Category Archives: Fatherhood

In Retrospect

Over at Letters of Note is a great letter written in 1974 by an WWII veteran and pilot on his deathbed to his grandson:

But, in spite of what I've said, there is much, in life to enjoy – to relish. There is also much that can be done to make life worth while and living worth the "candle." There is a rich heritage of literature and music that awaits your investigation – it's there for the taking – in the libraries of the country and in the archives of the museums. There is poetry and prose – enough to fill all the hours you can spare to listen to them and more knowledge, on every conceivable subject, than you can assimilate in a lifetime. It's all there just waiting for you to ask for it or to seek it out. Don't overlook it or pass it up for less important or less meaningful pastimes.

Most important of all is ability to savor life, to taste of it in as many variances as you can – while you can. Life never looks so short as when you look back on it. Unfortunately you cannot do this until it has passed you by. So, as you go through life, don't overlook the "Lily in the Field," the newborn puppy, the fledgling bird – for they are as much (or more) of life as the tall buildings, the shiny automobiles and the possessions we tend to place so much importance upon. If you can do just this much – life will be more meaningful for you…

And my favorite paragraph, one that I would echo for my own children:

If I could package (with ribbon) those gifts that I would most like to give you, I would. But how do you package integrity, how do you wrap honesty, what kind of paper for a sense of humor, what ribbon for inquisitiveness?

Does the World Need a Dadzine?

Ever noticed the seemingly endless – and often mind-numbing – number of magazines dedicated to mothers? Well, there's a new entry into the relatively unexplored "dad-zine" field:

Kindling Quarterly is an exploration of fatherhood. Through essays, interviews, editorials, art, and photography we highlight creatie individuals whose work and lives are inseparable from their role as a parent. There is no shortage of familiar portrayals of dads in media yet we aim to present a thoughtful dialogue about fatherhood that is missing from our cultural landscape. Men who are active caregivers are not a novelty and we do not depict them as such. While the subjects of our stories are fathers, each issue appeals to anyone interested in art, creativity, and community. Kindling Quarterly playfully assesses and celebrates a multitude of experiences that form contemporary fatherhood.

It's a mistake to judge a magazine by its cover before you even see the cover, but this sounds like it will appeal to roughly .5% of the fathers in America. Another mistake is to engage in gross generalizations, but what's life if nothing but a series of mistakes interrupted by occassional success? So here are some general descriptions of dads that would argue against the vast majority having any interest in a magazine focused on "art, creativity and community":

  • Approximately 99% of dads don't read anything they aren't paid to read. In other words most of them feel that reading is something only a fool would do outside of work requirements.
  • There's a reason those portrayals of dads in the media are so familiar – they're largely accurate and approximately 99% of dads will gladly own up to that fact.
  • If "art" does not include scantily clad women of some variety then 99% of dads would agree it's not really art. (Anyone familiar with what happens to men when their personal lives are assaulted by fatherhood would surely understand this phenomenon).
  • Most dads love their kids, but the last thing they want to do is think about what it means to be a dad. Their wives (or baby-mamas) force them to engage in those "meaning of fatherhood and marriage" discussions ad nauseum so why would they spend their precious free time reading about it?

Hopefully the folks at Kindling will find enough dads who don't fit the mold described above to make their venture a success, but based on the description above there's reason to be concerned for its viability. It appears they're aiming for an elite crowd, which of course precludes this dad from being a suitable target, so perhaps these points are moot. Hopefully so and here's hoping that the folks at Kindling enjoy great success.

The Importance of Copy Editors

Copy editors are important. Don't believe it? The folks at Groupon and Mitt Romney's campaign would probably disagree with you right about now.

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Groupon's daily email today featured the subject line, "Father's Day deals for the man who gave birth to you" and linked to a page with the header, "Celebrate the Man Who Gave Birth to You." Your mother would likely be shocked to learn that your father gave birth to you. She'd also likely wonder what caused her so much pain those many years ago. Sure these headlines are better than "Celebrate your sperm donor" but they're still woefully inaccurate.

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Then there's the Romney campaign's photo application that lets you take pictures of various things and then overlay a pro-Romney message on them. One problem: the message that was supposed to read "A Better America" instead reads "A Better Amercia." Granted it's not really a scandalous development for the campaign, but when you're fronting the party that's become known for being led by anti-intellectuals (Sarah Palin anyone) it's not the kind of message you want to send.

There are plenty of good copy editors out there, and given what's happened to the publishing industry of late they probably come pretty cheap. Maybe Groupon and Romney's communication team should look them up. 

Side note: If you read more than one sentence of the thousands written for this blog it will become painfully obvious that this is a highly ironic post. A copy editor's "red pen" has never graced these pages and it shows.

Holy Crap, Erin’s 15!

A year ago today I was on a business trip to Germany and really not happy about it.  That's because October 23 is our daughter Erin's birthday and for the first time in any of my kids' lives I wasn't going to be there to help celebrate their big day.  As I wrote last year, I had to put food on the table but I didn't have to be happy about it. And since I've written the last few years about how much she's grown up and how she's not my little girl any more I figured this year I'd just highlight where we are at this point in time.

First, let's talk about friends.  Erin has about 5,000 of them and all of them text her every 15 seconds.  Amazingly, her 1 1/4 year old phone still works although I don't think it can take much more punishment.  And honestly the engineers of that thing should win some sort of prize. I figure each of the keys has to have been pressed over 50,000 times at this point and the fact that not one has gone dead is an engineering achievement that rivals the Great Pyramids.

