When feeling overwhelmed, writing can provide a false sense of control. Thus, when my wife first became pregnant, I felt compelled to chronicle it.
Nearly nine years and three kids later, I’m still scribbling about fatherhood, still seeking that elusive sense of control.
In my occasional “Parental Advisory” column, the hope is that readers will be amused or reminded of their own parenting experiences.
Your kids ever send you to the emergency room? Mine have. It involved a makeshift tent, a heavy Maglite flashlight and my skull. Then there was the time I took them to the circus by myself and ended up at an urgent care clinic with a panic attack.
You ever gotten lice? Me neither — until my kids went to school and brought the critters home.
Is your home tidy? Ours occasionally — OK, often — looks like a giant shook it like a snow globe.
My wife and I changed diapers without interruption for 7½ years. That works out to more than 10,000 diapers.
I’ll be proud when the kids graduate from college. But I won’t be happier than the day I changed my last diaper. Compared with diapers, college may be cheaper.
It will arrive soon enough. As the parenting cliché correctly proclaims, the days are long, but the years are short.
Sophie, my oldest, turns 9 this summer. She is the artistic type. She loves to read and is fairly fluent in French. She knows where babies come from, but has no idea how they get there.
Sam, the 6-year-old, is a rascal. He has the complexion of a blank piece of paper, courtesy of his mother’s Irish genes. He will risk life and limb to climb into cabinets in search of cookies.
He also has Down syndrome. Not that we, or he, make a big deal about it. He just finished kindergarten in a class of typical kids. Chances are, he won’t ever be president. But neither will I.
Celia, the 4-year-old, might be. She is sharp and hyper aware and will likely run our household by the time she turns 10. She is infatuated with her mother and compelled to interrupt whenever she senses her parents showing affection to each other. It’s probably no coincidence we haven’t had another child.
Celia and Sam are occasionally mistaken for twins. In Dr. Seuss terms, they are Thing 1 and Thing 2: Gleeful mischief makers. Their older sister occasionally broaches the subject of selling them.
My primary occupation involves writing about music. But sometimes, the music and parenting worlds intersect.
During an interview with Foo Fighters frontman and three-time father Dave Grohl, he and I compared notes on our respective minivans. I’m a Toyota Sienna guy, he’s a Honda Odyssey guy. (“It’s the one with the vacuum cleaner built in,” he enthused. “C’mon, those things are bad-ass!”)
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have three girls. I once asked McGraw for parenting tips. He shared the secret response that can bail out a dad in any situation: “Ask your mom.”
A few months later, I told Hill what her husband said. She rolled her eyes: “He lives by that.”
Garth Brooks also has three daughters. He put his career on hold for almost a decade to help raise them.
Chatting with the compulsively unpretentious superstar after a press conference last year, he offered a simple-yet-profound insight on parenting. He was speaking specifically about raising girls, but the principle applies to boys as well.
“The thing you have to do with raising girls is just love them,” Brooks said. “Trust me, you can’t put the fear of God in ’em. You can try, but they’re girls — they’re smart.
“So all you’re gonna do is just get them to where they can’t break Dad’s heart. Just love them so much that they won’t want to break your heart. That’ll be your only hope.”
Dave Grohl, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, me — strip everything else away and we’re all just dads hoping not to get our hearts broken.
There’s no tougher, or better, job.
Advocate staff writer Keith Spera chronicles his parenting adventures in the occasional ‘Parental Advisory’ feature. Follow him on Twitter, @KeithSpera.