I’m not old enough to remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963, but history books teach us one specific point: when the President of the United States is dead or otherwise incapacitated, there is an immediate transfer of power to the sitting Vice-President, thereby ensuring that there is not a single moment in which the United States is without Presidential power.
This historical tidbit is not related to this story except to the extent of how quickly the complete and total power can be taken away from one person and handed over to someone else with nary a blink of an eye, leaving the one person formerly in charge, to now be under total control of the other newly minted “Person With All The Power”.
So! Picture yourself in the delivery room preparing to give birth to your first child. You are excited, scared, unprepared and have no idea what to expect. You’ve read all the books and attended all the classes and now this baby is coming and you couldn’t stop it if you tried. No do-overs, no let’s wait until we’re more prepared, no ooops, I’ve changed my mind. No, no, no, no. This is IT, girlfriend.
But it’s all good; you’ve been waiting for this special moment, your partner is present and in total awe of you, and OMG we’re having a baby! Minutes, hours or even days later, your baby is out of your womb, untethered from you by virtue of the ceremonial snipping of the umbilical cord, which is a strange thing actually; your baby, that your womb cultivated for 9 long months, is now literally detached from you. Kind of a relief, no?
“No”, (hell no!) is right on point, brand new parents. Because immediately yet ever so subtlety, rather slyly even, there has been a Major Transfer Of Power. While you and your parenting partner were sobbing, cradling, praying, staring, photographing, rocking, nursing, nuzzling, hugging, snuggling……your precious newborn has begun his 18+ year reign as The Most Powerful In All The Land As Far As One Can See role in all of your lives. That’s right, the immediate transfer of power has taken place. You, parents, are no longer in charge. You no longer have any kind of flexibility in your life. You’ve been virtually stripped of all your former control and power over your own life. No indeed. There’s a new kid in town, to paraphrase the great Eagles song circa 1976, and he is Powerful!
No one told you about this, did they? Who is this fabled new Christ-like person? Where did he come from? How is he going to affect me? Can I return him if necessary, if things just don’t work out? Why does this tiny despot have total control over my life 24/7? Will I ever get my power back? Some modicum of authority and governance of my own?
No you will not. At least not for a long, long, very long time and maybe never. Oh, one day he might leave for a few years upon reaching adulthood (which, by the way, you, the powerless ones, are in charge of making sure he’s properly prepared and ready to go, should he choose to, which he may not, ever), but he may leave and then come back and stay forever, or he may leave with nary a glance back, no waving his hand goodbye, no “thanks, parents, for all you did for me. See ya never!”
If you’re lucky, if you did everything exactly right every minute that this dictator led your kingdom, then maybe, possibly, hopefully you will reclaim, earn, and salvage some of the long lost, long forgotten heady power that you once possessed. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, be a decent person and let your currently childless friends in on this scary secret that no one ever talks about. Warn them; show them; let them see how the life you had before has been totally sucked out of you.
I leave you with a quote from the book, A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, as follows:
” Their world is governed by children, little despots who’s needs-school and camp and activities and tutors-dictate every decision, and will for the next ten, fifteen, eighteen years. Having children has provided their adulthood with an instant and nonnegotiable sense of purpose and direction: they decide the length and location of that year’s vacation, they determine if there will be any leftover money, and if so, how it might be spent; they give shape to a day, a week, a year, a life. Children are kind of cartography, and all one has to do is obey the map they present to you on the day they are born”.