Have you ever been to a restaurant with someone with just zero tolerance for spicy food? They won’t order the jalapeño poppers because they are “too hot?” Meanwhile, you are pouring Frank’s Red Hot onto everything, including your water, just so it will have some flavor at all? What wimps those people are! Ha ha! They have no idea what spicy even is bro!
Have you ever been to a restaurant with someone who has completely burned all of their taste buds off in their quest for more spice? Don’t you feel sorry for them? You get to sit there enjoying the nuances of flavor in your meal, while they are asking if there is anything hotter than “Melt-Your-Face-Off” in some sort of secret back kitchen somewhere. What have they done to themselves? Can they even appreciate life anymore? Why would anyone ever want to purposely melt their own face off? Morons.
This is very much how the conversations go between parents and non-parents sometimes. And both sides are absolutely correct. Life is like that. You have no idea how much punishment you can take until you have to actually take it. You think you know the worst thing that has ever happened to you, only because the something even worse is still in your future. We gauge all of life’s experiences through the lens of our own history, and having a child is just one of those things that cannot be communicated in words that a non-parent can truly understand. Believe me, I know. I was a non-parent once.
As an example, I will tell you that 20-year-old me would have sworn up and down that he knew what “tired” felt like. He would have even said that he knew what true exhaustion was, because he had skipped a few night’s sleep in college. He really did think he knew what “tired” was. Oh, young me, you had no freaking clue. The tired you were experiencing was a jalapeño; the tired you feel now is a ghost pepper. How can you explain how spicy a ghost pepper is to someone who thinks a jalapeño is extremely hot? Perhaps they can comprehend “more spicy than spicy” but they will never truly know in their mouths what you are talking about. They will have to build up their tolerance and eventually see for themselves. That is, if they feel like destroying their bodies that way. And that is parenting.
I am happy to report, however, that it is not only the bad things that are cranked up to 11 when one becomes a parent. It seems as though all of life suddenly intensifies. Parents will try to tell non-parents about the love they feel for their children, and the non-parents will nod and explain that they feel that way about their cats. Okay, I am not saying you don’t love your cat, nor am I at all implying that the love you feel for your cat is not the strongest love you have ever felt for any creature in this life or any other, but it’s jalapeños and ghost peppers man. You have no idea.
I have loved pets very deeply. I have wept for their passings, and I have even called out from work for multiple days in a row after the death of a beloved pet. But having children, becoming a parent, taking charge of an actual human being that I have a hand in shaping, I literally cannot describe it to you. We all will keep trying, and you will find thousands of parenting blogs out here in which we are all trying to somehow convey in words what can only be felt in the heart, and some of us come close, but there really aren’t any words for it. You either know what a ghost pepper tastes like, or you don’t.
I have no idea what an actual ghost pepper tastes like, because jalapeños are quite spicy enough for me thank you very much, and I couldn’t tell you why anyone would put their body through that. And I couldn’t have told you why anyone would put their body through the parenting process either. From the other side of things, it looks nuts. But from this side I can tell you that there just isn’t anything like it, and that so far it is totally worth it. Most days.