Monday, March 30, 2009

Being Involved

After a few weeks of hiatus, including time invested in my artistic pursuits (audition, rehearsal and performance), I'm back to my plan to offer a few more modest nuggets related to fatherhood. This one is fairly short and sweet.

Two points only on this topic. First, make active involvement in your kid's life one of your top priorities. Second, give it your best shot, even if you don't feel confident.

By active involvement, I mean taking your son or daughter to the playground regularly; playing with them on the living-room floor; colouring pictures with them; watching a bug crawl across the lawn; floating pine-cones in the little streams running down the gutters and lanes from the melting snow. As they get older, this might include coaching their soccer or hockey team, attending their school concerts, dance or piano recitals and school band performances.

I have spent many hours standing in the cold/wind/blistering heat watching my kids playing soccer, or getting a numb butt sitting in the bleachers at a gymnastics competition or sweating my ass off on the plastic chairs in a school gym, waiting for my kid's junior high band to play. It's all part of the subtle rewards of fatherhood. And it isn't always easy to do. My only advice for those times when you have the option to go or not to go - make the choice to go. It pays dividends in the quality of your relationship with your children, sometimes not visible until years later.

Kids have long memories and astute powers of observation. Their bullshit detectors are acute and they will almost certainly see through any lame excuses you make for not going. And there are few things worse than deadbeat dads who promise to show up and don't make it. I'm pretty sure that's worse than being honest about not being able to go. I defer in this matter to those who have learned this lesson the hard way. I went to almost all of my kids' performances and spent many long hours at soccer games - and have no regrets. But you sure have to put some of your own desires on the back-burner while your kids are growing up.

Bottom line - you may not always enjoy what you're doing at the time, but your kid will remember if you went willingly or reluctantly. As in all aspects of being the dad you want to be, you are modeling what your child will learn about dads.

For me, most of the time it was fun, often because of the little rewards of appreciation from my sons. If you're going to bring a child into the world, you might as well enjoy those parts of the responsibility that come from seeing your child having fun, practising a skill, or mastering a challenge. It's all worth it in the end.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Music: Its Value and Purpose

This gem arrived in my email today and I thought it might be worth sharing via my blog. While it is not part of my planned sequence of posts on being a parent, it has clear implications for those of us in a position to make choices for our young children or to help older, even adult children follow their passions. I hope you like it.

Welcome address to the parents of freshmen at Boston Conservatory.

Given by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of music division, Boston Conservatory.

"One of my parents' deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn't be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother's remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school - she said, "you're WASTING your SAT scores." On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren't really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the "arts and entertainment" section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it's the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind . It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture-why would anyone bother with music? And yet-from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn't just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare ne,,cessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, "I am alive, and my life has meaning."

On September 12, 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn't this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day.

At least in my neighborhood, we didn't shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn't play cards to pass the time, we didn't watch TV, we didn't shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang "We Shall Overcome". Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of "arts and entertainment" as the newspaper section would have us believe. It's not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can't with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber's heartwrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don't know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn't know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what's really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings-people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there's some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn't good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can't talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn't happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

I'll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland's Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland's, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier-even in his 70's, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn't the first time I've heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: "During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team's planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn't understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?"

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year's freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

"If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you'd take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you're going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You're not here to become an entertainer, and you don't have to sell yourself. The truth is you don't have anything to sell; being a musician isn't about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I'm not an entertainer; I'm a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You're here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don't expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that's what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kids Are Not Possessions

When my first son was born, I had a sudden awareness - right in the delivery room - that I did not own my child. I had a very clear sense that he was autonomous and that the only difference between him and me was experience. That insight has shaped every significant decision I have made as a parent. I believe that is one of the reasons why my kids have developed into the fine young men they have become over the last 18-20 years.

My one line of wisdom on this is simple - be a guide, coach and mentor rather than owner, controller, director. I realize this may seem glib, but I know it can be very difficult to do. The natural inclination for most of us is to model behaviours we learned from our own fathers and influential adults in our lives. For me that consisted of being told to shut up and do as I was told. I heard the repeated message that children were to be seen and not heard. I experienced the oppression of being a younger (and physically weaker) sibling who saw himself as having little or no ability to make himself heard or understood by his father or older brother. That may not have been the observed reality for others looking in on my life, but it was certainly my own perception. It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that I realized I responded better to kindness than criticism. I needed to be handled with politeness and respect, but didn't know how to ask for it.

