Becoming the Writing Dad

Dear Friends, Colleagues, Prospective Agents/Editors/Employers, Admirers:

It is with great pleasure that I bring you the first official blog post here on the-writing-dad.com. As we get to know each other over the coming months, I you will find out how remarkable it is that I managed to create this post, and that you were in on the ground floor of an amazing adventure.

For that is what this is, you see. A Grand Adventure. As the name of my blog implies, I am a dad, and I am a writer. I know that for many people out there, being these two things simultaneously might come as easily as breathing. If you are one of those people, please post your secret in the comments!!

But for me, being a writer and being a father (and husband as well, but the tag ‘Writing Father/Husband’ wasn’t nearly as catchy) is a task that approaches impossibility. You see, I was raised to believe that family is more important than anything else in life, and the example that my parents set was one of sacrifice- they often gave up the things they enjoyed doing to keep us happy. With that example in mind, I have wrestled with the ethics of devoting myself to a future of difficulty, rejection, abjection, and general misery in the hope that one day, my art can provide a better life for my children than the one I currently can give them.

I supposed that we can’t go any further without introducing my cast-mates, and I since you will be hearing about them every time I write, you might as well get to know them now.

 

First, meet Heather:

Heather 1

I met Heather at a Valentine’s Day Dance party that her dorm floor was hosting back in college. 2002, to be precise. I will save our full story for another post, but the short of it is, since that fortunate night, we have been together since. We married in the summer of 2006, just a few weeks after graduating college, and a few weeks before we moved cross-country for work. I will save that saga for another day as well. From here on out, I will variously refer to this beautiful woman as any of the following, depending on context: Heather, H, my wife, (some combination of the words) Pretty Little Blond Girl. She has been my rock since we met, and it has been her strength, that has allowed me to become The Writing Dad. She is my: first reader, first editor, cajoler, shoulder-to-cry-on, butt-kicker, child-distractor-so-I-can-write, cheerleader, snack-in-the-middle-of-a-writing-session-maker, and partner in writing. That’s right, the secret is now out. We are a writing team. Although her name is not on this blog, nor was her name on any of my work for my thesis, she is as much a part of this thing as I am. We divide the labor thusly: I ponderously lay words down on the page. Then, as the gifted editor she is, she comes in with a red pen (and yes, she uses one) makes my garbage draft worth reading. (If you are SNHU faculty and reading this: rest assured that my thesis writing was all me, and that I always did my own first edit. However, Heather found ways to help me figure out exactly what I needed to cut and what could stay.) And while my thesis is in the long process of finding a publishing home, we are currently working on our next book, and I say ‘our’, because her name will be in the byline before my own.

Despite all of the things listed above, Heather makes our family, and our children, her first priority. While I cannot say that being a SAHM has always been easy for her, she has always approached the task of caring for our family with a smile.

Heather 2

In case you were wondering, this picture took place less than six hours after Heather gave birth to our daughter, Holly, pictured here.

I hope that as this blog expands, you will come to love Heather as much as I do (almost), and will come to be as amazed by this woman as I am. Also, you might come to feel bad for her (ask my dear friend CA Cooke- I’m not the easiest to deal with). In any case, I wanted to start our relationship of author/reader out by acknowledging that Heather is the silent (but senior) partner in our relationship.

 

Onto the rest of the cast, appearing in chronological order.

 

This is Tim, my oldest. He is 4.

Tim

Timothy William Will. Named for his grandfather, great-grandfather, and me.

The morning after Tim was born, we were informed that he had a condition called ACC- Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. Agenesis, by the way, means lack of something. Here is a picture of the corpus callosum, highlighted in red:

Corpus-callosum.jpg

Tim is missing his. In other words, on the day after my firstborn son came into the world, we found out that he was missing a gigantic portion of the white matter of his brain. Our doctors told us that he might not ever walk, or talk, or even sit up unassisted.

Now, scroll back up to the picture of Tim. Note the posture: not not standing. That picture comes from the first day of 4 year old pre-K this past fall. It has been a long, hard road to get to this moment, but thanks to Heather’s unceasing efforts and the support of family and therapists, Tim is for all intents and purposes an NT (neuro-typical) four year-old. Don’t get me wrong, Tim behaves just like other four year-olds, and if you know any of those, you know how wild and crazy things can get.

“They” always say that children tend to take after their parents. This is both a blessing and curse for Tim. On the one hand, he has my natural curiosity, my near photographic memory, and my love of nature. The down side is that he also seems to have inherited my problem with fixations, absolute need for routine, discomfort with even the slightest change.

