People with kids used to say to me stuff like, “Rob, everything changes when you have kids.” They’d say it all the time, just like that, “Everything is different.” And I’d always just nod along and smile and say things back that I assumed they wanted to hear, like, “Wow, that sounds pretty intense,” or, “Man, I can’t even imagine,” all while thinking to myself, OK, I get it, you have kids, great.
But my wife just gave birth to our first son, and right there in the delivery room, right as I heard that first newborn cry, it was like a light switch went off in my head. For a second I was a little worried, like I thought maybe something was wrong with me. I know it sounds a little crazy, but nothing made sense, it was a completely new sensation, not painful, but not at all familiar.
“Doctor,” I called out to the obstetrician, worried that I’d maybe suffered a stroke.
“Rob, relax,” he pulled down his hospital mask and smiled at me. “You’re a dad now,” he said. “Everything’s different.”
“Everything?” I asked him, looking at the world through my new dad-vision.
“That’s right Rob,” he said it again: “You’re a dad now. Everything changes when you have kids.”
And just like that it hit me, how in the past, how whenever I’d meet someone at one of my wife’s social functions, or at a work party where I didn’t really know anybody, all of those times when random people would ask me out of the blue, “Do you have kids?” and I’d say, “No, I don’t have any kids,” and they’d just kind of shake their heads at me and smile and say, “Man, let me tell you something, everything changes when you have kids. Everything.”
I’d smile back and maybe try to talk about my nieces and nephews, I’d think in my head for any little kid related stories I’d be able to contribute to the conversation. But to the people with kids, it was never good enough. They’d put a hand up to stop me from continuing, they’d take a step closer, they’d look me dead in the eye and they’d say it again, slower this time, “Seriously, Rob, absolutely everything is different now.”
I never got what they were talking about. Not back then. I couldn’t have. I didn’t have any kids. Do you have kids? I’m asking you, the reader, do you have any kids? If you don’t, you have no idea of understanding what I’m talking about right now. It’s just not possible. You don’t have kids, you don’t get it, period.
But even though we’re not on the same level anymore, I still have to tell you anyway. I just have to at least try. Look, I just had a kid. Did you hear that? Me. I’m a dad now. And what else can I say besides the fact that everything is different? My whole life has changed. I get that now. Do you? Listen. These past two days have been two of the most radically different days of my life. Is any of this getting through to you? I’m trying to think of how I can better get across what this feels like, but human language just isn’t capable of communicating from a guy with a kid to a person without any kids exactly what it is that I’m trying to say. The best I can do is to just repeat what I’ve been saying all along: I’m telling you, when you have kids, everything changes, man, life is just totally different. Got it? Of course you don’t.
But if you’re reading this and you have kids, you get it. You totally get it. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Right? Isn’t life different? I don’t even have to write anything here, because you already understand. Life. It’s different. It’s like totally changed, like everything is transformed somehow. Can you even remember what life was like before having kids? Me neither! I keep trying to think of what my life was like this time last week, and all I’m able to pull up is memories of my new son, which are mostly new memories, because he was just born. It just proves my point, that everything is different now, that I just had a kid, and now I’m a new person.
Did I mention that when you have kids everything changes? I did, right? Yeah well, it does. It changes completely. Everything, absolutely everything, all of the stuff that I cared about before, all of the stuff that you care about right now, none of it matters. None of it. The only thing that matters is that I have a kid. Me. And life is totally different.