As a parent, I repeatedly told myself that life was going to be different (i.e. better) for my kids. They would not live in fear of physical punishment or the psychological threat of such punishment. They needed to be left alone to explore their own world, in safety of course, but at their own speed. They learned how to figure stuff out in their own way, even as very young children. I tried to give them age-appropriate responsibility at every stage in their development, without obessing about things like eating a balanced diet (one of them had food allergies, so we had to accept that his diet would be limited), becoming toilet trained, going to bed alone and at a regular time of night. One of my kids never needed naps - he still doesn't need as much sleep as his brother. There was a cost to this - mostly in the relationship with the mother of my children - but we made informed choices and the sacrifice in our quality of life was worth it.

Bottom line on this topic?
  • Your kid is not your possession. You don't own him/her, so act accordingly.
  • Your kid will respond to and learn WHATEVER you model, so be careful about what you model!
  • Be very aware that you have co-created an independent being, not a clone or a slave.
  • The only difference between you and your child is experience.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Colic and Stuff

I want to pick up the thread from two posts ago and talk about the bane of any parent's existence with a newborn - colic. I'm not going to deal with the mystery of why some babies get it and others don't. As far as I'm aware, no-one has figured it out yet. What I DO know is that if you're a new father and you're left in sole charge of a colicky kid, you are almost guaranteed to be pushed to the edge of your sanity. I think it's about as close as the male of the species can get to understanding what many mothers experience with infants - being trapped in a situation you can't get out of and for which there appears to be no solution.

Both my kids had colic and now, 18 years later, I have no idea how long it lasted in each case. It might have been a couple of months, but I honestly don't remember and it seemed like forever at the time. I recall distinctly with one of my kids reaching a dark place buried deep within me when I understood vividly how parents can harm their new-borns out of sheer frustration. The baby is fed, dry and otherwise healthy and still crying loud enough for the neighbours to hear. One cold winter night I reached the end of my tether and yelled violently at one of my kids in his crib when he hadn't stopped crying for a couple of hours. The only reaction that caused was louder crying in fright on the part of the baby. But in that moment, I suddenly understood how shaken baby syndrome can happen - and while it doesn't excuse harming a defenceless child, it certainly explains why it occurs. A mental picture flashed through my mind of throwing the child against the wall - and I experienced a sudden fear that I might actually do it. I also understood all the tragic newspaper headlines and the human cost of choices made in the heat of rage and frustration. It is possible to love a child and at the same time to hurt it even to the point of causing permanent damage or death. I was immediately remorseful for having become enraged at my child and never did it again. Yet, I have often wondered in subsequent years if that child is carrying around the psychological burden that I fear I might have placed on his tiny shoulders so long ago...

So what is the main relief for colic? The only thing that worked reliably for us was taking the baby for a long car ride. We tried everything else - walking around the house holding him face down on my arm with the ball of my thumb in the baby's stomach; putting him in the car seat on the dryer or the washing machine while it was running; going for a long walk (which seemed to be the second-most effective method, although darned cold in the middle of an Edmonton winter). The good news is that the baby will, just as mysteriously as it began, get over the colic and you will regain some of your lost sanity.

I hadn't intended to write this much about colic. It's clear that putting this in print has some therapeutic value for me. From what I have read about all of this, I believe that fathers are at a bit of a disadvantage in the child-rearing department, compared with mothers. We don't have the same hormonal mix and tend not to establish the bond with infants that mothers are hard-wired to experience. I'm not saying that all fathers have this kind of struggle, nor am I saying that all mothers experience the nurturing response to the same extent. But in general, I believe it is true. This means that fathers of new-born children may not have the compensating emotional attachment to their small charges that enables mothers to cope better with the less pleasant aspects of raising kids.

That leads to the question of what fathers (and mothers) can do to mitigate the stress of looking after babies. Two spring to mind. I mention both of these because they were largely missing from our lives when our kids were little. The first is to build a support network around you and USE it. We had no immediate family who could babysit. Our friends were either childless and not interested or in the same situation as we were, so we had limited opportunity to get relief from small children, whether our own or someone else's. So if you can, work deliberately at establishing that network if you don't have any significant offers of help coming in. And if someone DOES offer help, take advantage of it! I had no clue that I needed to have such a network around me and put no significant effort into creating it. I just thought that was how parenthood had to be - some kind of bizarre and painful karmic investment. But no - it was just ignorance and obliviousness.

