… the fun out of many things. Or, rather, I should say, “Parenthood puts a new perspective on many things. More often than not, those things I used to merely enjoy have now become emotional stews and requires that I invest heavily in the facial tissue industry.”
Whether it’s the aftermath of post-pregnancy hormonal flux or something else, I recently discovered that I get emotional about certain topics very easily. I was never really one to get teary during movies, but it seems like my eyes turn on the waterworks at a drop of a hat now. During thrilling action movies, my heart usually began racing because of the intense adrenaline running through my veins. Nowadays, my heart only races with panic and fear, especially if there’s someone like an endangered lover or child involved. I can’t even blithely enjoy some of the quests in Warcraft anymore because there’s a little ghost-child who is cold and lonely and all she wants is her dolly!
I will never ever forget one of my mom’s favorite mantras: “You don’t understand now. But when you’re a mother, you’ll see!” Man, I hate admitting she’s right.
Empathy! Empathy! No Escaping That For Me!
The main thought that this post orbits originated when I was watching The Incredibles one morning on TV with the baby– err, toddler. We were folding laundry (which translates to the spawn taking things out of the basket and reluctantly handing them to me). The funny parts were funny, the action parts were exciting. Then it got to the scene near the end where Mr. Incredible takes Elasti-Girl aside and tells her to stay out of the action. I sat down and had to grab a tissue. The argument between them only lasted maybe a minute, but a flood of emotion overcame me anyway.
I initially thought I was only empathizing with the wife: she’s obviously right, stupid men and their stupid egos always missing the bigger picture, etc etc. But then I realized I was empathizing with the husband as well. On the one hand, I could hear my own husband saying the exact same thing, which made my heart melt. And on the other hand, it was the general feeling of never wanting to lose the one you love, even when you’re both in danger.
Fast forward to the very end that involves the superpowered and rather gregarious baby Jack-Jack, and that’s when the mommy-instincts kicked in. I felt every iota of rage and fear and frenetic energy as the seconds slipped away. Jack-Jack suddenly became my own baby and, while I’ve never personally experienced someone stealing my baby away, I found myself wondering how I’d react if it did happen– with or without the superpowers. The inner “mama bear” roared to life and my head filled with scarily homicidal thoughts of precisely what I’d do to anyone who endangered the life of my child. And yes, those were thoughts so scary that they shocked even me who slaughters virtual dragons on a near-daily basis.
The Brighter Side
There’s a brighter side to all of this… It’s not all weeping and being an emotional mess. The other side of the empathy (which isn’t an altogether bad thing, mind you) is that I’ve become way nicer to people when I interact with them, even nicer than when I got my first job at an ice cream shop and commiserated with those in the food service industry. When you really think about it, every single person on this planet is the child of someone else.
The ancient adage of, “Do unto those as you would have others do unto you,” becomes a much bigger deal when thought of as, “Do unto this child as you would have others do unto yours.” It’s no longer a selfish thought. In fact, you’re more or less removed from the equation. Instead of doing something to get something in return once the karmic wheel comes around, you’re essentially paying it forward. (Anthropology would argue that it’s still a selfish motive because you’re acting in the interests of preserving and perpetuating your genes, but I digress.) It’s this brand of random and unwitting altruism that could save the world one day… and maybe get rid of the whole “entitled kid” attitude, too.
The Parental Hive-Mind
There must be some sort of Zerg Overmind that exists for parents. It’s like a latent trigger waiting to be activated in the minds of humans. And it’s really the only way I can explain how I went from being able to enjoy movies as a removed spectator behind the fourth wall to this emotional mess who can’t seem to separate out her own neurological pathways from that of someone else. Sure, before I became a parent or even a spouse, I used to start crying if the person next to me was crying. But that was out in the real world, not the manufactured sequence of events in a movie or cartoon!
Parents come from all walks of life and they’re as varied as their children. Yet, there is a prevalent sort of attitude that exists in most parents: the desire to care for and protect their offspring. As children, we usually thought of our parents as being a smidge overprotective and a little more neurotic than is healthy for the normal human being. Looking at the world nowadays, I can definitely understand that every ounce of neurosis that I experienced from my mom was well deserved.
If all of this means a lifetime of uncontrollable weeping at movies and plotting the painful demise of those who mistreat children, plus premature gray hairs, then the pros definitely outweigh the cons.