Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
When I was a kid, my aunt and uncle re-married. I was about 11, and the event mystified me. Did they forget they were already married, I wondered to myself. During the very brief ceremony, my uncle’s voice noticeably cracked, his face quivering. He started to lose it as the words, “all the days of my life” escaped him. As a 34-year-old married man, I now understand the weight and importance of those words. You’re giving yourself, body and soul, to another human being. And it’s overwhelming…and even pretty scary.
I mean, it’s a monstrous commitment (to those who take the vows seriously). While I’m not a big fan of pomp and pageantry and “ceremonies,” I find it necessary at certain points in life to “make it official.” Getting married is most definitely one of those times. Another is having a child. But when you become pregnant or become a parent, no one makes you stand in front of everyone you know to state your intentions and pledge your devotion, do they? Not usually. Considering parenthood is irreversible in a way that marriage is not, I would think that officially committing to this new lifestyle would make a lot of sense. So with my first five years of parenting in the books, and with Father’s Day imminent, I wanted to take a stab at writing my very own “parenting vows” as a means of reminding myself of the unsaid (and unwritten) contract I signed in 2009, when my life was forever changed.
I vow, first and foremost, to act as a guardian for my children. This includes protection from: strangers, injury, bad influences, dangerous surroundings, and terrible, meritless television shows. However, I’m aware that, no matter how hard I try, at least one of my children will develop an affinity for atrociously embarrassing programming comparable to “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.” And yes, they’ll even get hurt. Many times. And when they do, I will be there to heal them, explain how to potentially avoid pain in the future, or both.
I understand and accept that my social life will never, ever be the same as it was before I had kids. Every double date, happy hour, or even phone call with a friend will be booked largely around the whereabouts of my offspring. But it will typically make the socialization I do have that much sweeter.
I must accept that my children will make decisions I do not agree with. When they do, I will need to decide whether to step in or stay out of it, and even consider the possibility that I, myself, could be wrong. This will only get harder as they get older.
No matter how utterly exhausted I am when I get home from work, I promise to do any and all of the following, should my children request it:
Impromptu pony rides around the living room on all fours
Talk into a toy phone like it’s real
Read anywhere between eight and fifteen books at bedtime (doing ALL the voices)
Allow my back to be used as a trampoline
Allow my groin to be used as a catcher’s mitt
Tolerate a bedtime process that takes upwards of 90 minutes and involves at least three wardrobe changes
Play hide and seek, despite the absurdity of my son telling me where he plans to hide
Ignore all personal needs, including hunger, thirst, body pain
*This list will triple with each subsequent child
Parenthood will be (and is) the most unnerving, frustrating, depressing, maddening, exhilarating and joyous experience available to us on this earth. I know that there will be days when I’m broken down and listless, where the demands of my family and career push me to the brink of sanity, where I’ll feel like running away. But it is my solemn vow and my unyielding commitment to be irreplaceably active in the lives of my children. I will never relent in my goal to give them the happiest childhood imaginable, and I will welcome the peace of their heads on my shoulder as well as the hell of their adolescent (or toddler) attitude problems.
This is my vow. A vow I never intend to break.
Happy Father’s Day to my fellow dads out there making life that much better for your kids, especially to my own dad, who has not only been a terrific guardian, but who as an adult, I can call a friend.
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Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is currently writing a parenting humor book. He lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
As a child growing up in a house with two parents who barely spoke a word to one another, much less showed affection, there was always a part of me that dreaded holidays. Because they included an outing, whether it was a dinner, a show, or even a simple 15-minute car ride to grandma’s house. And an outing meant almost assuredly that I’d be without one of my parents. They “stayed together for the kids,” but we were still left scratching our heads when Mother’s Day arrived and we went our separate ways to two different gatherings.
Looking back, I get it. Neither of them wanted to be apart from their children permanently, but holidays (and vacations) were sort of a reprieve from the day-to-day awkwardness. For them, and truthfully, for my sister and me.
But I resented it as a kid. I knew my parents didn’t have the kind of relationship most did, so I would sit restrainedly glum at the dinner table, feeling like we were a broken family. Frankly, because we were. And even as a child, I would try to give mom gifts as a way of distracting her from the failing marriage we all silently knew was eating at her. I just never felt like it was enough. So I told myself I’d eventually show her my appreciation for all she’d done for me.
As a teenager, not much changed. However, I began to establish more of an understanding about my parents’ marriage, and particularly, the sacrifices they were both making for the sake of seeing their children grow. Once I comprehended that, I was able to make peace with it. But that didn’t change the fact that every Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or anniversary I’d look at other married couples giving each other flowers and singing each other’s praises, and I’d be angry that my own parents weren’t showing the same kind of gratitude for each other.
As a young adult, the separation wasn’t as outwardly apparent. I’d gotten married, moved in with my wife, and by that time, my parents had officially divorced. We still got together for Mother’s Day, of course. But because we no longer lived together, I enjoyed that time with her even more. We took her to dinner, gave her gifts we thought were meaningful, but I still didn’t feel like it was enough. I told myself I’d eventually show her my appreciation for all she’d done for me.
Then, I became a parent myself. And my life was turned upside down. I was fortunate enough to watch my wife blossom into the mother I always knew she’d be. But it wasn’t all play dates and bedtime stories. It was hard. Sometimes, it felt nearly impossible to keep our cool as we navigated the treacherous, uncertain road of raising a child, then later, a second child. I began to develop a deep, thorough understanding of how having children can test the strength of not only your character, but your marriage. I looked back on my childhood and imagined how difficult it must have been to deal with a faltering marriage while also trying to manage a career and, oh yeah, two growing children. Despite the realization, I told myself yet again that I’d eventually show her my appreciation for all she’d done for me.
A couple of short years later, a week before my oldest son’s third birthday, mom suddenly passed away. She was 59. I was blindsided, irrevocably damaged. And if it isn’t obvious, I never did tell her how much I appreciated her. Maybe I grazed past it once or twice in a greeting card. But the thoughts I tucked into a dark corner of my brain, the raw kind of emotion that you’d normally hear bellowed in a Janis Joplin song? She sadly never got to hear that.
This weekend, I will celebrate my third Mother’s Day since her passing. Naturally, I’ve been receiving an enormous amount of marketing communications (spam) from major retailers urging me to “Make mom happy!” and “Save 25% just in time for Mother’s Day!” And trust me, nothing would please me more than to do exactly those things. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve simply got to suffer through this. And unfortunately, my wife does, too. I’m trying, but my instinct is to reject that this Sunday is even happening, to remain restrainedly glum at the dinner table while others clink glasses around me. Because even more than I regret my own lack of verbal appreciation, I regret that my children won’t get to know their grandmother like I did. Put simply, I can’t stand Mother’s Day because it reminds me of what could’ve been. For the sake of my wife, though, I have no plans to crawl into a corner and cover my ears.
So, do yourself a favor this Sunday and skip the vague platitudes we typically scribble into an overpriced card and opt instead to be real…so very real that it makes you uncomfortable even. I can guarantee it will feel better than holding it inside until you’re giving a eulogy.
Thanks for reading, and a genuine, uncomfortably long hug to all you moms out there making life worth living for your children. Especially to my wife, whose natural abilities make me look like a rookie on a daily basis.