The second thing you can do to mitigate the stress of parenthood is investing in yourself, either on your own or with your partner, minus the kids. We had friends (with four kids) who took one evening every month to have a date with each other. We almost never did that - maybe we were stupid - but it was something we didn't place any priority on. I would live that part of my life quite differently if I had a chance for a do-over. I must admit, too, that I had other personal issues that I was trying to understand, so I felt as if I wasn't entitled to claim time for myself. While I don't advocate selfishness, I strongly recommend negotiating time with the mother of your children to do something healthy for yourself. That doesn't mean getting to go grocery shopping alone - although I must say I enjoyed that. I'm talking about keeping in touch with friends or going on a personal retreat once in a while. I never felt comfortable asking for that until I no longer needed it as much. I don't recommend that approach, even if you think you're being an enlightened man by supporting your wife with your continuous presence. She may not want or expect it of you, so at the very least, I suggest you talk to each other about those expectations.

Whole libraries of books have been written on this stuff, so I'm not going to pretend any of it is particularly profound - it isn't. Perhaps my experience is more a cautionary tale than anything else. I'm university-educated and my kids were healthy, normal children. I had taken pre-natal classes with the mother of my children and I was with her when both my kids came into the world. I had access to all the knowledge resources that were available 18 years ago (pre-internet) to anyone with the ability to read and understand almost anything in print. I was married to a member of the medical profession, so I had even more access to knowledge than most people. None of that mattered during those interminable evenings - every night for weeks on end - when I couldn't figure out what was "wrong" with the baby and felt almost entirely powerless to do anything about it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Colic but Mostly Other Stuff

I mentioned in my last post that I would write about colic next (and I misspelled it). But as I indicated in my first post, I reserve the right to wander off the parental pathway from time to time. This is the first of those occasions.

As a musician and education researcher (both of which I do as avocation AND source of income), I am always interested in larger, inspirational messages that pop up from time to time. As part of my work, I am on the look-out for entertaining and provocative videos that might inspire Albertans to think differently about life, education and their communities. Today, I watched a video that I would thoroughly recommend to all of my friends and colleagues, particularly those who are musicians. And I want to thank my work colleague for sending me the link to it.

This is one of the wonderful set of 20-minute presentations from
TED conferences. If you've never been to this website, it NEEDS to be in your Favorites. Among the embarrassment of riches on this site is one presentation that should be watched by all people who have ever learned piano, taught piano, had kids in piano lessons, thought they were tone deaf, conducted musicians, been a musician with a conductor, thought about the larger significance of classical music, or never thought about classical music at all. It is a lecture/performance by Benjamin Zander, most notably the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and accomplished inspirational speaker. For those of us currently preparing a concert program containing Benjamin Britten's A.M.D.G., it is interesting to know that as a student in England following WWII, Benjamin Zander took lessons with Benjamin Britten and became a student of theory of Britten’s amanuensis and assistant, Imogen Holst, daughter of composer Gustav Holst.

However the main point of Zander's TED presentation has less to do with piano playing or indeed music, than it does with living in possibility and being a positive influence. Towards the end of the talk, he remarks on the most important insight of his conducting career - that his job is to awaken possibility in other people. He also knows when he has done that - by looking at their eyes. As he says, "If their eyes are shining, you know you're doing it."

He exhorts us to consider who are we being in our lives. Zander's definition of success in life is how many shiny eyes are around him. He encourages us to see that as a possibility in our own lives. A warning for emotionally labile viewers: you may need Kleenex for this!!

So nothing about colic this time (although I promise to come back to the topic), but lots about karma.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Becoming a Dad

This blog is called Kids, Kites and Karma. My working subtitle is "Messages for Dads". You deserve to know why.

To place my comments for this and future posts in context, I think it may be useful to start with a bit of personal history. I grew up in the 60s and 70s at a time when the "western" world was going through what has sometimes been referred to as the dawning of the
age of Aquarius; the era of flower power, free love, anti-war protests, ban the bomb and Woodstock. Living in New Zealand, we were not as connected to the events that shaped this new age as were Americans, Canadians and people living in western Europe. But we were affected and moved by the space race, the Cold War and Vietnam. One of the older sons of neighbours who lived across the street went to Vietnam to support the Americans in an artillery unit. The New Zealand Army also sent field ambulances and medical staff. We were certainly not immune from this war or its direct effects. But it was easy to let others deal with the details.

I was the 3rd of 4 children (in order - boy, girl, boy, girl) born between 1954 and 1960 to parents who had been young children during the
Great Depression of the 1930s. Their world view was significantly coloured by their experiences during that part of their life and the messages that were given to us when we were young came, predictably enough, directly out of our parents' experiences of economic hardship and personal struggle. My father left an unhappy home life at 16 and articled as an accounting student, taking night courses while he worked. My mother trained as a primary (elementary) school teacher. They married in their early 20s and started a family almost right away.

