First of all, happy 18 months, Leda!
If you talk to Kelly about the time she's known me, she'll tell you I've changed. Mostly for the better, I hope. I'm not intending this to turn into one of those "reasons you should have kids" posts. Nothing so political today. Just life lessons. Having little people you helped create is a two-way street. Knowledge and education goes both directions.
I don't sweat the small stuff anymore. I let unimportant things go more easily. Peanut butter smeared on my pants in the old days would have necessitated a change of clothes. Today, I wipe it away and move on. (Though ask Kelly about my obsession with keeping certain toy parts together.)
On the other hand, I get more upset and more angry about the big stuff. The world we're leaving for our children for instance. Violence a world a way. The people are often unthinking, uncaring, uneducated about the world around them. Being a parent makes me both more compassionate and harder on people at the same time.
Having kids made me more firm in my decisions but also more flexible about my expectation in outcomes. I speak up for myself more. I take initiative in things that would have been too much for me to deal with or handle previously.
My kids have taught me to find joy in stupid, simple things. There is beauty in running around outside screaming. Kicking a ball. It's ok to laugh when something is silly. Too often, as adults we find the world too serious and take life too seriously. To toddlers, it's just one big game. Fun.
My kids have taught me to ask questions...why, what, who? Trying to explain the everyday world to a toddler means distilling information to the most basic parts. The essence of what a firefighter does. What is a dog? What is a screwdriver? To you those might be simple concepts, but to young child everything is new. The small act of hammering can become a metaphor for fixing anything. A wheel, a broken foot.
Books without pictures aren't boring even if you can't read. They have design and beauty and are interesting enough to merit pulling down off a shelf. And, yes, trains are cool. They are! Trucks are awesome. Don't be so jaded. "Stuff" is fascinating. The world. People. Why does that man have a hat on?
Having kids is the ultimate existentialist task. It makes us confront birth and death and odds and ends and abstract concepts and emotions running from love to anger. There's something epic, mythic, symbolic about children. They make us experience the heart of what it means to be human.
Frankly, I've learned more in the nearly 3 years of having Cole than I learned in 4 years of college. Being a parent is an education in everything from psychology to physics--how to get an 18 month old to eat vegetables, how to keep them out of the kitchen cabinets using only a rubber band.
Granted, being a parent isn't for everyone. But I highly recommend the experience if you're looking for a little self-improvement. It will either make you or break you.