One thing I’ve had to come to grips with, in writing this blog, is how I present myself to the world, and whether I’m doing an honest job of it. My profession is journalism, and I treasure writing that is, and people that are, honest and forthcoming, even if some of the time it can be a little uncomfortable.
Because the alternative also makes me uncomfortable; that is, a whitewashed version of life.
People have been very kind in their comments, either on this blog, or in e-mail, about me, and how I have really “gotten it” as a dad and as a husband. This puffs me up with pride. At least once or twice people have written that they wish their husbands or boyfriends have “gotten it” as I do, and they wish they had a nice, sensitive guy like me.
I admit it, I am a nice Jewish boy. I was raised to be that way by my Mom, and by the examples I chose to follow from pop culture. I admired and identified with Peter Parker, even when he wasn’t busy being Spider-Man, because Peter was simply a nice boy who liked science, and loved his aunt and uncle. I never cared much for science, but if you switched that with English class you’d be on the right track. I never developed any super-powers, but Randi is a great real life approximation for Mary Jane, so I’m happy with that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is yes, I love my daughter, to death. Yes, I love my wife, also to death. Yes, I try to be a good dad, and a good husband, but I don’t always get it right.
For instance, I got so into this blog a few weeks ago, writing so much and so long, that I was spending mornings writing about being a dad, instead of actually being a dad. Randi would sometimes park the baby in front of me, while I tapped away at the keyboard, as she struggled to make oatmeal for breakfast. She’d ask me if I wanted any, and I invariably said no. I was proud of my focus. But in reality I was just shutting her out so I could do my thing. Stella would sit in her little car seat, bored by me. This would lead to her tears, which would lead to Randi snatching her back to soothe her. I would then get up, to offer to help my wife with Stella, but I was already too late. I should’ve been helping her all along.
Now I try to spend more time with Stella in the morning, because it’s truly the only time I get with her. I come home at 7:30 or 8:00 at night, depending on the day and the subway frequency, and she’s almost always asleep. Fortunately, I have to go to work somewhat later in the morning, usually at 10:00 a.m., or so, so I have time to spend with her. But if I forfeit that, as I’ve done on many occasions, I really have no time at all.
That’s one example, here’s another. Often I’ve been impatient with bottle feeding Stella. This is critically important, but, at least initially, I was lax with it. Now she’s having a hard time taking to the bottle at all. This sucks! If we can’t get her used to the bottle that means that Randi will quite literally never be able to leave the baby’s sight, because she will be the only person alive who can feed her. This means Randi will have no time to herself, ever, until Stella starts to eat some solid food, which could be months from now. I pin that one on myself. I should’ve pushed the bottle harder, but instead I was much more passive about it than I should’ve been. Now we have to play catch up, if it works at all.
Also, while I am a sweet, kind person, and try to be a good husband, there are many, many times in our marriage where I could’ve been a less self-centered, more considerate and understanding spouse, and, going back in time, boyfriend. Maybe in another time, in another place, it would be worth talking about all the ways I’ve failed my wife, and myself, but, suffice it to say, there have been a few. I know all couples go through their hard times together. I am fortunate to have a wife who cared enough about me to stick with me when the going got rough, and it got rough. I also pin this on me.
Also some of my own entries in this blog have shown me insights into myself that I’m not too pleased to see, that bad habits I had when I was young still plague me. For example, I wrote, two entries ago, about how I was too afraid to take a risk and spend $40 on a single comic book, way back when.
The shock of recognition when I wrote that wasn’t that I regretted my actions from 1985, after all I was young, but that I still do the same thing today. I often dream of owning property, and I probably could just scrape together enough to buy some commercial space, but I’m afraid of losing it all. A decade ago I talked about opening a magazine with my best friend Mike, but chickened out. I haven’t always played it safe, but often when it comes time to really put my actual money where my mouth is, I’ve backed out, and then felt sorry.
I am sorry if this entry is a bummer, but I kind of feel like I’ve somewhat put a target on my back by talking about being a dad. Like I’m some kind of post-modern, city-living Ward Cleaver, going through the crazy foibles of my life, keeping it cool, and dealing with some zaniness. There is an element of that, but I’m not quite deserving of the Mr. Rogers cardigan and slippers just yet. I have some daddying to do until I earn my stripes.
One thing that’s never been in the least bit false is my love for and desire to be a good dad for Stella. I don’t feel smug about this, instead it makes me realize how far I have to go, and how short I could fall. This is scary, and sobering, and on my mind quite often. I want her to feel confident and secure in me, and know that I am what I say I am. I have to start by acknowledging all the ways I haven’t matched up my actions with my ideals and my words. Then I have to match up.