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Willful Ignorance is Bliss

It's no secret ...

So I'm talking to a friend, trying to figure out where I'd left my perspective. I'm telling him my story. I want to hear what he has to say, but I also want to hear what I have to say.

At one point, I say "I had no idea that parenting would be as hard as it's been ..."

His response, logically enough, is to ask, more or less, what planet I'd been living on!

No, that's not exactly true. He didn't say that.

Oh, heck. I can't remember exactly what he said. I can't quote him. If I were going to quote, be assured it would be an accurate quote, reflecting, immaculately, what was spoken that day. Failing that, I offer a paraphrase, which reflects only what I heard, not what he said. Here it is:

But, Gary, how could you have been surprised? Yes, parenting is difficult, but ... who wouldn't know that? Of course parenting is difficult! But it's not like it's some great secret that your father pulls you aside when you're thirteen and he says, 'Son, now I'm going to let you in on a little something ...' It's no secret that parenting is rough.

Parenting is rough. Always has been. Always will be.

So where was I, that this should come as some huge surprise? Where was I that just the sleeplessness ­ the quantity and quality of the lack of sleep ­ was as shocking as having a ferret named Melissa thrust through the front pocket of your Jockeys.

(And just to give you an idea of how shocking that is, let me tell you that our ferret's name is Luther.)

I have some theories, then, about where this ignorance of mine sprang from.


It really is harder than the human mind can comprehend.

In this theory, I posit that the Rigors of Child-rearing are, in fact, so extreme that the human mind is incapable of creating the theoretical foundation required to understand these Rigors prior to their being experienced. It's just not possible.

It is a particularly daring theory on my part because it means that when someone smacks me in the head and yells, "Helloooooooo! Earth to Gary!!! Parenting is hard and everyone knows that. This isn't neeewwwwssss!!!" They are really acting out in a way that they hope will hide their lack of foreknowledge of the Rigors of Child-rearing as well as ridiculing my lack of said foreknowledge.

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

In other words, everyone knows that no one knows about the Rigors of Child-rearing ­ even though "it is no secret" ­ but only I, Gary Chapin, have the insight, self-esteem and self-sacrificing, in-your-face shmuckiness to broadcast my own ignorance in such matters.

Good man.

I didn't want to know.

Willful ignorance is as old and wonderful as Christopher Columbus taking Isobel's jewels and setting sail despite the flatness of the Earth! Willful ignorance brought us the condemnation of Galileo, phrenology, the idea that Social Security will one day pay off, the hair club for men. This is the grand tradition of which I want to be a part.

It's simple: I wanted to have kids, so I convinced myself that since everyone does it, then anyone can do it. Even me.


Who needs to know?

Would knowing have made it easier? Perhaps some cognitive dissonance could have been avoided, but would that really have made it easier?

I am reminded of all those parents who look at my girls and then tell me, breathlessly, "I can't imagine raising twins!"

The truth is, I can't imagine it either. I just do it. Sure, I plan, and aspire, and hope, and pray. But do I really try to imagine what the coming years will be like?

Honestly, I can barely imagine breakfast, and still, breakfast gets made every morning. Go figure.


There are some things, man was not meant to know.

I'm not saying this is one of those things, but I thought, y'know, I'd mention it.


I knew about it, but I didn't know about it.

So maybe I did "know," all along. I "knew" about it. I mean, I'd seen Little House on the Prairie. I "knew" about the trials of being Pa. I "knew" about leaping into the gaping abyss of one's unfathomable Dark Side and coming out the other side, a little sadder, a little wiser, but with a lot more hair.

I "knew" about being Dad. But I didn't know.

Why should I?

It's about knowledge versus gnosis. It's about having knowledge in your head and having it in the bones. Book learning and muscle memory.

It's about applicability to situation, current.

It's about pragmatism and timing. You know what you need to know, when you need to know it.

Now I know.

As they say in Minnesota, there you go. I have no conclusions. Just let me say that if I knew now what I knew then, things would be ... no ... hold on a minute ... that's wrong.

Copyright © 2005 - 2019 Hal Levy and the above captioned author.