25 May, 2012

Nothing else for it, I guess. (Part final.)


‘Evening Karp, evening Mitch.’

‘Evening Tate, nice to see you.’

‘Tate always a pleasure.’

‘Thank you kind sirs very much indeed. I couldn’t help overhearing what y’all were saying just this past while, from where I was sitting over by the pinball machine – which machine is broken again Mitch, by the way, and just ate three of my best quarters.’

‘Which quarters I’ll be more than happy to refund Tate, thanks for letting me know about the machine.’

‘I would be most grateful for that Mitch, thank you. But so as I couldn’t help but overhear what y’all were saying, and seeing as I’m the only one of us three here so far as I know who’s an actual father, well I thought you might welcome the benefit of my experience being brought to bear on some of the questions y’all are considering here this evening.’

‘That would be fine Tate, am I right Karp?’

‘Indeed Tate, bear away with the first hand experience.’

‘Well now Karp let me say that I have a huge amount of appreciation and respect for the anxieties you’re expressing here re potentially starting a family, primarily because they are very similar to, albeit unpacked much more thoroughly than, the anxieties I was feeling at about this juncture in my own life, that is to say in my own pre-parental thought process. In other words I can tell you straight shooting that what you’re feeling is perfectly normal and healthy, but of course not for those reasons banal or trite, because even though just about every thinking man’s going to have similar thoughts when he’s trying to decide whether to try to conceive, that doesn’t mean that the individual instances of those thoughts and feelings are any less poignant or real or at all easy to bear.’

‘That’s well said Tate and much appreciated.’

‘Thank you Karp, thank you very much.’

‘Tate I’m just going to ibid Karp on this one, pretty much.’

‘To which I will ibid myself Mitch, mutatis mutandis.’


‘Right so Karp as I was saying, I know precisely where you’re coming from, but let me tell you where you’re going. It’s hard to explain, but once you have a child and see that little person smiling up at you despite his or her perfect vulnerability and dependence – which BTW [sic] Karp if you think you’re taking a risk feelings-wise by having a child, try imagining your baby trusting you with their survival without even knowing what ‘trust’ or ‘survival’ even means, i.e. [sic] without even knowing what they (your child) don’t know…’


‘…but so you’re standing there holding something in your arms that is of you and by you and my goodness gracious Karp it’s a whole new world. Your capacity for love and understanding and patience and regard for the goodness in all others - not just your baby - increases enormously, exponentially, in fact basically almost immediately you’re looking around for the nearest logarithmic function in order to express on a more manageable scale the rate of increase in your capacity to love all things. It’s literally the best feeling you could possibly imagine having.’


‘That does sound pretty good Karp, I have to say.’

‘I hear you Mitch, it certainly does sound that way.’

‘And another thing Karp, that I definitely didn’t see coming, was about all those things I thought I wanted to do in my life before the baby, which until I held the little guy in my arms the thought of him struck me as not so much a line in the sand but a crevasse into which my future was sure to fall, forever, but it hasn’t turned out that way. I just don’t think about myself first and foremost anymore Karp. One of the most important things my child has taught me – it’s worth hearing that again, that my child has taught me – just by being his own little perfect and adorable self, is that the key to happiness in the world is not necessarily fulfilling every one of my own personal desires. The work of a father is it’s own reward, Karp, and your child will be there every day to remind you of that blessed and beautiful fact.’

‘Tate that was exquisitely shared brother. Standing-O.’

‘Thank you Mitch, but I’m going to have to give most of the credit here to young Brackett, who in a very real way has taught me most of what I know that’s worth knowing, I now know.’



‘Well now Tate let me first acknowledge just how beautiful and appreciated your sharing was, truly, notwithstanding what anyone here might think of it in terms of its effect on the sentiments and conclusions heretofore expressed and elaborated. That was just wonderful openness you demonstrated and I am truly grateful for everything you’ve said here this evening.’

‘Karp you’ve got to be kidding me if you’re going to come back here with a rebuttal, although I certainly do respect and acknowledge whatever feelings you may have to express in that regard.’

‘Mitch you have not misinterpreted the gist of my prefatory remarks there.’



‘Because see now Tate while I have no doubt as to the veracity and verisimilitude of your description of your feelings about the mental and emotional revelations and even paradigm shifts Brought To You By Young Brackett, it occurs to me that you have no reason to tell us, or more importantly yourself, any different.’

‘Karp I hear you brother and I’m respecting your difference of opinion here, fully and truly, but I am also having a bit of difficulty understanding just what is the content of that different opinion. Would you mind terribly elaborating there upon?’

