This series really highlights just how strange it is to imagine my own dad at a young age. I mean, was he always like this… just younger? Or was he a totally different person who gradually evolved into dad-dome? Will I, too, morph into the classic dad figure? Maybe it’s already happened? And then there’s the scariest question: if 30-year-old Emma could meet 30-year-old Mitch, would she like him?
Okay. Enough hypotheticals. Let’s get down to the brass tacks of it all! Today’s questions center around fatherhood and personal views. This should be good! Here we go:
Are there things you wish you had done differently as a father?
This question was clearly designed for a guy with a few more fathering years under his belt, but I’ll give it a shot. To be honest, I’m surprised I can even talk about fatherhood in the past tense in the first place!
Kelly and I struggled to become pregnant, and now that Emma is in our lives, it’s far too easy to take her for granted. My biggest problem, though, is that life as a father is incredibly busy, and I worry that I’m not always “there,” even when I am there. (Do you know what I mean?) In my day-to-day, I sometimes struggle to look up from the work and enjoy myself. There is a good chance this might be my only shot at having a two-year-old to take care of, though. So I’m constantly reminding myself just how important it is to be present as often as I can. Of course, I need to pay the bills and provide support for her. But I also want to go to her tea parties.
What do you enjoy most about being a father?
I love that my little family is a team, and that none of us have any idea what we’re doing. I remember being a kid and thinking that adults were in charge, had the answers to everything, and were just sort of handling all the important stuff. It turns out that adults aren’t even a real thing and NO ONE IS HANDLING STUFF!
Weirdly, this realization gives me calm as I approach my role as a dad. There’s no perfect baby book or all-knowing parenting guru to give me advice. The truth is that no one truly knows what they’re doing, and that leaves me with my wife, my daughter and myself to figure out the challenges of each day and hopefully reserve some time to enjoy it all. I love the mayhem of parenting because I think it’s given me a focus that I missed in my previous life.
And then there’s the intense love I have for my daughter. It’s indescribable.
Do you think today’s fathers have things harder or easier than you had them?
Tough question as I’m answering it in reverse, but in general, I do think things have improved for fathers of my generation. Every playground I visit is full of dads, and I bet that wasn’t the case if we traveled back a few decades.
I bore Kelly with this argument all the time, but I think that popular culture does the dad a disservice. I’d like to see more dedicated TV dads with characters like Jack and Randall Pearson instead of buffoons like Homer Simpson or Phil Dunphy. I’d even settle for more Danny Tanner if I could get it.
Overall, I think the dad is treated as an important part of the family unit, instead of just a guy who goes off to work every day. And that’s a good thing!
What traditions did your father pass on to you that you passed on to your children?
Luckily, I grew up with the perfect father role model. My dad did everything right all while working multiple jobs and raising three (!) boys. He took the whole family on his back, and continues in this role as a grandpa.
I try to model my fatherhood moves after my dad as much as possible. I sing his wakeup song to the tune of Reveille every morning (“It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the morning!”) and at bedtime, we say goodnight to all the members of our extended family. I make huge family breakfasts whenever possible, and even include a surprise pancake when the opportunity arises. The best tradition he passed down to me is that nothing is as important as playtime with kids, and no-one escapes the tickle monster.
Growing up, I just assumed this was how all dads operated, and now that I’m doing it myself, I’m in absolute awe of the skill and energy he devoted to our family over the years. Thanks, Dad. You made my childhood awesome.
What was one of the hardest moments you had being a father and why was it hard?
The hardest moment I’ve faced so far came on the second day of Emma’s life. For the uninitiated, a baby’s first days are busy with doctors, nurses and technicians checking in on her and performing tests every 15 minutes. The visits and tests came so fast that we could barely keep up ’em straight.
That is until the hearing screening test. I don’t know why, but Emma’s hearing test brought the full weight of parenting anxieties down upon me. The test involves a recording of clicks and beeps and a few sensors to record Emma’s response. Unlike the rest of the tests, the hearing screening was done right in front of us, and the results are displayed in real time. And Emma failed it. My beautiful newborn daughter couldn’t hear out of her left ear.
I fell apart. I was completely helpless. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure the left ear is important. The technician was completely unprepared for the barrage of questions I levied upon her, though she assured us that failing is quite common within the first few days, and it was likely she just had fluid in her ears. The test was rescheduled for the next day, but the resulting 24 hours were excruciating. I spent most of them pacing around the hallways of the hospital worried sick.
As you might expect, Emma passed the test the second time around and her hearing is fine. But the experience is singular in my memory as a reminder of just how helpless I can be as a parent. No matter how hard I try, parts of Emma’s life will always be out of my control, and it’s terrifying.
What are the three happiest moments in your life so far?
In sequential order the happiest moments in my life are as follows:
1: When Kelly said yes.
2: When I found out we were pregnant.
3: When I met Emma for the first time.
Is there something that you wish you had experienced that you haven’t yet experienced?
I’m not sure if it’s an “experience,” but a goal of mine is to fluently play the guitar. I have little progress on this goal since first making it, but I figure if I say it enough on this blog, I’ll eventually get the job done.
True story: Last week, Kelly told a lovely homeless man around the corner that I wanted to be a guitar player, and he promised to give me lessons. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. Looking forward to jamming with Roosevelt.
What world events have had the most impact on you?
I can’t lie: I was sheltered from a lot of world events over the years. For example, I was in Central Illinois on 9/11, and while I spent most of my adult life in New York, I didn’t lose anyone close to me that day. Also, I was in New York in 2008, and watched as the big banks closed their doors. But first year public school teachers weren’t hit as hard as other professionals were. I lived in Hoboken during Hurricane Sandy, but our apartment was on top of a hill and we didn’t even lose power.
My dad recently shared with me his fear that one of his sons would be asked to go to war, and it only recently dawned on me how rare it is for the draft to skip over a couple generations. And as a new father, I can only hope and pray that they same privilege will be extended to Emma and her peers.
How would you like to be remembered?
Why would I care how I’m remembered? Being remembered seems like a waste of time. I could waste my whole life pursuing the development of some kind of legacy that would in no way positively impact my life or my friends’ and families’ lives in the slightest. Being remembered seems a little selfish to be honest. I’ll be dead, so…
All I can ask for is to be lucky enough to continue working hard to raise my daughter well, provide for my family, make sure that everyone is loved and protected, and have a really great time doing it.
And love you, Emma.
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