Jun 06, 2012 0 Share

End of an Era


Neon sign saying, "Open Late."
iStockphoto

Late one recent evening, walking back from the Metro station where I've left my car for Emily. It's a new neighborhood for me because we've just moved here and we'll be here for a while. 

Oh wow. McDonald's. I see it's open 24/7—both drive-through and eat-in. Nice. 

I like 24/7 hangouts. I don't often hang out that late at night anymore. But I've always liked neighborhoods with that sort of thing. Campuses, too. The hangout doesn't need to be anything fancy ... a computer lab or fast food joint will do fine. Just so people can pop in at all hours and relax and socialize without worrying about closing time. Not to mention meet new people ... different groups of people tend to come by at different times of day. 

That's why I kept vampire hours in my first couple of years of graduate school, hanging out in the 24/7 computer lab. (For some reason, later on they closed it and opened another one, open 20 hours a day. Never could figure that one out.) 

Hanging out in McDonald's, coming home any old time ... 

Don't mind me. I'm just re-enjoying my past. 

Past is the operant term here. Not only with no wife to worry about me, but also no baby someone else would have to watch—and maybe feed and/or change—until I got back. 

Not to mention no need to look at event announcements or ask hosts if childcare is available or children are even permitted. No need to do laundry more than maybe once or twice every couple of weeks. 

Heck, no need to do without at least seven hours of sleep a night. (I remember being glad when I moved out of my parents' home because finally I'd get to decide when and how long to go to bed. Soon I'll have to sleep when the baby does.) 

Not only do the possibilities and responsibilities change, so will my outlook. I'm starting to look at every situation in terms of how dangerous it could be for a toddler. (Each room has just so many electrical outlets, and they're so naked! And why are medicine bottles so easy to open, anyway?) 

Change is hard, and doubly so for Aspies. But now, here's a change that's (hopefully!) never changing back. I'm never going to be even close to the same person I was, ever again. Not after even a short time changing diapers, feeding a squalling child, limiting the places I go to those where my little one will be welcome (and safe, and not just physically either) unless I care to pay for a babysitter. 

Conflicts? I'm not going to answer just for myself anymore. Not once I get the first complaint about my son's or daughter's yelling at another kid or not doing homework or lying. 

What's important anymore? Parents have to pick their battles. 

In a few years, I'll go back and re-read my old columns, blog posts and online discussions and see which ones are still relevant. Will I recognize my old self? Will I like what I see in the mirror now?