celebrate what just happened. (By the same token, there are entire industries — think contraceptives and birth control — that are supported by adults living in the before or after “NOW!”). I’m not saying the adult way of life is better necessarily. I’m just saying it’s a bit more predictable and easier to prepare for.
So, as much as I love my son, as much as I thrill in his ability to enjoy a moment with unbridled passion, I can’t wait until he learns the art of anxiety and excessive worry so that he can anticipate his needs, and I don’t have to deal with in-the-moment meltdowns anymore.