I used to write about moms- a lot. As a matter of fact, I made my living from sharing the (mostly) funny side of parenting for a very long time.
It seems like all the moms that I talked to or wrote about all those years had one thing in common; they were tired. Lack of sleep is a very ‘mommy’ thing. From cranky babies to carting teens around in mom’s taxi, they all seemed to be craving some more rest and relaxation. The number one most asked for Mother’s Day gift among all the moms I had met? Rest.
Sure there were a few women who wanted a nice piece of jewelry to one-up the other moms on the block, or a bouquet of pretty flowers to adorn the mantel. But flowers die, and who really cares what those other moms think anyway? But sleep, a few extra hours of shut-eye, or an afternoon where no one needs you to find a sock that’s gone missing or a project that was misplaced, that is truly the gift that keeps on giving. I’ll take that over a bottle of Chanel #5 any day. That and the handmade cards and school made art projects, or a cup of tea made by my oldest that I am likely to be gifted with this weekend.
Alas, every mom is an indiviual. One mom’s cup of tea is another moms shot of vodka. One mom may be hoping for a day of peace and serenity at the spa, while another might be planning a new tattoo as a reward for the “other” 364 days of mothering. (Hint: both are me!)
Just as every one of our kids is unique and special, remember that you moms may come in all different shapes and sizes too. Moms of one… moms of many… biological moms… step-moms… adoptive moms… moms to multiples… moms to kids with special needs… all of you are true heroes every day.
One thing that has always struck me as a mother is the power of the love I have for my children, and the knowing that, although they love you too- you may be their rock, their island, their world, it won’t be until they one day become parents themselves that they may begin to truly understand the power of a mother’s love.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and if there is one thing that I have come to find after all of these years, is that the most incredibly powerful and universal unifier there is, is motherhood! So, rock on amazing moms! Celebrate the uniqueness, the awesomeness, the power of you!
A few days ago it was National Children’s Book Day. I know it’s a bit of a departure from the things that we usually write about, but I couldn’t help but think, what unifies us more than our children and families? And who doesn’t love a good book? I mean even if you’re not really a “reader” everyone has a story or a memory that is inspired by a book they’ve read or a story they’ve been told. Some of my fondest memories with my children came from reading to them when they were little.
Just a couple of weeks ago I sat in a diner with a friend and talked about an old familiar children’s book and how it had come to remind me of my life as a mother. I had even written about it on another site that I used to write for. While my friend was not familiar with the book (unheard of with young children I gasped!), she was certainly familiar with the pitfalls of parenting and how I had likened my days to those of the main character.
The story was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Nemeroff. If you’re not familiar with the book, basically it goes like this: A boy gives a cookie to a mouse. The mouse asks for a glass of milk. He then requests a straw (to drink the milk), a mirror (to avoid a milk mustache), nail scissors (to trim his hair in the mirror), and a broom (to sweep up his hair trimmings). Next he wants to take a nap, have a story read to him, draw a picture, and hang the drawing on the refrigerator. Looking at the refrigerator makes him thirsty, so the mouse asks for a glass of milk. The circle is complete when he wants a cookie to go with it.
I likened it to the endless attempts that parents of young children make to get things done day-to-day while a barrage of seemingly unrelated events try to derail us or run us in circles throughout our day. More or less, Nemeroff gives us a series of cute kids books that describe a whimsical and funny chain of events that occur when you try to do one thing, but each of the things that you do, leads you into a continuing chain of events that actually preclude you from doing the very thing that you wanted to originally do…. sort of… well, that’s how I’m telling it any way. And if you’ve ever taken care of children for any period of time, you know exactly how this goes. I have often been asked (clearly by the childless or those not directly involved in the day-to-day care and upbringing of one), how it is that I can start a basket of laundry when I wake up in the morning, and somehow at bedtime that basket still somehow remains unfinished- either unfolded or still lingering somewhere in the wash/dry/fold/put away cycle. And I can only explain it by taking a page from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
I start the day ready. I’ve managed to get a load of wash successfully from washer to dryer on the same day- score! I hear the dryer bell ding and I am off to the races. And then, the cycle of events goes something like this:
