"Is that table sticky at all?" the barista asked as she walked over with my pot of tea.
"Yeah," I told her. " But only a little. I wiped it down. I knew what I was getting into coming here. You guys are super kid friendly."
That was a bit of an understatement this Saturday afternoon. When I'd walked in, almost every table in the place was taken over by families with small children. There was the banging of toys and at least one high chair surrounded by pieces of sweet potato that had been turned into air-to-surface projectiles.
This wasn't quite the atmosphere that I was looking for when I decided to head out for some tea and writing. But here I was. I might as well make the most of it.
I worked as a barista for several years after university. In that time, I saw my share of children in all states of happiness and unhappiness—drooling babies who wanted to do nothing but smile at me and unruly toddlers whose mission in life was to tip over any liquid in front of them. Similarly, I've seen a wide range of parenting styles: parents who were fully engaged and present with their children and that one guy who would retreat behind his newspaper while his toddler carpeted the floor and table with muffin pieces.
As we continue to inch closer to fatherhood, I find myself starting to compare how I think I would react in the parenting situations I see in public. In talking with friends who are already parents, I realize that this is probably the beginning of a never-ending cycle of judgment. It seems that everyone has an opinion about parenting and that many people are unafraid to share their opinions, whether or not they're asked for.
As I look around the café this afternoon, I once again see the full range of parenting types on display. Do I think I will be more like this mom or that dad?
It has become a bit of a joke for us but also a practice of mindfulness. We're listening to the silence of a house with just two adult human beings in it.
But, the reality is that I have no idea what it's going to be like to be a parent. I joked recently with a co-worker that the insomnia I had been experiencing was good practice for being a parent. "There is no practice," he told me, very matter-of-factly. "No matter how well prepared you think you are, you find out that you're not."
He went on to explain that he didn't mean to suggest that all hope was lost. He said that when his first child was born he found that he relied much more on his instincts than he'd expected. He seemed to just know how to be a parent even though he'd never done it before. There was no amount of "what to expect" advice that could have prepared him for the reality of sleep deprivation, exploding diapers and overwhelming joy.
Sometimes Kirk and I will turn to each other and one of us will say, "Listen." It has become a bit of a joke for us but also a practice of mindfulness. We're listening to the silence of a house with just two adult human beings in it. There is no other little living thing somewhere playing or sleeping. No dog, no cat. Just us.