They tell you that everything changes after you have children, and in your mind, you know that it’s true. But that lesson is only transferred from your head to your heart one little bit at a time. Every day brings some new revelation to remind you that yes, you are now a parent, and you’ll never be the child you were again.
This past weekend, I had another such revelation. There’s a sushi restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C. that my wife and I had been meaning to go to for months, in part because it’s in the Woodley Park section of town. Now, unless you live here, just telling you the location of a restaurant is pretty meaningless. But the restaurants in Woodley Park –- and there are a lot of them -– are always nice to visit when the weather is decent because they all have outdoor seating. Lots of it. You see, for some reason, the sidewalks in Woodley Park are huge. A good forty to fifty feet wide, which is more than enough to fit three rows of restaurant seats and still have pedestrians walking nearby.
Well, my wife had never eaten sushi outdoors. I, on the other hand, had been to this restaurant a lot when I actually lived in the city. Now that I’m out in the suburbs -- with child no less -- I don’t get into town for dinner as often as I’d like. So we finally went to this restaurant last weekend, ate our sushi outside, and had a pretty good time doing it.
Unfortunately, we also got food poisoning. I was just a little queasy, but my wife was violently ill. Now I have a personal rule I’ve managed to follow through most of my life. When I have an SO, or even just a date, who gets sick, I try to stay nearby to comfort them, hold their hair back, and generally make things a little easier to take. I know I’d like it if someone treated me that way when I’m sick, so I’ve always tried to make the effort.
I couldn’t do it this time. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, or because I felt a little sick myself. It was because my 13-month old son was terrified by my wife’s getting sick. It just totally freaked him out. So I really didn’t have a choice –- I had to take care of my son. That’s what being a parent means. Fortunately my wife understood, but that didn’t make it easier. I could tell she was feeling terrible, and my heart was just sick at the thought of her sitting on the bathroom floor alone. But if I had left my son to help my wife, he would have been traumatized.
I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is a fairly minor incident. No major injury, no permanent damage. But I learned that, when you’re a parent, you give up the right to act on your immediate impulses, and that at any moment you might be forced to do something -– or to not do something -– that’s just really difficult to bear.