We had a blast just jumping in feet first to the newest blog here at Babble, and although we’re still working out some kinks (bigger, more recognizable home page links anyone?), it seemed like a good idea to back track and introduce myself. I actually used to work at Babble a long, long time ago (something like 4 eons ago in Internet years), so I’m glad to be back and will be doing what I can to help build on what I think is a simple idea but one that apparently bears repeating: dads are, in fact, parents.
I’ve been blogging at my personal site, Cry It Out!, for so many years I can’t even remember now. I also work at the San Francisco Chronicle’s parenting blog, The Poop — led by who I think is probably the Internet’s best writer, Peter Hartlaub — and I write occasionally stories for Jezebel.com, NPR, the New York Times and basically any place that will have me. (Disney? Wide-eyed childhood dream come true.)
But my most important role is that of a dad.
I live in San Francisco with my wife and daughter, and I have been a stay-at-home dad since the kid was just a few months old. I wouldn’t trade the time we’ve had together for anything, and now that she’s in kindergarten, I feel a touch of melancholy every now and then because the girl I used to be able to spend so much time with is now at school most of the time. But you know, she’s happy and growing and making friends and learning just crazy amounts of crap, so I’m also overjoyed to see her develop into this amazing being. Plus, I have a lot of time to bake, and sew and write and clean the house and build stuff and train for my first-ever triathlon and volunteer in class as a room parent — sweet lord man, there are days I feel a lot busier than I ever was when my daughter was younger and needed a lot more attention. This parenting ride, it’s a surprise at every turn.
And that is a perspective I hope to bring to Dadding. When the kid was younger, infant, say, my wife and I thought we had it all figured out. Like any parent, whatever we chose to do — with sleeping, diapers, feeding, nap schedules, whatever — was the way it was supposed to be done. But the years stretch on, the kid gets older, and some things you used to firmly believe in just sort of don’t make much sense any more. I used to be a crazy anti-TV zealot, for instance, but now I know the pure joy or cuddling up with my daughter and a cup of hot chocolate (probably not organic) to watch the Lion King or Dirty Jobs or whatever animal documentary happens to be on. I remember with fondness all the simple times my mom would take me to McDonald’s and we’d share burgers and fries, but at some point along the way, I held on to the idea that my daughter’s tender innards would never be befouled by the likes of such grease and multi-national transfattiness. Now, of course, we love to go for burgers and shakes at the best neighborhood joint in our city.
I like to think a lot of parenting rules go out of the window for two reasons: one, you have a second child, or two, your kid turns five. I’m much more relaxed as a parent now that I’m out of that “I don’t want to mess her up! I want to choose the right way, all the time” phase that comes with infanthood and yuppiness. Now I feel more and more at peace with the idea that you can’t be perfect, or raise a perfect kid — or even really try without turning the home into a joyless swamp of hyper-educated freakishness — and more at one with that Larkin poem:
“They F*&K you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had.
And add some extra just for you.”
It’s almost freeing to realize you’re going to mess up, no matter what you do, and that you should concentrate on doing what you can to raise a happy, loved kid, knowing that all the rest will come with it. (My favorite parenting books are those by Wendy Mogel.)
That’s not to say I don’t still get bent out of shape about a lot of things, and I still have strong opinions about many subjects . You’ll notice a pro-girl slant from me in practically every story, because I want to raise a girl — and see a generation of girls like her — who believe they can do anything, who believe that just about any option is available to them. Society doesn’t always think so.
You’ve probably noticed over the past week or so a lot of screeds and essays on what it means to be an involved father, or what it means that dad bloggers are now suddenly noticed (weird, considering some of the Internet’s most popular blogs have been written by dads for years). These arguments always make me feel like Cordelia, in a way: I don’t need to say that I’m involved or that dads have an important role and are working at it more than ever; I feel like I have shown it by doing and that I, and many dads like me, will continue to show it by being an involved parent, by simply doing the day-to-day job of being there, of being a dad. I hope you’ll join us.
— Mike at Cry It Out!