My brain has turned to mush.
I can’t say exactly when it happened, but somewhere between the long sleepless nights with a newborn and the obsessions of a toddler (who is convinced he is a racecar, and tells everyone. I don’t even understand how Nascar is a sport!), this fine-tuned tool I have always been so fond of has become permanently muddled.
To know me before my son was to know a devout follower of classic literature. I could discuss the finer points of Finnegan’s Wake and Middlemarch and not drop a bead of sweat. I was a snobby individual, and proud of my snobbiness, wearing it as almost a badge. But now, I spend my days thinking:
- Where did Piglet disappear to during the entire Piglet’s Big Movie?
- Why does Elmo tell kids the best place to learn more is to watch a TV channel in every episode of Elmo’s Room? Does anyone else have a problem with that?
- And where can I get my own Tootles like Mickey Mouse has, because it seems like a really useful invention?
This is one of the repercussions they never warn you about when you become a parent. They warn you about the diapers, the late nights, the crying, but not the damage that will occur to your brain. You might not notice the change at first. Oh, the first little Hemmingway joke might slip past you; that questionable fictitious novel about the Bronte sisters might sound more interesting than it should… and then suddenly, before you know it, you are reading about zombies and wondering why every book is not the beginning of a trilogy. (That is my nightmare scenario.)
I see myself slipping like my son down a curvy slide at the playground, or maybe it is better to say changing into someone different. I map out chores that need to be done now in my head as compared to plot points. I count airplanes in the sky as compared to highlighting passages in books. My days are spent pushing cars on a floor, and my adult reading has been subjugated to 30 to 40 minutes, if I am lucky, before falling asleep (sometimes with the book on my face).
And yet, through all of this complaining, I have to admit I am not completely unhappy about this transformation. See, for the last seven years or so I’ve been obsessed with biographies. And one of the great truths I have learned through those books which I want to impart to you is that the people that stay only focused on their own goals and don’t adapt for parenthood—well, frankly, are typically lousy parents. Orson Welles pretty much abandoned all of his children, Miles Davis was a scary father who left his children out of his will; and Lord Byron never even saw his daughter. And those are just three examples that fall out of the top of my head. I could go on and on (and don’t get me started on A.A. Milne’s parenting skills).
So while I complain about the state of my brain, I like to think that this mush is paying for something more precious. I’m there more for my son and I recognize he is the most important thing in my life. Someday my fine-tuned mind may return, and if so I will be pleased, but if this is the casualty for him having a good upbringing, so be it. He is more precious.
But I would like to add one important point—My wife and I have had some wonderfully, deep conversations behind the meaning of Where the Wild Things Are.
Could James Joyce have done better?
I seriously think not.