Friends, family, fellow parents, I am taking the plunge. I have made the decision to share my misadventures as a dad, in all their glorious, humbling Technicolor, in this blog.
Though this is the first regular blog I have undertaken – and boy am I honored to do it in this resplendent company – my wife Alisa and I have a history of oversharing about parenting. We launched Babble five years ago with a brazen, youthful mission statement about how parenting is changing, accompanied by a video that now looks comically dated (why exactly was it that we thought one kid was such a challenge?). I have maintained an erratic blog called Moments in Succession where I have talked about things like my son’s Star Wars underwear, the dawn of the fake smile, optimal loneliness, and other things whimsical and personal. Then last December Alisa and I gave a talk at the TED Women conference in DC, which provoked a good deal of both harumphs and hallejujahs. Some said it was therapeutic and refreshing, other that it was self-indulgent, whiny, and exploitative of our children.
The naysayers were not wrong – there was an element of complaining in our talk. And oversharing, with complete disregard for the future opinions of our offspring. I would like to say that our children’s privacy was sacrificed at the Altar of Inadequately Acknowledged Universal Human Challenges, for the greater good of shellshocked new parents trying not to mortgage their dreams, but that may be too generous. Irrespective, one thing is clear — I am headed for the same kind of trouble in this blog.
I have opinions, despite myself, one of which is that we in this fine nation are too exclusively obsessed with children. I am not saying we love them too much or spend too much quality time with them – quite the contrary – but rather that we invest too much of our identities in our children. It is all too easy to take one’s disappointments with life, reframe them as sacrifices for children, and then become judgmental of others who do not surrender all for their kids. But what child wants to be that for which their parents sacrificed their dreams? I like to think, on the contrary, that one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is the gift of happy parents, parents who are modeling an adult life that the aforementioned kids might want to grow into.
Of course this is easier said than done — dreams are not easy to shepard through mid-life, with or without children. There are only so
many available slots for ballerinas, astronauts, and bed and breakfast proprietors. But hellfire, call me naïve or earnest or whatever you like, I still have a belief nestled in the back of my skull, like a stubborn child with his chin on his knees in the closet, that I can actually live the life in my head. I want to learn to play the piano, write books, start new businesses, travel, maybe get into politics, do more to make the world better at some point. And yet I am already stretched gossamer-thin doing what I do now — trying mightily to build a great business while being a loving father, fully present for my boys, engaged, patient (I struggle with the patient part). All this while living in the city I love — New York, which doesn’t make the above any easier – growing friendships, participating in culture, and trying to update a blog.
It’s an impossible decade, really, one’s forties. Everything is happening all at once. Children are growing in a time-lapse-photography blur, careers are building towards crescendo. There seems an urgency, an immeasurable scarcity value, to every single minute that can be invested on either side of the ledger. Oversteering in either direction – and where is the line anyway? – feels like a high stakes mistake. So this blog will be, in part, my account of trying to juggle all this without moving so fast that I fail to be present for it.
The blog itself, I like to think, is part of the solution. I have found over the years that taking photos makes me look more closely, and writing
makes me a little bit more observant. And I need the record, frankly – I have learned in recent years that my memory is a wide-bore sieve that retains only events momentous or peculiar, which gradually get morphed through retelling into caricatures of themselves if I don’t commit them to paper. Or screen.
Recently Declan, our six-year-old eldest son, said to me, “Daddy, do you know what I think dreams are? Dreams are when you think while you are sleeping, and you can see what you think.” When I hear something like this, I think I will never forget it, and then a couple weeks later, I do. There is nothing like having a second kid to cause you to realize how much you forget – that and hearing your parents swear on the holy bible that when you were a baby you slept through the night at 3 weeks and never cried.
Twenty years from now, I don’t want my kids lives distilled into a trailer, tightly spliced with laugh lines. I want the five hour director’s cut. I want this for myself and I want this for my boys – I want them to know who they are, who they were, how they evolved, what mattered to them. I want them to know the good and the bad – what came naturally to me and to them in the father-son dance of their early lives, and what we struggled with. I don’t want the Christmas Card version of family memories, I want the full story.
And if I am to be fully honest, I will admit that in the back of my mind I like the idea that in a lousy scenario, if I fail to live to 90 or 100 – despite the kale I ate and motorcycles I didn’t ride (recently, anyway) — my children will know something about their father, and a little more about themselves. So here it comes. I am pleased to introduce you to Declan, 6, Grey, 3, Rye, 1, and my extraordinary wife, Alisa. Here goes nothing