Pull clothes from dryer and put in basket. Place basket down on my bed for a second to go help yelling son in the bathroom. Come back to get basket. Notice on the way back to basket that the dog has chewed up contents on trash can and strewn them throughout the family room. Start to clean up mess. Phone rings. Answer phone and converse briefly with sister-in-law on other end. What was I doing again? Oh right, folding the clean laundry. Have to finish picking up that mess the dog made first. Go to grab a trash bag. Notice while getting a trash bag from the cabinet that I am out of dish soap. Go to write dish soap on my grocery list. Where is my grocery list? Note that middle child has taken grocery list and turned it into an art project. Follow trail of crayons and markers to her room. Pick up crayons and markers from floor. While picking stuff up from floor notice seven pair of underwear underneath her bed. Remove said underwear and place in hamper (Is it dirty? Probably not, but I’m not taking any chances). What was I doing again? Oh right, folding the clean laundry. Back track down the hall, putting grocery list back, and finishing picking up dog’s mess on the way back to where I left that darn laundry basket. Begin to fold laundry. Fold two shirts. Doorbell rings. It’s a package. Put package aside. Walk back towards laundry. Hear the calls of my son yet again. He wants me to open the box. Spend 5 minutes explaining why I can’t open the package because it’s not addressed to me. Listen to 10 minutes of how he needs said box to complete his fort masterpiece he has been working on for the Fort Olympics. Agree to help him find another box. Locate another box in garage. Oh hey there’s more dish soap! Go cross dish soap off grocery list. Come back to the laundry basket, fold two more shirts… that’s 4 if you’re playing along at home. What was I doing again? Hear the bus… here come the other two kids. Time for after school snack… homework… dentist appointment…. dinner…. showers…. dishes . Gotta get back to that laundry. Stop to pick up the wet towels. Get everyone ready for bed. Distribute drinks of water to the parched masses. Collapse in a heap on my… oh hey what’s that?… the laundry basket!
Better luck tomorrow!
So, which kids book is most like your life? And what was your favorite children’s book growing up?
This week we have two spotlights for Sunday Spotlight. The first one is about the radio program on 88.5 WXPN called “Kids Corner”. This is a program dedicated to children and today we’re talking to Kathy O’Connell, host of the program.
Thanks for speaking with me today, Kathy. You’re the host and producer of “Kids Corner”?
“Yes, I am. I’m Kathy O’Connell, the host and, my “title” says producer of “Kids Corner”, but Robert Drake is the actual, hands on producer of “Kids Corner”. I’m more the executive producer. But I am the one and only host. From the beginning to now.”
When and how did kids corner begin?
“January 4, 1988. I had been doing a call in show for kids called “Kids America” out of New York and we got cancelled because our funding ran out. Classic public radio story. WXPN had just picked up this show and started running it. The then manager, called me and said “How do you feel about coming to Philadelphia and doing a show by yourself, because you’re basically the show?” I said “Oh, yes. I’ll try it for a year.” That was 1988. The next day Robert Drake showed up and we’ve been together ever since.”
Tell me about the program.
“I’ll tell you who it’s aimed at and who the reality is. Officially, we say it’s aimed at kids 7-12. I know we get them younger. I’d say 6-10 is the key age group that we seem to get. But we also get them a lot younger. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed; more and more we’re getting 4 and 5 year olds calling in. We also get a lot of grown ups. I lose kids when they get into their teens, but then they come back. I start being “hip” again. In their early 20’s.”
Kind of like being a parent!
“I love it! Yes! Exactly! I am a wonderful aunt. I am the greatest aunt in the world! I think that’s one of the great benefits of my job. I have all the glory and great stuff about being a parent and none of the very, really hard work of actually raising kids. So I get to be the really wonderful aunt for an hour a day. I play great music and say funny things and everything they do is wonderful. I really do believe that I have the greatest job in the world. It’s a call in show for kids on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the rest of the week it’s not live call ins. On Monday it’s all devoted to our Kindie music party. Kindie is what we call the music. It’s kids independent music. It’s this amazing music that is sort of being made for kids that’s been made for years but started to get an upsurge and a name about ten years ago. You know when something gets a name…. For instance tonight (this interview was done on Tuesday, 7/7/15), I’m asking kids for advice about what you do when you have a new baby living in the house because they have more experience than I do. Two of my friends just had twins. They’re just bringing them home. So I’m asking what their advice is for Paul and Jessica. And if they’re a twin, to also call in. Last time I had a baby in the house, I was 16 months old. I know nothing.
Thursdays is science. We have a wonderful, revolving, array of scientists. Derrick Pitts, an astronomer from the Franklin Institute; Mike Weilbacher, the executive director of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education; Dr. Lisa Chirlian, a teacher and chemist who does kitchen chemistry. I should also mention the first Wednesday of every month, Joe Hilton comes on with the Kids Corner book mobile. He’s a retired librarian from the (Philadelphia) free library and he truly brings in these massive stacks of books and we just talk books for an hour. It is the greatest job in the world! I am grateful every single day! I am so into this wonderful job.
