On some rudimentary level, I always thought parenting, among other things, would bring me to some sort of elevated level of – I don’t know – maturity, maybe? Wisdom? Intellect? The sacred act of bringing life into the world, cherishing and nurturing said life, and then releasing them into the world to flourish and thrive – I thought all of that would somehow enact some type of heightened mental prowess in some way, shape, or form.
But, in recent months, I’ve been really wondering… is it possible that I’ve actually become less intelligent? Have some of my brain cells gone to their fateful demise in the years since I’ve produced offspring?
I humbly submit to you that, sadly, some of my behavior lately points to the affirmative to these questions.
Perhaps it is the all-too-often sleep deprivation that comes with parenting, or maybe it is the fact that my brain can only process a maximum of 100 repetitions of Wheels on the Bus or Goodnight Moon at a time with little space for anything else. Or, maybe simply, the neverending act of keeping everyone alive, fed, and emotionally secure is taking up all of my mental power. Whatever the case, I’ve been feeling a little less like I’m cooking with gas lately, and more like I’m cooking over a low – albeit steady – burning flame in the intellectual department.
About a month ago, we were having some photos taken with my children and my nieces in order to get some tangible cousin memories in print (and, as it turns out, to slowly torture our lovely photographer in the process). We got the kids all dressed up, set up some props in my in-laws fairy tale-like backyard, and prayed for the best. We brought cupcakes, balloons, and a tea set to adequately bribe the children to smile and look at the camera. While the pictures were being taken, I made a short video clip of the sights and sounds of the scene. When I later replayed it, I was mildly horrified about what I heard.
What I heard was this: Some obviously wacko lady in the background talking in a very high-pitched ridiculous voice. She kept saying some sing-songy gibberish whilst making jarringly weird sounds, along with a creepy, incessant command to, “Smile! Show me your teeth!” If I were those kids, and I heard that lady, I would most definitely be running for the distant Black Hills. And I would definitely not be showing her my teeth.
You know the really scary thing in all of this? It was me! I was that lady. I could hardly recognize my own voice, because I sounded like the fool of fools. What has happened to me? A smart person would not be making those sounds or talking in that octave. I quickly deleted the video. “No one else should ever be subjected to this lunacy,” I told myself as I pressed the red “delete” button.
The next day at dinner, that wacko lady emerged again. I was trying to get my 2-year-old to eat his dinner, and apparently, for this purpose, wacko lady will go to any and all lengths to make it happen. Again, with the obnoxiously weird voice and the clown-like behavior. I felt myself have another out-of-body experience: Is this really me acting like this? No wonder I’m forgetting things on the regular, grasping for words mid-sentence, and feeling like my intellect is hanging on by a thread. What is this child-like level to which I have stooped?
We recently got our pictures back from our cousin photo shoot. They turned out beautifully. The children are smiling, the lighting is magical, and we have pictures (and memories) that will last a lifetime. And my 2-year-old son’s dinner that one night? He ate it all. It was a success. Now, I’m not saying that I should continue to act like a maniac for the sake of pictures or a dinner consumed, but it all has made me think in a larger sense: Is it so bad to stoop to a child-like level? Is it actually a positive thing that I feel a little less intelligent these days?
Parenting really does take you back to the carefree attitude of childhood. It allows you to revert back to the simplest of times, where someone making funny faces and talking in a sing-songy voice makes you smile. It takes you back to when pretending broccoli is a Choo-Choo train makes it somehow more delicious. It takes you back to being delightfully unaware and impervious to what others may think of you; allowing you to forget your own personal pride and allow it to dissipate for the sake of someone else.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have deleted the video of “wacko lady” at the photo shoot. Yes, it was embarrassing and ridiculous, but who cares? It was a memory, and I made my kids smile and laugh. Maybe losing a bit of your knowledge of your own intelligence is actually real intelligence and maturity. And in that light, I’m willing to look like an absolute idiot for my children. Lucky for them, it appears to be happening a lot these days.