the 100% reliably infallible predictor of whether you will be a good parent

I overheard part of a conversation between two women. One woman had crazy thick, retro bangs and square plastic glasses frames. The other sported a mouth full of enormous, white, slightly crooked rabbity teeth.

Velma from Scooby Doo: I don't think it means anything.

Noam Chompsky: How could it not mean something?

Velma: Like... what? What are you thinking?

Chompsky: I don't know...

(side note: I love the way some people use "I don't know" as a placeholder for "the thing I don't want to say but am thinking at maximum volume inside my head right now." Velma from Scooby Doo knows what I'm talking about.)

Velma: Yes, you do know. What?

Chompsky: Like... what if he's gonna be, like, a bad father?


That's all I heard. It wasn't a particularly lurid or poetic exchange, but it stuck.

What could Chompsky's boyfriend have done to make her believe he'd be a bad father? What, for that matter, might he have done instead to make her believe he'd be a good father? How do you know if he's going to be a good father? How do you know if you're going to be a good mother?

Some people don't spend a lot of time on this question - because they're teen moms, they're married to really nice people, or they suffer from an unjustified excess of naïveté and optimism. But some people do. Some people don't have kids because they think they'll be bad parents.

Now I know most people would tell you to trust your gut and get some therapy and be kind to yourself and listen to that little voice in your heart.

But I have written a quiz.

A quiz that will yield definitive results as to whether or not you will be a good parent.

This quiz has a 99% effectiveness rate. 8 out of 10 dentists agree that this quiz is the dog's balls and should be a mandatory screening tool for anyone who had a shitty childhood and is considering having a baby.

Proceed with caution.

THE SCENE.

You two have a flight to Cabo at 6 am. You get up at 4, and you discover after he's taken a shower that there was only enough hot water for one hot shower. You remind him to grab his cell phone charger four times before you get in the car but you still have to remind him one more time in the car, at which point he will put the car back in park and run back into the house to grab his cell phone charger.

When you get to the airport the lines for check-in are incredibly long (fuck. spring. break.) and when you finally get to the front of the line, the ticket agent lets you know that you only have 25 minutes to get through security and to your gate or your seats will be given away. You make it to the gate... in 29 minutes. So you have to go back to the customer service desk and try to get on another flight on standby, which you do. At 7:15 pm. But hey, at least this one's direct.

So you board and sit in the two middle seats in the back row of the plane. At which point the captain comes on and says "Yuuuuuuurrrrrmmmmmmm ladies and gentlemen, we seem to have a problem with our de-icing mechanism and maintenance is a little backed up, so we're gonna go ahead and sit here on the ground for the next 3.5 hours and wait for a guy in a jumpsuit to tighten something with a wrench, at which point we'll be eightyyyyyyyyyyyy... seventh in line for takeoff. Also the air conditioning is on the fritz. Byeeeeee."

A baby starts to wail. You look across the aisle and make eye contact with your boyfriend.

WHAT IS GOING THROUGH YOUR HEAD?

Oh, listen to that poor baby. Poor little guy. Man, I know how he feels, right? But at least we got to spend a relaxing day at the airport - gum shopping at Hudson News, watching Bravo on mute at the Wolfgang Puck Express. I read a whole Grisham! And it's been forever since I've had an Egg McMuffin! That was fun, right? Ooh! I can't wait get to Cabo at 1:30 am and try to find a taxi to the resort. That'll be an adventure, huh? And you know what? There's no one else on Earth I want to adventure with than you, babe.
I love you so much right now.
I love your face.

or...

You mother fucker. If you'd listened to me and gotten your charger one of the first eight thousand times I reminded you, then we'd have made our flight and right this second we would be shitfaced in a saltwater pool wearing cowboy hats and making out like douchebags. Ironically, of course. Instead we are sitting in our own personal pools of ass sweat reading SkyMall and WILL SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE THAT BABY STOP CRYING?!?!?
I hate you so much right now.
I hate your face.