My grandmother worked in a hat factory her whole life. I shared a bedroom with my grandmother my whole childhood. My grandmother got up every morning and stood all day in a hat factory so I could have this life. The classic wonderful American success story. Who I’m really grateful for, is the audiences in Philadelphia and WXPN. Kids corner was at the beginning of this big change at WXPN. We were kind of the anchor of it. Out of that, we turned into a real radio station. They wound up hiring Michaela Majoun (who just retired) for mornings, the World Cafe started coming out of Philly. I grew up in New York so I had no idea about David Dye and all these DJ’s. They were just my friends. And WXPN turned into this incredible community. I now have kids that come to WXPN events that bring their kids. They’re really not kids, the kids are in their 30’s. And then they have babies.”
You have such a passion for what you do. It really shows!
“I was very lucky. I was mentored, I guess that’s the right word, by Soupy Sales. He was like my dad. In my teenage years, my friends and I stalked him. We really did. If I ever write a book, the first line is gonna be “thank God my mother was crazy”. (Laughter) We lived on Long Island and would go into the city and just hang out outside his house all day and wait for him to walk the dog. When he would do the Carol Burnett show, we’d figure out (this is in the 60’s, before we had computers) what flight he’d take. I have home movies because one of my friends always had a movie camera with her. So, I have all these wonderful home movies from then. Then I grew up and started having a life. But I reconnected with him in about 2002. He and his wife really became my surrogate parents. They became my mom and dad. Through to the end of his life in 2009, he was my mentor. He’s the reason I’m really good at what I do. I got to see “proud dad eyes” through him. I lost my whole family when I was really young and to be able to see that look of pride from somebody that knew me since I was a dopey kid was really incredible. I’m so lucky! My poor grandmother….we all had these life size posters of Soupy that they gave away with Clark gum. We all had them hanging. My poor grandmother had to get up every morning to go to work at the factory with this life size Soupy poster.”
I never realized Soupy Sales was such an idol!
“He was! In New York from 1964-66, even a little beyond that. He did a broadway show and I even went to the “Tonight Show”! He was on and we’d hang out and get to see all these great shows. His New York kids show was the biggest thing going. It was like the Beatles at the time on this local level (and beyond). He was also on in other cities. He was this huge phenomenon. It was about 75 of us…kids..high school mostly (and a couple of sad adults). We’d go to the studio. That’s how we spent our vacations. Years later, one of my friends asked her mother why she let her do that. Her mother told her she needed it. Our lives were built around that in high school. Thank God I had that.”
Is that what inspired you to go into kids radio?
“Not at all. I fell into it. I was in radio in New York at WBAI, a radical, “let’s be political” radio station. I did an overnight show where I talked about television. I moved to California for a couple of years to work in commercial radio because the rule was, that if you wanted to work in radio in New York, you have to work outside of New York. I did that for a couple of years and came back to New York. I was working at a radio station as an engineer at WNYC. I was occasionally on the air, I was still on WBAI at night, but occasionally my voice would get heard (during the day). I was an engineer for a show called “Senior Edition”. The guy who hired me was named Larry Miller, a program director at WNYC, the single meanest man on Earth (horrible boss, terrible bully) had created this kids show called “Small Things Considered”. He made me edit it even though it wasn’t my job. I had to edit down the best of “Small Things Considered” to run on Saturday. The woman who did the show with him (Barbara Rosen, who’s husband was one of the hostages in Iran, she was a pretty nice woman). One night I’m sitting there babysitting a tape for some show and they come barreling in and start grabbing records and headphones and stuff. I’m just sitting there watching all this go on because I grew up among crazy people, so I was used to people fighting around me. About ten minutes later, all these people with suits come in and said they needed me to help them out. Larry and Barbara had just quit and the show’s gonna go on live. I said “you let me talk and I’ll help you all you want”. Larry wouldn’t leave because he was still director of “Small Things Considered”, (he and I wound up co-hosting small things considered that night). Half way through it, I said “this is what I want to do.” It was like three hours and God knows how we filled it in. Betty White talks about how she had a live five hour TV show in the 50’s and she says how she didn’t know how they filled the time. That’s what happened with “Small Things Considered”. But somehow we filled the time. We got a Peabody award for it. My first Peabody award. We got money, finally, from the corporation for public broadcasting and that became “Kids America” which was an hour and half call in show for kids.”
