- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2001

I went to a Washington Wizards basketball game the other night with an old college friend, one of my few remaining longtime friends who is still single.

We don't see as much of each other as I would like, so we had quite a bit of catching up to do. As we were driving out of the Greenbelt Metro parking lot, I started telling a story about a trip Sean and Jeremy and I had taken recently.

"So we loaded up the minivan and headed out," I said, starting my anecdote.

Greg interrupted.

"Minivan?" He repeated, a look of incredulity crossing his face. "You have a minivan?"

"Yes," I said.

"Did you ever think 10 years ago that one day you would be …"

"Shut up," I said.

The answer is, of course not. Ten years ago, I was happily single, covering high school sports in the Maryland suburbs and smirking at all the other miserable-looking fathers sheepishly getting out of their minivans with their young children, all looking as if they were exiting an adult bookstore instead of a Ford Windstar.

My wife, Lisa, was just another cute and unobtainable woman in our church singles group.

My beloved Cincinnati Reds were World Series champions,but that is another column in its entirety.

Now I find myself doing and saying things that were unthinkable 10 years ago. I give them only the fleetest of second thoughts, if at all.

I visited Port Discovery, the tremendous children's museum in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, the other night with Sean, my 4-year-old. As we walked back to the van afterward, we held an animated discussion about Jeremy's future potty-training schedule as we walked past a posh Italian restaurant. Couples in dinner jackets and cocktail dresses passed us by, smiling in that condescending way older couples do when they want to say, "Thank God we made it through that part of our lives."

I didn't even flinch.

Once or twice a month, Sean and I go to a local Chuck E. Cheese restaurant and crawl through the plastic ceiling tunnels and play air hockey. I go in and out of the restaurant each time without once putting a bag over my head.

All parents go through this. Parenthood means suspension of embarrassment, at least for the first few years. You find yourself saying and doing things you never dreamed of as a younger, single person. What parent can't identify with the young father in the commercial who considers eating a cookie off the floor because of the "five-second rule"?

It's all over so soon, anyway. Jeremy will be out of diapers, and, hopefully, there won't be any loud discussions of poop or pee-pee in the middle of the McDonald's (not that we haven't received our share of sympathetic chuckles or smiles when that has happened).

Soon we'll get to experience the joys of discussing the birds and the bees, what condoms are, what AIDS is, what "gay" means, what a curfew means and what happens when it's violated.

We'll get to experience the thrills of competing against other bloodthirsty parents trying to get their children into the same private schools and onto the same soccer teams. And we'll get to look foolish all over again when we do it.

In the meantime, I still rue occasionally whatever happened to my capacity to blush. The other day, I was listening to a colleague at work describe her recent wedding and honeymoon. It had been as blissful as it could and should be. I found myself drifting back to my own wedding and honeymoon, just six short years ago.

Another colleague, who also was listening and has a 4-year-old son herself, then asked me what had been going on with me. I recounted a story about Jeremy vomiting milk in the middle of the night and how we had had to fumigate the mattress.

I thought later how rude it had been to colleague No. 1, even though she had finished her wedding stories and basically had gone back to work.

As I said, the embarrassment threshold just seems to fly away. Maybe it will come back when the children move out in about 20 years.

Or maybe it will just go into hibernation until Sean and Jeremy have children of their own. I can't wait.

Mark Stewart is the father of two boys, Sean and Jeremy. He is a staff writer for the Family Times. He can be reached at stewar @twtmail.com.

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