It can be strange how a small choice can change your life. Actually, the first choice in the change wasn’t all that small, but my wife and I put off making it for as long as possible. We never wanted children when we were first together. We said that we wanted to have fun or that we didn’t want to compromise our lives to fit a child in. We would actively tell our parents that we were not going to have a child when they asked about grandchildren. In the beginning all of that might have been true. I know it took a while after we got married before I could think about having a child. I truly didn’t want one for a time, and then there were reasons not to have one. We both said that we might want one someday in the future, but not now. I think I worried about the money and time needed to raise a child. I think my wife worried about having a healthy baby. I think we both found reasons to not be ready for a very long time.
I did some baby math one day. I was 34 years old. If we had a child in the next year I would be 51 when I taught him or her how to drive. I would be 53 when they graduated high school. I would be 57 when they graduated college. If everything went right, if they took after me I would be older. I had a good job at the time, and we had settled into our new house. I began to think it might be time. Katie was less than enthusiastic. Her math was four years behind mine and we had said that if we ever had kids, it would only be one. She was thinking that she had a few more years. We agreed on letting the universe choose for us. We didn’t try to get pregnant as much as we just stopped trying to not be. I guess the universe thought it was time because 9 months later Brennen was born.
Having a baby changes everything about life, and I mean everything. When you get up, when you go to bed, even how you sleep. I could sleep through anything before Bren was born. I could, and did, sleep through a fireworks show. Now I wake up if there is a noise in his room. Even if you talk to other parents and do research and plan everything out, everything you think you know will be wrong. It is different for every person and family so there is no way to anticipate the changes or explain them in three pages on the internet. Sometimes the change starts with your child but then takes on a life of its own.
The first thing I changed once Brennen made his arrival was to quit smoking. I had tried off and on for years and had even taken prescription medication to quit. I had tried cold turkey, the patch and the gum. I had even thought about being hypnotized. Nothing worked. The only think trying to quit had taught me is that you have to want to quit. I didn’t want to. I loved smoking. I still dream about smoking, even now three years later. I walk by people smoking outside so I can smell the smoke. Once he was born though things had to change. I wouldn’t quit for myself, but I could for him. This wasn’t driven by some desire to keep him away from second hand smoke. I always smoked outside and didn’t smoke around Katie once she was pregnant. It was driven by another thought. I had many friends who smoked and most of them had something in common with each other. Almost all of them had a parent that smoked. A small minority of my smoking friends had parents who didn’t currently smoke, but even most of them had a parent who used to smoke at one time. That can’t be a coincidence. I don’t know if it shows a genetic predisposition to smoking, or if it just creates an atmosphere where smoking is somewhat condoned. I do know that thinking about this is what motivated me to quit. Yes, I will admit to smoking if Brennen ever asks me about it. I will tell him how hellacious it was to stop smoking and how I never want him to have to go through that. None of it may even matter, but I am doing what I can by quitting. I think that my generation is the first to be able to make these choices. I know my father quit smoking when I was a child and I have always admired him for it, but I think this generation can break the cycle because smoking isn’t as socially acceptable anymore. Fewer and fewer people are doing it and the cost of the habit is prohibitive these days. I hope that by the time that Brennen is old enough to be exposed to smoking it just won’t be prevalent anymore.
After my first year of not smoking I felt a little better. I decided to make another change in my life to see what would happen. I decided to give up salt for Lent. I don’t often give things up for Lent, but it seemed like a good time and had the built in excuse if I couldn’t keep it up after Lent ended. I didn’t fail if I went back to using salt, Lent was over so it was okay. I cannot overstate the shock this caused to people around me. Katie was sure that I wouldn’t make it a day or two. My mother almost fell off her chair. I was a person who couldn’t sit down to eat without a salt shaker on the table. Salt was almost always on the shopping list and I would stress about it when we went out to eat. My friends all teased me about how much salt I would use. After quitting smoking I became very defensive about it, claiming it as my last real vise. I made a few rules for giving salt up. I put away the salt shaker and vowed not to use it. That was the source of my problem. I could go through a salt shaker in about a week. I would put it on everything, even if the food didn’t need it. I did allow any salt used in cooking as that wasn’t my problem. I also allowed any salt on pretzels or other snacks, but I wasn’t allowed to add more or ask for extra.
Not much changed after Lent ended. I managed to keep away from salt. I didn’t feel much different, but some foods tasted different to me. Some foods tasted better, others were a bit of a disappointment. If you take salt and butter away from corn you are left with Styrofoam. I did notice a change in my clothes after a long bicycle ride. I used to have large whitish stains on my clothes that I thought were sweat stains. They were actually salt stains. That was pretty disgusting and a great motivator for staying away from extra salt.
Now it’s almost Lent again. I need to decide what to do to make a change again this year. I am thinking about using the time to relearn how to eat healthy. I have quit smoking and salt and I have upped my millage riding my bike, but I am still overweight. I think the reason is that I am still eating horribly. This needs to change this year. I need to reduce my total caloric intake as well as start eating healthier overall. Too many times I will sit down with a bag of chips meaning to eat a few and eat the bag. I need to start eating carrots instead of chips. I am going to make this my Lent challenge this year. I think a rule of thumb of 2500 calories as well as looking at each meal and deciding if it is healthy enough should be a good start. Lent is going to provide the catalyst but it will not be a built in excuse if I fail this year. This year I will have the internet to keep my honest and working after Lent. Once you claim something like this on line, people will keep you honest. I will report on my progress on the new Facebook page and write an end of Lent wrap up here to let you know how I am doing.
The small choice was not having Brennen, that one was a huge choice. The small choice was to change. At first I really didn’t have a choice, I had to stop smoking or risk the effects of secondhand smoke and unconscious acceptance of his eventual experimenting with smoking. The change became more than just one choice when I gave up salt. It began to grow into a commitment to be healthier in general. It piggybacked on to the lifestyle shift of becoming a cyclist and created the desire for more change. Instead of fighting eating better, I now want to be healthier; both for myself and to be a better role model for my son. If he grows up knowing the best ways to eat he will never have to fight temptation to eat poorly. It will just be normal to him, and that will be the best change of all.