Posts Tagged ‘fathering’


November 30, 2011

“It’s a very simple machine.  I feel very connected to what’s going on.”

Will says this as we’re riding together on a crystalline Sunday as the clock arcs to noon and then crests it as we race like mad on the straightaway home.

Fixed gear bikes, or “fixies” are really a throwback to the first bikes—your feet do not coast but must continually turn as the gears do.  You can also pedal backward—and go backward (if you are skilled enough to not simply crash), and in this way a fixie echoes the very concept of time, at least as cutting edge scientists are now suggesting—as likely to work in reverse as forward… ultimately existing only as a way by which we experience ourselves, but in no ultimate sense real, fixed, sequential or causal:  it’s just one big eternal now, even if that blows us out of the matrix of our socially and neurologically constructed “reality.”

But I’m not here to hate on time.  Bob Dylan suggests that time is a jet plane, and it moves too fast.  Sometimes in parenting this is true, but sometimes time’s a slug and it moves too slow.  Maybe time’s a fixie and goes either way, or maybe a fixie’s just a fixie and a nice bike ride is an eternal pleasure, at least on a stunning fall day as golden red leaves tumble whimsically out of blue and branch.

Thus as we strive beyond ill-timed notions of immortality altogether and trade up toward an eternal to be found perpetually, in all directions, in all situations, in all beings and non-beings—again and again our children, the present moment and love, in all its manifestations, prove to be timelessly pulsing teachers of what it’s all about.



Princeton Re-View: Fiddler in the Rye

February 16, 2011

This is the story of my fail of a Princeton interview, and a small, but redemptive, synchronistic twist of fate that occurred thirty-three years later.  I tell it in the spirit of calming fears, in this case the fear of rejection; for when it comes to the lizard brain, rejection, loss, abandonment, annihilation, dread and death all cluster together.

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), when we are in lizard mode, things do not go well for one-to-one love, nor do they pulse well for the social network.  And when it comes to parenting, whether it is about getting our child into the “right school,” or just getting them into the car when they are in one of those moods, calming ourselves by being mindful that we are already accepted to the school of life—the school we’re all in together—may help us calm our children and support them to shine, not just for the benefit of themselves, but for the collective good of all of us.

This particular story came back into my mind recently when I was dining with friends and got to chatting with a visiting step-mom, now a fellow psychologist, who turned out to have been in charge of admissions at Princeton for a good number of years—years including 1978 (a time when I had, more or less, fashioned myself after Sartre, Camus and Starsky—not Nick from The Great Gatsby).

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Triumph of the Will… to watch horror films

June 23, 2010

Welcome to Privilege of Parenting’s blog on the first of weekly rather than daily blogs in the service of both sanity and our collective children.

To kick things off for this solar year, I could not be more thrilled than to introduce a guest blog from my thirteen-year-old son, Will (who besides being my kid, is also one of my absolutely most favorite people on the planet).

As a matter of full disclosure, this guest blog came about when Will was asking for ways he might earn a little money this summer.  Besides washing the windows, I suggested that I would pay for a guest blog ($5.00); he answers my challenge today (and thus today he’s doing better than most of us in the cash for words department).

Readers of PoP may be aware that I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to horror films, yet this past year I have watched more than one or two with Will, and so his blog arises from, and weaves back into, the very fabric of our relationship (which mostly just distills down to how much love we love each other).


Why I like horror movies

I am a true horror movie fan. I have loved this type of movie for about 2 years now and before I liked it I had the same question as a lot of people. “How could anybody like horror movies?” Well in this blog I am going to do my best to answer that.

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Paterfamilias’ Progress

June 20, 2010

Happy Father’s Day.

There were two guys playing golf and a terrible lightning storm came up and the first friend was ready to run for cover when the second friend walked up to his ball, lightning hitting all around them, and prepared to hit his next shot.  His terrified friend shouted, “What are you doing—you’re going to get killed!”  To which the more intrepid golfer of the two calmly replied, “Don’t worry, I’m using my two iron—even God can’t hit a two iron.”

As to whether God can or cannot hit a two iron… it’s just a joke.  But we can now be sure that “God” (or at least random lighting) can, and did, hit a six-story high “touchdown Jesus.” This Father’s Day I miss my father-in-law, Arthur, who in the end of life had Judaism to win and Catholicism to place in the horse race of religion, but I am not privy to that particular betting window and so I do not know if any of his bets paid off.

Meanwhile, a reader comment on that Touchdown Jesus breaking news item caught my eye; peppered between smug quotes from Exodus about not making graven images and counter-comments about the folly of religion was, “If lightning hits a statue of Zeus is it different?  Discuss.”

On this the week of Father’s Day, that comment got me thinking of the archetypal Father and His evolution.  Whether it’s Zeus hurling lightning bolts or Moses going ballistic and smashing the tablets, I wonder how many men suffer under the yoke of internalized paternalism.  In other words, how many hotheaded guys end up acting like dicks mostly because that’s what they’ve been taught—that this is the way that real men, particularly Fathers, behave?

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Eye on the real prize

June 9, 2010

Okay, I just love Derek Fisher.  One of the Lakers’ most senior players, he is my favorite not just because he’s great, but because he plays (and lives) with so much heart, so much love—and you can just see it and feel it.

