What Happens to My Brain When I’m Out with My Kids?

All the Facebook-link-clicking, blog-reading fellow dads out there, tell me if you have this same problem:

I like to think I’m a fairly smart guy. I read books, often books with very few pictures, and even some that aren’t about plucky outcast teens in futuristic dystopias. I can explain the separation of powers and the infield fly rule. I remember to lift with my legs and not my back. And I have been banned from many locations of Buffalo Wild Wings because of my utter domination of Trivia Tuesdays.

I am also the father of one five-year-old boy and one three-year-old girl. And on occasions when I take them somewhere by myself, I feel like most of my brain gets scooped out and replaced with truckstop-grade fajita meat.

I can’t carry on a conversation with another adult for more than a few seconds. I’m confounded by the math required to count my change from buying a couple of Happy Meals. If there are more than three other cars in the parking lot, I may not be able to find my own car until they all leave.

What happens to me? I can’t blame it all on my kids. They’re distracting, sure, but they’re distracting when we’re at home too; that doesn’t make me revert to Neanderthal Jason, communicating with grunts and trying to open cans of Coke by beating them with a rock.

It’s different when we leave the house, though. A dense fog descends on me and follows me everywhere, so that I have to fight through it to have even the simplest interaction with the world around me. Anyone I interact with while I’m with the kids — friends, trampoline park employees, emergency room nurses — all seem to me like they’re very far away and speaking a language that only vaguely resembles English. It takes focused effort for me to do normal things an adult in a Chuck E. Cheese would expect to have to do.

However, there is one thing that my brain can still do really well, and this may be part of the problem. I’m overprotective to begin with, and when I have sole responsibility for my kids, I see danger everywhere. My internal warning system is flashing red constantly from the moment we walk out the door; every car is about to hop the curb and run them down, every shelf is about to topple over on them, every stranger is probably a suicide bomber, and oh my lord, my son is wearing an American flag t-shirt! Everybody get down!!

Am I the only one with this problem? My wife takes the kids out by herself all the time and is still able to do lots of complicated, grown-up things. But if I had to take the kids grocery shopping with me, I’d just come back with 27 different kinds of cereal. Hopefully either I grow out of this, or the kids learn how to take care of me.

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