THE RESULTS

We've placed you in a high-stress situation, where your carefully-laid plans for the day have gone down the shitter and you're powerless to improve your position.

You're being bombarded with unpleasant stimuli at every turn. You're hot, dirty, exhausted, bored, snappish, and you would honestly step on a puppy's head to get some fucking personal space.

You have no choice but to soldier on and seek comfort in a hot, greasy Egg McMuffin, an icy Diet Coke, and a mass market paperback.

It's true. Getting stuck at the airport is a a lot like becoming a parent. And how you respond to this stressful, tedious situation says a lot about what kind of parent you will be.

Except not really.

It's a trick question.

I mean, that was predictable, right?

Option 1 seems like Perfect Parent Response to Shitty Day and Option 2 seems like Regular Human Response to Shitty Day. You know what? Yeah, either one's fine. For two reasons.

First, thoughts aren't actions.

Your head is classified, protected, restricted air space. Your head is Area 51 and you get to store whatever freaky shit you want in there. You can think, "this baby is a monster," and still gently stroke her bald little pumpkin head until she falls asleep.

I would argue that a healthy dose of realism makes you a better parent (or at least a better blogger.) You can love the lovable parts and despise the despicable parts, and parent or not, you live in a world that churns out both by the bucketload. Just, you know, don't shake the baby.

Second, parents aren't perfect. They're people. I think, on some level, when people ask "will he be a good father" they're really asking, "who will he become after the transformation?"

Let me tell you - a baby isn't an agent of transformation. A baby is a force for amplification. You don't become a new person. You grow more deeply into yourself.

Before I was a mother I had a short temper, a soft heart, a love of privacy and alone time, a flawed coping mechanism of eating my feelings, a lot of patience for children and very little patience for grown-up ass holes.

Now that I am a mother of two I have a shorter temper, a softer heart, a profound love of privacy and alone time, junkie-like dependence on baked goods, superhuman patience for children and absolutely zero patience for grown-up ass holes.

Sometimes I look at Ryan and think, "thank God for you." Sometimes I look at him and think, "please get out of my way." Most days I think both, many times.

How do you know if you're going to be a good parent?

You can't, for sure. I mean, other than the obvious red flags - torturing squirrels, meth habits, and the like.

The only thing I can tell you is what doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter if you like other people's kids. If the only people who had babies were the same people who wanted to be nannies and teachers, we wouldn't have an overpopulation problem.

It doesn't matter if you respond to a stressful situation by getting stressed.

It doesn't matter if you're scared.

It doesn't matter if you're a homeowner.

It doesn't matter if sometimes you yell or say things you don't mean, or if you intentionally hurt someone you love or if you're passive-aggressive.

It doesn't matter if you agree with how your parents raised you. It doesn't even matter if you had empirically shitty parents. When people shake their heads and talk about continuing the cycle? The cycle isn't gravity. It isn't a foregone conclusion. Be aware of who your parents are. Be aware of who you are. Make mistakes. Make them right. You are able.

Parents aren't perfect. They're just people. People who did it without birth control. People who fuck up. Good parents fuck up, and then they try not to fuck up in the same way again.

So if you look across the aisle and think "come a little closer so I can stab you in the neck with my... shit, I don't have anything I can stab you with because they took my eyelash curler which doesn't even make any sense because it's a completely blunt instrument, but if I still had it I would definitely curl your eyelashes too close to your eyelid and pinch the shit out of your fucking eye lid, you cell phone charger-forgetting dick," you could still be a great fucking mom.

Just trust your gut. Get some therapy. Be kind to yourself. Listen to that little voice in your heart. And when you get to Cabo have a really big fucking daquiri, for me.

Buster woke me up at 5 am. I picked him up and thought, "you little bastard," as I stroked his soft, bald little pumpkin head until he looked up at me and smiled.

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