People will tell you that having a child changes your life. They’ll go on endlessly about things like unconditional love, mentoring, pride and potential, but what they don’t tell you is that not all the changes that come about from loaning half your genes to a new living thing are as positive as all that.
I was comfortable with my life before Byrd was born. I had a roof over my head, enough money from my job to keep the bills paid (though, to be honest, the pittance they’re paying me at Sahara might not keep the lights on if it wasn’t for the side job selling free-range frogs), I was married to a woman I adore, and life had almost fallen into a predictable, steady, and peaceful routine with which I had grown very comfortable.
That peace was completely shattered when Hurricane Byrdie made landfall in Del Sol Valley. As it happens, children need things from you constantly. Be it food, baths, attention, or whatever, they will constantly be needing things from you, and it can make it difficult to focus on anything else. It doesn’t help that they’re little snack-sized narcissists as well, believing that whatever it is they want is, by far, more important than anything you might need, be it sleep, time, or just a few brief moments alone without a kid demanding something from you.
What they need more than anything, though, is input. They come into this world with their little brains empty, and as a parent, one of your primary jobs is to fill that thing up with enough stuff that, eventually, your child can function on her own. I’ve been told they do that eventually: that, at some point, they become able to do small things without the help of an exhausted adult. I’m not sure it’s true, but on the off chance that it’s not a complete myth, Nalani and I have become full-time teachers in addition to everything else we do on a daily basis.
These lessons don’t include anything that would impress most people. There’s no advanced calculus, no complicated science, and no Nobel prizes will be handed out. What we’re teaching Byrd includes such classes as “How to Eat Food” and “Pooping Without Getting It on Yourself or Anyone Else.” Class sizes are small, and there’s only one chair in the auditorium, equipped with a removable insert for easy cleaning and disinfection… or at least it’s easy when Byrd manages to keep all her hazardous waste within the confines of the chair, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as we’d prefer. We keep a mop nearby, just in case, and are very careful never to touch the soggy end of it if we can avoid it.
The curriculum also includes courses on numbers, letters, animal identification, and quite a few other subjects. It’s everything, really. Kids are pretty dumb when they come into the world. They know how to cry and scream and make a mess, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. We have to try to teach her everything else.
One thing I’ve learned about Nalani during this process is that she really missed her calling. Sure, she’s a great cook, as evidenced by how fast she’s climbing the ladder at her restaurant job. She was washing dishes when we met, and now they’ve got her cooking. Of course, I’ve always known about her talents in food preparation, but it’s good to see them recognized at a place that is willing to pay her for them. However, as fine a chef as she is, she is an even better teacher. She has endless patience and it’s just a complete joy to see the two of them learning and playing together.
Lest you think Nalani is doing all the work, though, I’ll have you know I’m turning out to be a pretty decent educator myself. It’s a good thing I’m on the job, since I have to teach Byrd about a lot of things for which Nalani is, frankly, not qualified. She’s constantly confusing Count Dookoo and Darth Sidious, for example. She can never remember the proper Starfleet uniform colors for each division, and wouldn’t recognize a Dalek if it was in the process of exterminating her. I give her a lot of credit for her ability to teach niche subjects like math, reading and science, but she’s pretty much useless when it comes to the things a child really needs to know.
All of this teaching takes time, of course, and what Nalani and I are both discovering is that we have very little of it left over for anything else. It’s been a bit of a struggle for us both to make it to work on time every day, and we’ve had to resign ourselves to the fact that if there was anything we wanted to do just for the two of us, it was probably going to have to be put off for at least a decade or two.
I still manage to do some things that don’t involve Byrd, though. I’m continuously working on growing and improving the house (I’m not calling it “the shack” any more, since it’s getting increasingly house-like of late) and managing to fit in the occasional morning jog. Not only is my run a great way to shave off the extra pounds I’ve been putting on with the help of Nalani’s excellent cooking, but it’s a chance to step away, if only for a few minutes, and get a little time alone. Incurable introvert that I am, that time alone is essential to keep me from becoming a tense, irritable, unbearable jerk. I may not have many vices, but I will admit that I am hopelessly addicted to my solitude. It’s not always easy to find time for it, but sometimes a little multitasking can go a long way.
Yes, I know the house looks like a prison. It’ll get better. I have plans.