I think the biggest problem I have with parenting, behavior and discipline is the noise. I used to love the sound of silence. Now I've been conditioned to fear it. If i don't hear my children, then they are secretly plotting to destory something else in my house. When I do hear them, I can't concentrate on anything but the constant stream of: petty arguments, woeful tears, tattling, remorseful confessions ("It was an accident"), random declarations ("I need to go potty" to which my follow-up answer is always the same, "Then go") exaggerated pleas for emergency assistance and the infinite creativity required to take any random object laying around the house and turn it into a toy/weapon (except for the toys/Nerf weapons I bought for them and remain largely unplayed with in their rooms). All of this, along with a dozen or more things they spontaneously come up with throughout the day, make a rather large amount of noise.
The truth is, I'm a very quiet guy by nature. I love overstuffed chairs at bookstores and "Jazz Night" at local coffee shops. Since I've had children, I think the last time I've listened to moderately talented local bands while sipping on my coffee was in 2001. My favorite evening activity these days is to anxiously watch a clock until i can reasonably declare "Bed Time." Somewhere in the middle of the miracle of bringing a new life into this world, I seem to have lost mine. The cute baby books my wife handed me (and I pretended to read) when she was first pregnant never told me this part of being a parent: to bring a child, or two, or three, or four to life would be the death of the young man I had just begun to discover in college. Tragically, that young man's life was only about 3 or 4 years old.
I will never get the younger, "geekier" me back. There are several dreams I used to have not too long ago that are growing cold these days. A few are still in the realm of possibility, though they seem somewhat more remote than they did when i was 20. Or perhaps I'm just a little more realistic. To date, I don't have my own comedy sitcom on a major television network. My bedroom door does not have a star hanging on it. Instead, it has a scribbled picture of Strawberry Shortcake with green hair and purple arms. Some of my dreams seem to be in hibernation for a few years. Others, I've had to completely lay to rest as 'code blue' kind of dead.
The truth is, anything we want to do well in life will require our undivided attention for a long period of time before we are successful. I learned that if you want to be an actor on a stage, it would require nearly full time devotion and countless rejections before you found one director willing to give you a chance. The same is true with stand up comedy. Between being a father and a husband and working fulltime during the day, that was a commitment I could not realistically make. Not to mention the fact that the life of an actor or stand up comic is not really compatible with a long lasting, stable marriage anyway.
Children are great in their own unique, crazy little ways, but the responsibilities of a family are often incompatible with the dreams and aspirations of youth. On the other hand, I have a few firends who are not married and they often comment on my family pictures, revealing something interesting. When I post stories of my family, or pictures of an outing on the internet, I pick up on hints of envy from my single friends. It is true, the responsibilities of parenting, behavior and discipline have killed a part of who I once was, but I have found other things in return. there are two natural truths in life: Nothing can live unless something else dies to sustain it, and nothing of value is ever found for free.
If the death of my old "self" helps create a healthy enviroment for my children to grow into the men and women they could become, then I will sacrifice myself for their sake. If the cost of "myself" is the price for a family, then I've acquired something of value all together different than my old single life. I can't spend my time longing for the things I've lost and miss the value of what I've found in return.
Besides, humans always tend to want what they do not have. If we are single, we desire a relationship and a family. If we have a family, we miss the quiet of our youth. So, while I learn to be content in all things, i will just have to find the joy in moments like just now, while I was writing this section and heard my wife tell my 3-year old daughter that she could not shove a seashell down her panties and be content with the life I have.