What made you love it so much?
“I just felt at home. At WBAI, and at a show I did in California, you’d get these adversarial calls. People would just want to argue about everything. And this (the kids show) was just positive and nice, kids calling in and being kids. Talking about stuff and not having to worry about getting into a fight with somebody on the radio. This was before Rush Limbaugh and all that. It was just really nice. I connected with an old friend of my mothers about 20 years ago and I was filling her in on what I’d been doing. She said “no wonder you wound up doing radio for kids…because of Soupy Sales”. I do think something was planted with Soupy years ago (and I mean that in the best possible way [laughter], he was always a gentleman). Something came to fruition. I never thought I’d still be doing this. That was in 1983, 30 years ago, all that happened. I leapt into it. That’s why I’m grateful every day.”
So what do kids typically say when they call in?
“Mostly it’s the subject, whatever the question is on any given night. They call to tell their story. A lot of times it could be to recommend a movie, a TV show, books, that sort of thing. But then sometimes it’s to give advice like how to deal with being the new kid in school, some serious topics as well. Bullying, loss. In 30 years enough awful, horrible things have happened that we’ve had to deal with on the radio. From the Challenger to school shootings to 9/11 to war. The war started at 7:00, the first Iraq war (1991). We were on the air when it happened. It’s a judgement call sometimes on just what we’re gonna talk about. When it’s something serious or in the news. I don’t talk about things like the OJ [Simpson] story for example. We talk about stories that kids are going to be affected by, even if it’s in talking about it at school. One of the things that I like to do is arm kids to tell their parents to turn off the news. I never went to bed before 11:30 throughout my childhood because we had a TV In our room. I never asked questions. I thought guerrilla warfare was actually gorillas at war. When you’re a kid, you really need context and explanation. My friends daughter was about 5 on 9/11. They kept showing the pictures of the planes hitting the twin towers and she thought it was happening all over the country, all over the world, over and over again. So to arm kids to say “talk to me about this” or “can we change the channel”. Just to make adults aware of that has been a really important part of the show. A lot of times it’s just for them to talk about what’s going on in their lives. All kinds of things. In Philly we’re really lucky to have such great resources. Tracy Thomasey from the Support Center for Child Advocates, has been on with me several times for the serious stuff. Bringing the social workers point of view on it. That was such a simple question and I just went on and on.”
It’s great though because it’s a complex question that isn’t cut and dry. It’s important for people to know because sometimes parents don’t know how to handle tough situations like that and it’s good to have someone in your corner (no pun intended) to help. My son was 3 1/2 when 9/11 happened and it was a tough thing to explain. We watched the news all the time for days. But when you see your toddler recreating scenes from the event with his toys, you become aware that turning the news off is probably a good idea.
“Exactly. And I’ll tell you what song has served me well over the decades: “The Rainbow Connection”. The producer of “Kids America” was a guy named Keith Talbot. He said, to this day, he laughs whenever he hears it. When the Challenger blew up, I said that “sometimes you just don’t know how to explain things. You just gotta wonder, so here’s Kermit the frog.” That’s my go to.”
Radio has become almost a secondary source of music since the popularity of iPods, iTunes, satellite radio and things of that like. Why do you think it’s important to have something strictly for children on the RADIO?
“That’s a really good question. Because it is a radio show, even if you’re listening to it online, it’s still presented as a radio show. It gets back to the definition of radio as the theater of the mind and the most intimate medium. This is a part of the discussion we used to have at WBAI all the time…why radio? I’ve had friends that have been predicting the end of radio since I got into radio. They’d been trying to get me into other mediums. I just really think there is something so intimate and personal, specifically about radio, that somehow it works. If a parent listens to XPN and the really great music sources that there are now, the parents have some pretty great music collections. A Kindie rip off of the Beatles will never be the Beatles. And God bless them, I know some bands try to do all Beatles and I’m like “No. Throw in “Yellow Submarine” every once in a while, but turn them on to the real thing”. But I think them [kids] having their own music, having ownership of that music, is a big part of it. And having ownership of that hour on the radio is really important. The comedian Paul Tompkins, a Philly comic, was on years ago. To this day, he will still answer, if he answers honestly, if you ask him what the worst week of his life was, he would tell you the week he filled in for Kathy O’Connell on Kids Corner. Because he’s very quick and very funny and a lovely man, but the kids were like “you’re really not doing this right. We have to tell you how to do this show. You have to do this…” They really take ownership of it. We may have grown up on radio, but to a lot of kids…it’s kind of foreign to them.”
