I’ve written before about evolution. Scientists disagree about whether it’s still going on, but I know the answer: it happens whenever you become a parent. Now this diary ITSELF has evolved!
Two close friends of mine are about to have a baby, which brought to mind the realization of how being a parent changed me. When a baby comes into your life, you find yourself caring for this helpless but incredibly insistent little being and all of a sudden it dawns on you: You would give up your life for him without hesitation. If one person had to jump off a bridge, and it had to be you or him, you would immediately jump so that he could live. It’s as if we can only evolve so far, individually, without becoming parents, and we take that final leap to fulfillment as human beings when we realized how much we’re willing to sacrifice for our kids.
I remember when I first had this realization. We had gone to a literary conference and were staying in a cabin where the heater had broken. We had to spend the night in the freezing cold cabin before the heater could be repaired, and I took my baby son into our bed with us so I could keep him warm with the heat of my body. I realized I was doing something that had been done by thousands of parents since the dawn of humanity, when we lived in caves that were heated by fire: when the fire went out, they used their body heat to keep their children alive.
I have a couple of other theories about evolution. One of them explains why Jews are so smart (at least the ones I know all seem to be). I think it’s because, from the time that Judaism began, you could not become a Jew unless you could read and write on a basic level, in order to have your bar mitzvah.
I have another theory of evolution, one that has to do with feet. Those of us who were born with flat feet know what a headache they can be. I once asked my podiatrist, “What are flat feet good for, anyway?” He smiled and replied, “We think they may be better for swimming.” I had the realization that this meant that MY ancestral line must have left the water for dry land LATER than everyone else!
Does this make me less evolved than the other people around me who don’t have to slip orthotics inside their sneakers before they go for a walk? If that’s the case, it’s a good thing I have a son in order to help even things out.
UPDATE: This couple has learned that they’re going to have a boy. The mother-to-be is content and doing well. She can’t wait to meet her son in a few months time. The father-to-be is more nervous, because he’s not sure what his role will be.
I can reassure him about this, because I’ve learned something from being the mother of a boy. I hope my friends take their cue from the film “The Accidental Tourist,” which was made from a book by Anne Tyler, who is one of my favorite writers. In the film, William Hurt plays a lonely guy who is courting a single mother who has a young son. Neither of them are socially sophisticated.
Hurt offers to fix a leaky faucet for her and he shows the boy how to diagnose the problem (remove the faucet with a wrench and there it is: the deteriorated washer) and how to solve it (put in a new washer, then replace the faucet). He thinks of it as an ordinary task, but the little boy watches all this with absolute awe. This man could not have impressed him more had he hit a home run out of the stadium in a professional baseball game.
This illustrates a basic truth: Dads are ALWAYS heroes in the eyes of their sons.
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