Life for my father seemed hard to me. He worked long hours as an accountant and in his time away from the office he put enormous energy into figuring out how to provide for his family in the long-term. He bought real estate knowing that it was the only asset that could be relied upon to increase in value. As an accountant in public practice, he met business people from all walks of life and learned early on what it took to be financially successful. He was also very active physically, playing competitive tennis for many years, and taking up running for fitness in his 30s before it became "cool" for adults to invest in their health through physical fitness.

My dad cared deeply about his kids, but like most men of his generation, the details of raising the kids were left largely to mum. Dad was the disciplinarian and we lived with the constant possibility of being "corrected" through corporal punishment. In our house that usually meant a three-foot length of bamboo. I remember being terrified of the possibility, so I absorbed the internal message that it was good to avoid punishment if at all possible. I actually remember only two instances of being "corrected" with the stick, at least one of which was richly deserved. But the psychological effects of the threat of punishment have had a persistent (and largely negative) influence on my life. I learned how to lie to avoid detection and those lies became part of my normal way of engaging with figures of authority, including my teachers.

As a male child, I absorbed the messages that boys don't cry, that life is hard and that you can't expect work to be fun. We were also strongly encouraged to find jobs that offered secure income, good pensions and long-term stability - in short, we were encouraged to find low-risk, solid return jobs. Government jobs (including teaching) were touted as good examples of this. Obviously, I took this to heart, almost 25 years into a public service career. Success in school was a highly prized goal - all four children finished high school and went on to university. Three of us finished at least one university degree. All of us entered careers that would not have been possible without a degree. I ended up spending almost 10 years in post-secondary studies and acquired four university degrees before I started working in a permanent full-time job.

How I ended up in Canada is properly the subject of a different blog entry. Suffice it to say that I arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, in August 1979 as a graduate student at the University of Alberta and found a way to stay. I got married and put down roots. As I reflected, at considerable geographic distance, on my childhood experiences, I resolved that if I ever had kids of my own, I would deliberately not be the kind of father my own father had been.

Seven years after we got married, my wife and I decided it was now or never. We had two sons, born not quite 23 months apart. When my first son was born, I was struck by the enormity of what we had done - we had just created a new, autonomous being for whom we were responsible. In the following days and weeks, I realized that I was the custodian of a small person who had his own identity, personality and potential. I saw immediately that I did not own this little person - I was his custodian and mentor until he could assume full responsibility for his own life.

This realization led to a series of logical conclusions, most of which will be covered in subsequent posts. But the main decision I made at that point was to try to be a better dad than my own father had been. That meant making some deliberate decisions about how I would raise my sons.

I have to say at this point that I was ill-equipped to be a father. I had no experience with infant children and had read almost nothing about what to do in those first few days and weeks after our first child was born. I had attended pre-natal classes with my wife and I had read one of her medical textbooks related to embryology, so I had a lot of head-knowledge about the development of the fetus and I knew, more or less, how to change a diaper. Beyond that, it was all rather scary and mysterious.

What did I learn in the months of preparing for this amazing and life-changing event? First, that you can't ever really be prepared for it. Second, that it is preferable that you really WANT to be a dad. Third, that even if you don't really want a child, you can CHOOSE to be engaged in the raising of your children. Fourth, that once you father a child, your life changes permanently, even if you don't want to be a parent.

What would I like to tell the world about being a father?
Want it (ideally)
Prepare for it
Share in it
Enjoy it

Next post - cholic and how to survive it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Welcome to My Blog

I've been here before, but with no clear purpose other than curiosity. The last time, I was playing with the Google toys, but had no sense that what I was doing might be useful to anyone other than myself. I don't even remember when that last time was.

I have a sense of having moved a considerable distance in my life since that first tentative toe was dipped into the blog pool. For instance, both of my kids are now past the point where they need me to give them advice about much... not that I ever had to, even when they were still legally my responsibility. But now, with both of them in university, I am even less needed as either a father or a confidante. We still have fun and enjoy each other's company. It's just much less frequent, since they no longer live with me.

I wonder if this is a sign of successful parenting? I know their mother and I made some sound decisions when the boys were little - saving for their education was one. It is this decision and others like it that will be the substance of this blog, at least for a while. I believe some of the wisdom of my years may have value for others - particularly young fathers. I hope a few kind readers may help me to sort out exactly where this value lies.

I reserve the right to detour from time to time into topics that interest me in my life today, but mostly the point of this blog is to put some ideas into writing and let others tell me if they make sense.