I don’t know where I’ll be at 40, but I hope I’m married with children — the old ball and chain. I love that stuff! It’s hard to imagine right now, especially when so many people in this country want to keep me permanently single, but I’m hoping they’ll all be dead soon. Then I’ll have my white picket fence, my minivan, my rugrats digging up worms in the front yard, and my coffee mug that declares me the “Best Daddy in the World!”
I suppose that part of my paternal aspiration is that I don’t really know what I’d be doing with myself otherwise. Go out all the time with the folks from work? No sir. Frankly, adult friendships always seemed sort of pathetic to me. Sure, they’re OK on the side, but do I really want to make a life out of belly-laughing through fancy dinners and insisting that I pay the check? (Adult friends always do that.) What happens when everyone else goes home to their families? Thanksgiving rolls around, and I’m asking myself: delivery or DiGiorno? Then at work the next day, the boss is rhapsodizing about little Cody’s handprint turkey, which he brought into work and is now stuck on the snackroom fridge for the whole office to see. Well I want a handprint turkey, too. Is that too much to ask?
Seriously, though, parenthood is not all about the cute trappings. Anyone who thinks so was never peed on by a giggling infant. How my parents raised four, I don’t know. I do know they managed to keep cool heads about everything, no matter what we threw at them. This is a good lesson to learn. There are some things as a parent I just won’t be able to avoid: something expensive is going to get broken, one of my children will get a splinter and refuse to let me take it out, and at least once one of them will yell in the middle of a tantrum, “I hate you!” I remember yelling this to my Mom when I was six and being disappointed by her response, which was something like, “Well, I still love you.” Seems she had been tipped off by something she read in the newspaper. Stopped my tantrum cold.
Oh, and there will be an argument over what cereal to buy, which is why my kids will never see the inside of a grocery store. I’ll call it “the bad place,” where only Daddy can go in without dying. Then, when I come home with groceries, they’ll be so happy to see me alive, they won’t care that I got King Vitamin instead of Count Chocula.
The real challenge, I’ve been told, is puberty. Compared to kindergarteners, adolescents are totally impossible. They’re hormonal nightmares who want to be treated like babies one minute, and sophisticated adults the next. Thirteen-year-olds are the worst because they’re at a hygienic crossroads. They can no longer insist that swimming in a chlorinated pool is equivalent to a bath, the way my siblings and I used to do. And one day they have to start shaving, but they invariably start way too late. (One boy in my class insisted for years his Burt Reynolds mustache was “just peach fuzz” — he didn’t shave it until he was 16.) All this confusion means they look awkward and smell less than savory. While you’re busy offending them with suggestions that they don’t have everything figured out, they’re busy offending you with body odor. That and slamming doors in your face and saying they hate you, only this time they probably mean it.
It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it to have a family. When things are bad, they can probably seem unmanageable, but when they’re good, there’s nothing like it in the world. A family that eats together at a big table, and drinks together when the kids are old enough. A family that tells jokes, does impressions, sings songs out of key. Dorky, I know, but also sublime and wonderful, and totally worth the effort.
I’ll have help, hopefully, from another Daddy. The kids will call him “Papa” to avoid confusion — and Papa and I will show up together to our daughter’s softball game and our son’s science fair. My kids won’t think anything of it until some snot-nosed brat at school says, “Your daddies are gay, and so are you!” To which my kid, if I taught him right, will say, “Two daddies can kick the crap out of one daddy and a mommy.” Though maybe by the time I’m a parent, the cultural trend towards homosexual acceptance will have reached the playground. I sincerely hope so. And I hope that when I’m a parent, my husband and I will be legally married, and both of us will be considered legally the parents of our children. I don’t see why we shouldn’t be. Just what about marriage are opponents to gay marriage really trying to defend? Sanctity? To that, I remind you of the blessed union of Liza Minnelli and David Gest. Or the half of American marriages that end in divorce.
Still, some people feel so strongly about gay marriage, they want a constitutional amendment banning it. Some worry that legalized gay marriage will open the doors up to rampant gay adoption. Soon we’ll be a nation raised by homosexuals! And what’s wrong with that, I wonder. Better than a nation raised by television, or parents who don’t want them.
And I want kids. Always have. Maybe not this second — I’ve got four final papers to write before the semester’s over — but at some point, when my life has mellowed out and I’ve found a Papa. That, and a surrogate to carry our baby if we choose to go that route. Any takers? We will pay you handsomely — in handprint turkeys.
Eric Eagan is being difficult — as usual.