When you become a parent, there are a lot of little things that you lose – sleep, personal freedoms, the ability to use the bathroom without the threat of unflattering household commentary afterwards — but, the one thing I didn’t expect to have ripped away from me when I became a dad was my steadfast belief in the overall awesomeness of time travel.
But that’s exactly what happened. I absolutely hate time travel now. The very idea makes me shudder.
And it’s all my daughter’s fault.
I grew up as a 1980s geek, which means that I spent an inordinate amount of time day-dreaming about what I would do if I had access to a time-traveling DeLorean (I’m sure I’m not the only one). People love time travel stories because time travel makes life feel less “fixed” – The Time Machine, Doctor Who, Somewhere in Time, heck, even Dickens’ Christmas Carol counts.
The concept of traveling through time allows you to look at your life and say, “Hey, what if I didn’t have to move in a straight line?” Sure, there would be the initial “tourist” phase – “I’m going to have lunch with Genghis Khan!” – but, soon thereafter, the impulse for self-improvement would kick in and you’d find yourself saying, “I’m going to buy a winning lottery ticket…get a better job…go back and put some money on the Cubbies!”
And those little life-tweaks sound like fun. UNTIL, in my experience, you have children. And that’s when time travel gets scary.
About a year ago, I was drifting off to sleep, dreaming about going back in time and course-correcting old regrets from my past. And, while choosing to go to a different college, for example, probably would’ve meant that I wouldn’t have met my wife, my brain could compensate for that. My wonderful wife existed long before I met her in college and, down deep, I rationalized that I still would’ve “found her” out there in the universe. I had nothing to do with my wife’s creation. I benefited from it, for sure, but it wasn’t my responsibility.
Suddenly, my daughter flashed into my head. Uh-oh. I actually WAS responsible for her creation. So, if ANYTHING changed in my past, it could cascade forward, altering the tenuous mixture of variables that led to my daughter’s conception and…
… that’s when I had the panic attack.
Yep, Ebola doesn’t make me bat an eye, but thinking about TIME TRAVEL gave me a panic attack at 1 in the morning.
I am a ridiculous man.
But the idea truly terrified me as a parent. What if my daughter was conceived a year earlier? Five years earlier? Five minutes later? Would she still be the same person? If she’d been born in 2003 rather than 2006, maybe she wouldn’t love to read as much, or be as funny as she is. Heck, one sperm turns left instead of right and she could’ve been a boy.
And I don’t want a different child. I want MY DAUGHTER, the daughter that was created, in part, by every single thing in history that happened before her. That’s incredibly selfish, sure, but it made me realize that I don’t just want to protect my daughter from electrical outlets and water bottles with BPA – I also want to protect her existence within time and space.
Once I calmed down, I found myself with a forever-altered opinion of time travel.
Without my EXACT series of historical variables, there’s a decent chance that my daughter would not exist. Or if she did exist, she wouldn’t be precisely be that same little girl – Daughter Prime, Earth-1 Kid, whatever you want to call her – that I so desperately, desperately love. Fine, I probably would love those other versions too, but the idea of my here-and-now daughter never existing…it’s unthinkable.
So, every indignity, tragedy, and insult I have ever suffered HAS to remain a fixed point in time in order for Daughter Prime to exist. Wonderful. Lucky me. Isn’t it great to be a dad?
AND don’t even get me started about OTHER people time traveling. Because they might not have my ridiculously-specific sense of time travel scruples. They could haphazardly go back, make me miss meeting my wife, and…it’s MADDENING.