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This morning two of those friends, Jesse and Sarah, showed up at our house about 15 minutes before the school bus was due to arrive.  They were carrying happy birthday signs (Erin's holding one in the picture to the left) and generally made her feel like a million bucks.  They even coordinated with Erin's brother Michael to make sure that she rode the bus and didn't hitch a ride with us and miss all the fun.

Next, let's talk about boys.  Actually in our house it seems like we never stop talking about boys.  Boys, boys, boys.  I guess it's just a sign that she's a healthy and happy 15 year old that Erin finds any boy with a pulse to be "cute."  Recently she's decided to classify one of those boys as a boyfriend and I know this because she changed her profile on Facebook to "In a relationship."  Note to Erin's grandparents: that's how things are done these days.  We don't tell each other anything, we just write about it online for 1,000,000 other people to see and then wait for our family members to hear it through the grapevine.  I asked Erin about it and she blushed and said she wasn't sure Celeste and I would approve so that's why she didn't tell us.  I guess she forgot that I can read and I also have a Facebook account and would eventually find out anyway. 

Ah, well.  I told her that she was right that we wouldn't approve, but that it had nothing to do with the boy himself.  She could be dating the crown prince of England and I wouldn't approve since in my eyes all boys are equally vile and despicable.  Heck I was a boy at one time (Celeste says I still am) and I've told Erin repeatedly that there's not a teenage boy alive that she can trust.  I'm at that point in life where I wish a man could take a stick to any boy that looked cross-eyed at his daughter and he would be met with understanding nods of approval.  But, since we live in a civilized society I'll just have to satisfy myself with treating the little weasels like dog poop on the bottom of my shoe. 

Obviously I'm treading ground that's been well traveled by a gazillion fathers before me, and honestly I have no room to complain. The girl brings home straight A's, excels at everything she tries, and only drives us crazy four times a day.  She also happens to be beautiful, have the world's greatest smile, a laugh that could stop traffic and an uncanny ability to attract people to her like moths to a flame.

Of course I can't end before I tell you that one of our greatest joys is that she's not outgrown her propensity for Erin-isms.  Since she was a child Erin's had the uncanny ability to mutilate words in an often hysterical fashion.  When she was in elementary school she saw a Mitsubishi and called it "mister bushy."  A couple of years ago we were passing a fast food restaurant that had an "Open Late" sign and she blurted out, "Look they have open lattes."  Last year when we asked what some of the activities were scheduled on her class trip to the coast she said they were going to go "wadding." When we gave her a confused look she said, "You know, when you walk in the water but don't swim."  The best part about the Erin-isms is the fact that she just laughs them off.  It's an amazing part of her personality that she just accepts them, and honestly it's one of the most endearing attributes of a truly incredible young lady.

Happy birthday honey.  Tell Will I'm watching.

He’s 16. Lewisville Drivers Beware

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Today our oldest, Michael, turns 16.  This birthday is a mind blower because in our society 16 is a big year, what with getting a drivers license and all that.  It’s also a mind blower because I think Michael has changed more in the past year than in any other year.  First off, he’s grown at least 6 inches.  Second, he’s really matured into a young man.  He does more without being asked, he takes responsibility for his own actions and he treats others with respect…well at least as much as any 16 year old I’ve seen.

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Michael started 10th grade a couple of weeks ago and since each passing year seems to go by faster than the last it is occurring to me and Celeste that in the blink of an eye we’re going to be getting ready for sending him to college.  I’ve joked for years that I’m looking forward to the day when the house will be quiet and Celeste and I will be left to our own devices.  Of course that’s horse crap.  I dread it and seeing what kind of young man Michael is becoming is causing me to dread it even more.

I’m truly enjoying our conversations, the stunning number of things he knows that I’ve never learned mixed with the sweet naivete that only the young can possess is truly a joy to behold.  Believe me, when your kid can explain DNA extraction in one breath and then express shock that people cheat on taxes in the next you’ve entered the realm of truly enjoyable co-habitation with your offspring.  Of course he’s not perfect, but neither are we so I think we’ve found a nice balance.

Thankfully for the drivers of Lewisville, NC the great state of North Carolina has a graduated license program so Michael won’t be unleashed on the roads without limitation for another year or so.  Until then rest assured that he will be closely monitored, but after that don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Happy birthday big guy.  Hope you enjoy the little somethin’-somethin’ we got you for the big day.

Oh the Inanity

Anyone who has or has had teenagers will learn nothing from this post.  Those of my friends who have little ones who are yet to reach teenager status, take this as a warning.  Here goes: teenagers, or at least teenagers in the middle school age range of 13-15, are as vacuous and disturbingly dense as any being on the face of the planet.  While they never, and I mean never, are at a loss for words they rarely if ever actually SAY anything.  They open their mouths and spew a series of random words that will sometimes form incomplete sentences with the word "like" interspersed between every third word, but they never, ever actually form a verbal paragraph much less a coherent story line. 

When young teenagers speak all parental ears can hear is "blah, blah, blah" until those fateful words "Can I have…" or "I want…" appear and then the parents know to prepare for the inevitable tantrum when their blathering progeny don’t get what they want.  Of course that’s when the kids attempt to put together a cogent argument in support of getting whatever they desire, but because the part of their brain devoted to logic has atrophied due to extended non-use they manage only to put together rambling soliloquies that cause their parents to wonder if perhaps their children are more than a little touched in the head.

I’m told this is a phase that will soon pass only to be replaced by a far more odious phase.  Older and wiser parents have informed me that while young teenagers are infuriatingly inane, they are relatively harmless.  In military terms they are fighting with broomsticks, while apparently in high school they pick up live ammo.  I believe it because it’s dawning on me that these same kids that can talk for hours about some poor girl at school with that hair will be driving in less than two years.  Armed indeed, God help us.