But that doesn’t tell you that story of Tim. He is funny, with amazing comedic timing. Tim 2He is a great dancer, with better moves than I could possibly emulate. He is deeply and sincerely loving. He proves to his mother and I every day that having a diagnosis does not have to become an identity. He loves his siblings fiercely and would take a bullet for either of them without question. He doesn’t know it yet, but he is my best friend. And I can’t tell him now, because that would mean that I could no longer effectively parent. But, if asked to spend a ‘guy weekend’ with friends, Tim would be first on my list.

I am proud to introduce my second son, Isaac.

Isaac

Isaac, or Isee-bee (as I call him all the time), is three. As you can see, he is hysterically funny. His genetic inheritance from his father is as much a double-edged sword as is his older brother’s. Isaac got my insanely hot temper and short fuse. He also got my sense of guilt, which means that when he loses his temper, he can’t even enjoy being mad afterward, as he has a need to make up almost instantly. I can see that as he gets older, he will wrestle with guilt about this. Poor guy. However, Isaac is also one of the fastest thinkers I have ever met. He makes leaps in logic and argument that astound and often confound me. Beyond that, because of his fiery temper, he is also one to show affection much more readily than many. He loves hugging and giving kisses, and after work, there have been many occasions were he has sprinted down the sidewalk to meet me getting out of my car.

Where Timothy is my best friend, Isaac is my clone. He is as headstrong as I am, and that has led to us wrestling for dominance in the relationship. As my clone, I have insights into Isaac that I could never have about Tim, and where Tim is my first choice for hanging out, Isaac is my first choice as a partner when hard work needs to get accomplished.

At this point, you might be asking, “Is he really comparing his kids? What’s wrong with him?”

Fair point. Yes, I know what it looks like, but in my mind, I love each of my children so thoroughly and so differently, that it is only by looking at how our relationships differ that I can help you understand the dynamic which is the background of John becoming The Writing Dad. Isaac is as central to that as anything else.

Isaac3
I mean, c’mon, how awesome is this little guy? After you get to know him more, you’ll be asking if you can borrow him, and the answer is, “No!” That’s the best part about being a dad- I’m not required to share my kids with you.

Finally, let me introduce to you my youngest child. My only daughter: Holly

Holly

I’m pretty sure that this picture does a better job of explaining why and how much I love my daughter. From the second, literally the second that she was born. I’ve been a complete and total disaster. When I should be writing (for my thesis or other), I’m playing with her, and when I should be focusing on my job, I’m texting Heather to see if she took any cute pictures of Holly that day. We hear variously that she looks like either H or I, but the truth is, I sure hope she turns out to look like her mother and not her father.

I was told by lots of dads that having a daughter would change everything. I believed those men, in the same way that I believe that traveling to the moon is a life-changing experience (and just wait, later posts will evince my moon-nerdery), which is to say that I could intellect that fact, but not heart it.

Now, I know. For you dads with daughters, I get it now. For you dads without daughters- you are missing out. Both on the greatest experience in your life, and more worry than you ever dreamed possible.

Because Holly isn’t yet four months old, we are still working on basics like rolling over and reaching for toys. However, she has as much personality as any of the rest of her family. Her favorite activity, and greatest source of frustration, is watching her brothers play. We can see how they mesmerize her, and then, she gets really grumpy because she can’t figure out how to move her limbs to get her involved in the boys’ games.

When she gets grumpy, I call her Grumpy Goat, and when she is happy, I call her Lovey Duck. She is my little lady, and I love her nearly as much as I love her Pretty Little Blonde Girl mother.

 

So, here’s a quick one of the family as a whole, just to put things in context. Hint: I’m the large oaf in the silly polo.

Family

So, that then, in brief, is my family, and my crewmates on the ship of life.

Ouch, that was a lame metaphor. A dad metaphor. A dad-a-phor. If you can’t handle my dad-a-phors, or dad jokes (of which I have an endless supply) or my love of puns, run fast, and run screaming for the hills. Otherwise, we will get along just fine.

Where were we? Get used to my digressions, too. They are either part of my charm, or part of my oddity, or both, simultaneously.

Oh, right, my family. So, get used to seeing these cast members, as they make up the story that is my life.

 

But I feel like I am forgetting something. What is it?

My Diploma.jpg

This is not a pat on the back, This shiny piece of paper has cost me two years of my life, hours of playing with my kids, date night with the love of my life, and enough money for the downpayment on a bigger house than I’ve ever owned.

Why do it? Why go after a piece of paper that says that I make pretty art?

To make a better life for my family, sure. To prove to myself that I don’t think more highly of myself than I ought? You bet. Because I feel compelled to write-as if I have no choice? Ding, ding ding!

I hope that last is intriguing to you, because that, along with my family, are the pillars that The Writing Dad are built on.

In my next post, I will begin to unravel the journey to get that shiny, silly piece of paper.

Until then my friends, as the old Irish Blessing says, “May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

 

-jw-

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