Never let go of your Pre-Dad Self

The tallest water slides in Arizona are two miles from my house. In order to ride them, you have to be a guest at the pricey Arizona Grand Resort. When some friends got married there this summer, I jumped at the chance to get a room on the cheap.

The morning before the wedding, my wife was busy because always. But her parents were at our house early to watch the kids, leaving me with a couple free hours. I buzzed over to the resort, suited up and spent a solid hour trotting up four stories of stairs and plunging down the punishing Free Fall and Roadrunner water slides.

It left me tired and bruised. It’s also the best thing I did for my mental health all summer.

Why? Because deep down, I’m still a 12-year-old boy who has no regrets about breaking his nose in a water-slide collision with his brother. Because a part of me still believes George Carlin when he says, in the opening monologue of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, that the value of a civilization will be measured by its quantity of excellent water slides.

george-carlin-rufusNow water slide boy faces a threat more dangerous than reckless horseplay. From the dark realm of mommy blogs comes a chilling mandate — Dear Pre-Mom Self: It’s time to let you go.

Like my illustration below? The 8-bit guy on the right is me at 21. He has shaggy hair with beachy highlights. He dresses like Kevin Smith. He loves keggers, burritos, NHL HITZ 20-03 on Xbox and his DVD collection. He has no idea what he’s going to do after graduation, but things are going well with his new girlfriend.young-dad-8bit

The guy on the left is me now (you might recognize him from the t-shirt). He’s borderline insulted by the friendly offer of a Bud Light. He doesn’t even have a lawn — just a bunch of rocks with a few plants here and there.

If this were a real video game, it would say “FINISH HIM!”, and modern me would have a few seconds to dispatch the other guy. I could rip out his spine or set him on fire.

I’m not going to “FINISH HIM!”, though. I’ll let him live to chug another day.

Deep down, the Pre-Mom Self letter is a celebration of a young mother’s newfound strength. Every parent should own that strength and take pride in it, especially when the kids push it to its limits.

Every parent also deserves a break, and the best breaks are the ones that activate one of your pre-parent selves. For this HuffPo author, it could be yoga or a long walk. For me, it’s water slides. It’s seeing Suicide Squad opening night. It’s enjoying a musician I’ve followed since I was 16, even if I have to go to the concert all by myself.

I get that there’s a gender gap here. Everyone expects dads to act like goofballs. On a biological level, we have an easier time than moms shutting off Parent Mode until it’s time to push the Dad Button again. Moms get a raw deal.

That’s why I’m calling on all parents, especially dads, to help their co-parents unleash their pre-parent selves. Because as much as this stay-at-home dad needs a silly break sometimes, an always-working mom needs one even more.

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