Wherever the series goes (and obviously I hope it goes to the Lakers), playing away in Boston is a tough place to win a game on the road.  Kobe may be the “star,” but he was cold last night and Fisher won that game for his team.

In the post-game interview, standing on the court, Fisher had tears in his eyes as he expressed how much he loves his team and helping his team win.  We all have our heroes, but I can’t relate to Kobe in his often super-human skills and somewhat remote emotional presence; however, Fisher is a person I can look to and say, “I want to be more like him.”

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Dr. Livingston in my living room, I presume

May 24, 2010

An article in Sunday’s New York Times, “Families’ Every Fuss Archived and Analyzed,” looked at comprehensive research being done on middle class American (Angeleno, to be precise) families.  After hours of tape (in the school of the 1970’s PBS documentary on the Loud family more than the lurid sensationalism of “reality” TV) where families were meticulously filmed and documented for a solid week, researchers are now sharing some initial observations and drawing some preliminary conclusions.

Although I find nobility, sincerity and great humanity in this research and this article, as parents I can hardly imagine anything striking any other parent as “news.”  The study was all about dual earner families with children, and, surprise, moms do more of the domestic work.  Still, dads spend significant time with children, but spouses are together and awake less than ten percent of the time.  Moms experience stress levels drop if their partners take an interest in their day.  Dads decompress more slowly.

The big takeaway:  Overall—parenting is quite stressful.  Stop the presses!

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They say it’s your birthday

May 22, 2010

We all love our kids and I am no exception.  While I can hardly believe that my son, Nate, turns sixteen today, I struggle about just the right sort of blog post to honor this event.

I’m quite sure that Nate would not much care for a public trip down memory lane.  I can hardly count the number of times this year when we’ve been having some sort of dust-up over video games, or sibling conflict and he’s angrily said, “You’re not going to write about this in your blog are you?”

My own mom called to wish Nate a happy birthday yesterday, but he was still hurt over some highly impaired grand-parenting behavior during their last trip out.  He wasn’t the nicest to her and she knew he was still angry, but then Andy, Nate and I talked it over and he decided to call back and have a real conversation with his Buby.  I felt so proud that he could express his hurt, stick to his guns, clear things up and then honestly tell her that he does not carry any more resentment now and really loves her.  And he’s sixteen.

During that conversation I overheard him say to his somewhat difficult Buby, explaining his side of things, “I’m sixteen now.  I know a little bit about what goes on in the world.”  He also said in defense of something she was asserting, “I talk to my dad about stuff and he talks to me.”  Even if Nate and I skirmish now and then, it moved me to hear him valuing and defending our relationship.  To sit beside my son as the sun set on his fifteenth year and overhear half a conversation in which we worked stuff out with my mother was one of those small things that looms fantastical all the same.

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That time when my dad was wrong

May 15, 2010

I’m eleven years old and I am in flight, having just launched off the upper level of the Allstate parking lot—sailing with handlebars raised to a setting sun.

This is the perfect wheelie jump, dropping a couple of feet over a four-foot wide strip of round stones to the lower level of the Allstate parking lot.  And I am in the middle of my greatest wheelie ever, astride my greatest bike ever:  a green five-speed sting-ray with a banana seat, the apotheosis of noble steeds of biking steel circa nineteen-seventy-one.

No doubt my Herculean effort is because my father is watching, Zeuss-like on his blue Schwin—not quite paused to watch, but circling near the landing zone with a vague promise of attention.   With my little brother watching as well, it’s only me and the sky and a faint possibility of the moon.

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Running away… at four

April 13, 2010

“This is my house and if you don’t like the rules you can leave!” my dad said tersely through clenched teeth, as if he were in a board meeting with some rivalrous upstart challenging his supreme authority.  I was four.

But from the start I always had some sort of fire in my gut; maybe it was pride, maybe it was a touch of x-ray vision for other people’s B.S., or some father-transmitted issue with authority figures already coming back to bite my dad in the rear, some perhaps a touch of Cool Hand Luke go-ahead-and-hit-me, but I will get back up streak of oppositionality, but I calmly took my preschool lunch pail off the kitchen counter and walked to the big front door.  I slammed it hard and loud on the way out, and stepped free into the brilliance of a fine late spring morning.

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Problems with no name

April 3, 2010

I must admit that I balked at reading Jonathan Rauch’s article in The Atlantic, “Letting Go of My Father” because I knew it would cut close to the bone… and it did.

It’s well worth reading, but his central point is that caring for his aging father pushed Rauch to the breaking point… of actually talking about what he was going through.  This led him to “discover” that millions of middle-aged people struggle with this huge issue, suffering much of the time in silence.

Rauch likens this social problem to that of “housewives” in the 60’s who’s problem of endemic loneliness and boredom were dubbed “the problem that has no name,” by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique back in 1963.

While this problem may have no name, for me it has an image:  after my father’s last disastrous visit, one punctuated by falls, scares and the realization of serious deterioration in his ability to care for himself, I got back from taking he and my mom to the airport to hear that Agnes, our boxer-bulldog, had come trotting out of the bathroom with a full Depends in her teeth.  As I worked to clean the leavings of my father from the floor and the wastebasket, I felt that this problem with no name did at least have a fairly vivid visual.

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