People: The ultimate work in progress | VailDaily.com
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People: The ultimate work in progress

Alex Miller
Alex Miller
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A good friend of mine once summed up his take on the parenting experience by depicting a poopy baby demanding, simply: “Clean it up!”We laughed and went back to whatever solipsistic pursuit we were up to at the time, tacitly congratulating ourselves that we were spouse- and kid-free.That was a good many years and, between us, seven kids ago. Like most people who become moms or dads, we came to understand that there’s a lot more to raising children than what my brother-in-law affectionately refers to as “orifice management.” When childless people ask me what it’s like to be a dad, I get the feeling they expect me to focus on the cons diapers, bail bondsmen and the like. But I usually say something along the lines of how fascinating it is to watch the evolution from blob to person.And what a transformation it is. We’re almost five years out from our last baby, but I’m watching the coworker who sits across from me going through the wonder of the early years and being reminded how quickly infants change from day to day. And while fascinated new parents can dwell for hours on the slightest new burble or facial tic exhibited by a baby, the amazement really never stops.Among our brood, we have one out of the nest; two pubescent teens awakening to the joys and catastrophes of the opposite sex; one prepubescent tween for whom girls are all but invisible; and a 4-year-old who’s simply a citizen of the world open to just about anything and anyone so long as they pay complete attention to him.One of the most curious aspects of a larger family with children all over the map development-wise is the social experiment aspect of it all. Nearly everything good or bad you’ve read about human nature can be found in the words and actions of our kids from alarming fury to two-hanky expressions of the deepest love. There’s romance (or proto-romance, at least) and heartbreak, drama by the bucketful, intrigue, intellectual and cultural exploration, frenetic activity and coma-like torpor, excitement and dismay and, in our house at least, hatred of mushrooms and shellfish that borders on hysteria.Sometimes, trying to pilot the family rowboat through all this can feel like plunging through Brown’s Canyon in May without paddles or instructions. Forces along the order of Yellowstone geothermal phenomenon are unleashed when you least expect it, and at least several times a week we round a bend to find something wonderful and unexpected like the sudden cessation of the need to buy pull-ups ever again, or a delightful piece of fiction generated by one of the boys.One of the most difficult things for parents is their own journey from people in charge of all aspects of their kids’ lives to hand-wringing bystanders. There’s a progression to this something akin to having the marionettes’ wires replaced by rubber bands and then severed altogether. Even that’s a weak analogy, since parents of kids as young as a day or two can tell you there’s simply no controlling them. If you’ve ever plaintively whispered “Please stop crying and let us sleep just one night!” to a baby who cares not of your plight, you know what I’m talking about.For the older kids, it means watching them turn into strongly opinionated young adults who, seemingly overnight, demonstrate how well they can get along without mom and dad, thank you very much. That is, of course, until they need a ride to the movie theater. Then, they pay you back by sharing thoughts and observations you’d swear could only come from someone 20 years older. The next day, they’ll shoot you a look aimed at making you feel you possess all the intelligence and compassion of a tree stump.Hang in there: It’s all part of the price of admission for getting a front-row seat to the most extraordinary show on the planet. Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931 or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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