Few events create an environment of complete emotional concession. Everyone remembers the shared experience immediately following 9/11. We were in such a fragile emotional state we abandoned our selfish inclinations and embraced community like never before. These are beautiful times, but they aren't meant to last. If we allow a rogue citizen to steal a parking spot without threatening physical harm, even after we have waited patiently and applied the turn signal to make our intentions known, the terrorists have won.
Becoming a parent has a similar effect. You emerge with a redefined purpose and the strongest feeling of unity imaginable, which in turn leads a grown man to say things he never could have imagined just a few short months ago:
"Absolutely, Baby. Let's go to Hobby Lobby."
When you're about to become a parent, people say, "your life will never be the same, it will be so much better!" That is correct, with one exception - every single second spent inside Hobby Lobby feels like the Seventh Circle of Hell when you have a baby in tow.
Unless your hobbies require floral arrangements or acrylic paints, there is a better than average chance this particular lobby is not your cup of tea to begin with. Women utilize the store for their floral, craft, and scrapbooking needs. Men utilize the store to decorate the doghouse they reside in because while their wife was visiting her parents, they drank beer and watched football all weekend instead of getting the house picked up...which was the one thing they had to do...and that shouldn't be too much to ask...
The euphoric high of fatherhood nullifies many of life's annoyances, but it couldn't make me enjoy Hobby Lobby any more than empathy could make me pull for the Yankees in the 2001 World Series. Sometimes you have to be confronted with something you despise to realize what a ridiculous emotional waste of manhood you've been, and inspire you to locate those testicles you haven't been putting to use.
I believe it was the moment shortly after Gabe finished his bottle and spit up all over my shirt that I was struck with this moment of clarity. As I pushed my son around the store, weaving in and out of elderly people, middle-aged women on a mission, and other men toting children and wondering how they got here, I caught my reflection in a lovely white lattice mirror.
"Holy shit, I look terrible and I know how to identify a white lattice mirror!"
I immediately found my wife and started hovering over her shoulder, a surefire way to tamp down the enjoyment of mulling a fabric purchase, thus getting us to the check-out counter while she plans a return trip without us.
I know I am too domesticated to get all the way back to the pre-baby version of myself, and that is probably a good thing. I'm happy to lend a hand around the house, and I actually don't mind watching televised singing competitions, like the rest of the old people that shop at Hobby Lobby.
Personal growth is all about balance. The next time Summer wants craft supplies I will just drop her off and take Gabe to the nearest sporting goods store. And if someone tries to steal a parking spot while wearing a Yankees hat and scrapbooking, I'll feel completely justified kicking the shit out of him.
It's all about balance.