‘Not at all Tate and thank you for your acknowledgment. When you said before that one of the keys to happiness turns out not to be fulfilling every one of your desires, I think what you really meant to say, or at least all you really could say, is that what you desire changes after you have a child. In other words, once you’re a father you don’t have any reason to dwell on all the things that might have been, or that you could have accomplished, with the time and resources you’re now committed to devoting to young Brackett. It’s just undeniable that the opportunity cost of having a child is stupendous…’

‘Well I hear you there Karp and I’m sorry to interrupt but I have to say that’s the sort of thing only a person who’s never had a child would say, because you really can’t appreciate how the concept of ‘opportunity cost’ just doesn’t apply when you’re a parent; that’s how beautiful and amazing it is to hold your own child in your arms. You’ll see what I mean when you get there. Everything else pales in comparison.’

‘Well see now actually Tate you’re kind of making my point for me, by which I mean the intensity of your feelings just there, and your earlier use of phrases like ‘a whole new world’ and ‘happier than you could ever imagine being’, basically describing something like a state of rapture w/r/t [sic] how it feels to become a father, well Tate I hate to say this but that’s just what you’d expect from a guy who just said toodle-oo to the next fifteen or twenty years of his life. I mean you’ve got to be terrified you made the wrong decision, and even more terrified that that first-order terror is going to undermine or in some way sabotage your obligations to young Brackett, and thus guarantee what it is you were terrified of in the first place. Because remember, no matter how you slice it, young Brackett never asked you to bring him into the world, but you did, and now he’s here and it’s your responsibility to give him the best chance at life you can.’

‘Well you’re right about that at least Karp, that any such slicing would be to no avail.’

‘I’m afraid that no avail applies to more than just the slicing, Tate, because as Mitch and I’ve just been discussing, as a father you inevitably encounter a disheartening set of circumstances: whether to (1) raise a child with near-perfect emotional acuity and practice, in which case say goodbye to any hope of genuine or meaningful recognition or reciprocation of affection from your own child, or (2) you can let your child decide for themselves whether to (a) go for honesty and respect vis a vis their own and other’s emotional needs and expressions of same, or (b) some version of the opposite course, all versions of which are to varying degrees hideous and morally ablated, which means you risk unleashing some horrible emotional terror onto everyone else in the world, an outcome that seems almost certain in the absence of a strict and medieval-type course of childhood training and development (in which case see (1)) given how just about everyone in the world seems to operate on some emotionally degraded level.’



‘Well you know Karp I must say I’ve never thought of it quite like that, and while your schematic description was both creative and helpful I could still use a bit of an upshot, if you don’t mind terribly.’ 


‘That’s kind of you to say Tate and it would be my pleasure. The upshot here is that having a child puts you as a parent in the horrible situation of being, as it were, stuck between a rock and a hard place whilst precariously balanced atop a sharp steel spike (i.e. [sic] emotional automaton vs. potential guerrilla narcissist, whilst trying not to let your now-realized fear of just this kind of hideous predicament cause you to bear any kind of grudge or resentment towards the at least in this case wholly innocent young Brackett), in which case it’s only natural to close your eyes and hope for all you’re worth – or more likely just decide – that children really are a paradigm shift, and there’s no better feeling in the world than what you’re about to experience, and so no matter what you think you’ve given up or lost it just pales in comparison to What Dreams May Surely Come, which dreams most certainly do not include rocks or hard places or pointy implements of hardened alloy.’

‘Well now…’


‘And plus further, don’t be surprised that all the other parents you meet at day care or first grade lemonade sales or neo-natal yoga or whatever all tell you the same story, and you trade superlatives in describing how special you feel to Be A Parent, no matter how difficult some days or weeks might be, because obviously Tate all those people have the same skewed incentives that you do, are facing the same terrible certainty that only gets more terrible and more certain the more they think about it, and don’t kid yourself about the tacit but very real pressure to conform in the collective myopia, and the Antarctic wilderness that’s waiting for anyone who breaks with the tribe’s folklore and suggests having a child is not ultimately if sometimes irregularly Bliss on Tap.’



‘So basically Tate what I’m saying, and really with all due respect and appreciation for your sharing of your feelings and your earnest and sincere desire to contribute to our collective understanding here this evening, is that the only chance to really think clearly about what it might be like to have a child, and whether it’s actually the worst or at least something far from the best decision a person could ever make, is sometime before conception, [FN9]
because after that, well, there’s nothing else for it, I guess.’ 


[FN9] Just not even going there.