Here's another way that being a parent changes a person irrevocably. My main preoccupation lately is trying to come up with some way of dealing with the fact that things like this and this and this happen in the world where I have to, somehow, raise my kid. Before you become a parent, you know on an intellectual level that the world is an evil and dangerous and miserable place; having a baby makes it personal. You start to think about all the other babies too, and wonder what is going to happen to them. And the next thing is wondering how on earth you can do anything about it, when the traditional remedies of protesting and writing letters to Congress and other such things don't do a damn bit of good anymore. No more representative government (only those who can write big checks need apply); no more free press; and bingo--no more democracy.
Maybe this only proves that in my pre-motherhood days, I only took a token interest in the world around me, and it took having a baby to wake me up; I don't know. I hope the efforts I used to make to work on behalf of progressive causes did a tiny bit of good. But now I'm interested in quite a bit more than a tiny bit of good. I want to feel like I'm raising my kid in a country that's worthy of her. I just don't know what to do to make that a reality, and each new revelation of crime and catastrophe only makes me feel more helpless.
My experience of parenthood so far tells me there has to be more to life than this: never, ever learning from our history, sitting back and allowing poverty and war and injustice to spiral on endlessly. Life can't just be one big nihilistic excuse for a few people to get rich off of a lot of other people's suffering and bloodshed. It ought to be about being open to possibility, embracing our connections to other people, and being grateful for those connections.
And, of course, smearing bananas in your hair, throwing chewed-up wads of hot dog on the floor, and running around the kitchen with a dish towel on your head, giggling.