Oh, how priorities change when you’re a parent

OPINION: On a recent trip to Las Vegas for NABJ, I had a few realizations that reminded me how my priorities have shifted.

Photo: RebeccaAng/Getty Images

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Ya know, I was really looking forward to heading to Las Vegas for the National Association of Black Journalists’ annual conference. Like many conferences and organizations, COVID altered the way folks were able to do business over the past few years. Oh, I had a good time seeing old friends and meeting some new ones and attending panels and events and such. And theGrio’s presentation for our podcast network went really well. All in all, I had fun.

But it was just…different. The last time I went to Las Vegas, over 10 years ago, I remember loving the energy and barely sleeping. I wanted to be on the Strip for the whole time and take in all the city had to offer. This go around? I felt like the energy was too chaotic and never felt truly comfortable. Plus, living in smoke-free Washington, D.C., I forgot that other places allow smoking inside, and both the hotel I stayed in (the Bellagio) and the hotel that hosted the convention (Caesar’s Palace) made me feel like I’d moved inside of a cigarette. To each his own, but I wasn’t ready. 

Something else happened, too, though. As I walked through the casinos and saw the families with their kids, I started to miss my family and both did and didn’t want my family to experience Vegas with me. I did because it was nice seeing families and little kids roaming around. But I didn’t because there’s no way I could see myself romping around casinos with my kids. The smoke alone had me literally hacking the whole weekend trying to breathe, so I wouldn’t necessarily want my kids up in that space. I started thinking about what kind of fun I could be having with the family but in a family-friendly capacity. And this happened almost from the moment I got there until I left. I didn’t even feel like going out at night; I was concerned about getting a good night’s rest so I could be up and at ‘em every day. 

Similarly, I found myself being ready to go well before I expected to. After we did our thing for the job, I was like, “ya know, I could go home now and feel accomplished.” That’s a very distinct departure from the times in my life when I wanted to maximize every minute of every hour I had of “me” time. I spent a very long time inside a tourist shop trying to find just the right little trinkets for the kids—which I would do anyway, but still. 

I’m 43 years old. Not old by any stretch, but I’ve definitely achieved a different part of life that has me genuinely just wanting to be at home, even if the kids are driving me bonkers by yelling at the top of their lungs. Or just in their rooms. I have achieved whatever level of parenthood those insurance commercials are mocking. My shoe game is still top notch but my inside-the-house game might be getting close to intervention levels. 

I’m guessing this is because of the kids and perhaps because I discovered Michael’s and Home Depot during the pandemic and decided I’d turn my house into a personal DIY project. Either way, I’ve noticed that I keep having these moments or realizations. Sure, I’m enjoying the time away, but I’m enjoying it differently and it’s less “we outside” and more “I’m here for a reason.” And that’s OK. Oh, how priorities change. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download here.