Do you believe radio has a future and why do you think it’s so important for radio to survive?
“There’s this new thing, Beats, that just came out…our program director was just talking about it. And they say now that this will really kill radio. He pointed out that there’s XPN’s now all over the country that prove that we can do this. It’s not gonna work everywhere. I’ve been waiting 30 years for kids radio to take off. On Sirius satellite radio, they have Kids Place Live. I have friends who do the kids channel on Sirius and they’re still waiting for it to be the next big thing. It’s never gonna be enormous but I always feel it’s gonna be there. I guess if I were younger, I’d be more panicked about it’s future.”
Does WXPN host any kids concerts? If so, when do they take place?
“All the time. One of the big things we do on kids corner every year for the last few years is a conference for Kindie musicians called KindieComm. The “Comm” is for community that came out of the Non-COMMvention that XPN does every year. That was like our template for it. In connection with that, when we have all these musicians from all over the world, kids musicians gathering in Philadelphia. Attached to that, we do the Kids Corner music festival every year on that Sunday. So, next year I think April 2 or 3, is the Sunday. I also attach onto every concert by certain bands like Trout Fishing in America, my favorite band in all the world. Truly, they’re a great example of doing this kids thing. Then they got word that this crazy lady in Philadelphia had fallen in love with the band and all of the sudden they’re doing a concert for 800 kids in a book store in New Jersey. It’s this amazing thing. So I attach myself to a lot of music events. There’s a big one coming up in a couple of weeks. It’s called Kidchella. It’s gonna be at the Smith Memorial playground on July 24. Jeff Bogle, the kids blogger, has put it together. It’s a concert with Play Date, Shine and the Moonbeams and The Alphabet Rockers. (Here’s the link to that event: http://smithplayground.org/kidchella-july-24/)
The zoo does a Tuesday music series every summer. So there’s a lot of stuff.”
How can people keep the program going?
“Go to http://www.WXPN.org. The best way is to tell people with kids about it [Kids Corner]. Tell teachers about it. Tell librarians. I just assume everybody knows about kids corner just because I’ve been doing it so long, but until you have kids, you’re not aware of what’s out there for kids. It really isn’t on your radar. So that’s the most supportive thing you can do to support the show. Pass it along.”
We’ve all heard that kids say the darndest things or kids say the funniest things. The idea has spawned television shows, books, blogs, and more. If you have kids, no matter how old they are, I’m sure you can recall many occasions where your child has said something so goofy, so silly, that it sent you into a fit of hysterics. I like to jokingly say that they were made to be cute and funny when they are young because that is what keeps us from giving them away when they drive us absolutely crazy!
It’s not just humor though. Another expression, out of the mouths of babes, although it’s roots are of a biblical nature, has become an idiom to represent a moment when from a child comes words or ideas that show a very adult like mentality or sentiment. Did you ever hear the story about the semi-truck that got stuck going underneath a highway overpass? It didn’t make the clearance and became wedged in underneath, holding up traffic, and causing problems for the truck driver, his cargo, and the other drivers. For some time police, firemen, road crews, and workmen all tried to free the truck using a variety of equipment. It wasn’t until an 8-year-old boy driving with his parents in a car going the other way came upon the scene and asked his parents what was going on. His parents, describing the scene, told their son that the truck was stuck and that the crews were working hard to try to get it out and under the clearance. The little boy to the surprise of his family, said simply, “why don’t they just let the air out of the tires?”
There’s some speculation as to whether or not that story is true or if it’s just one of those urban legend, folk tale type stories, that get passed around from person to person, and eventually pulled out when it fits the situation. Today, it fits the situation. All this week we are letting the kids do the talking. We’ve interviewed many people about many things in the months since we began this project. We’ve asked lots of questions and heard many opinions. Our goals? To find common ground for people. To find things that people would like to share and like to do together regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, class, and so on. To give people a platform to talk, and an opportunity to listen. To write material and conduct interviews that people can identify with. All of the people we’ve talked to have been different from one another in so many ways. The one thing that has been true of each and every one of them is that they were all adults.
We’ve done the grown-up thing here on One Unified. Now, we’re taking this entire week to a different level. All of our interviews, questions, polls, and even our Sunday Spotlight will be by the kids, for the kids, and about the kids. It really is true that kids say the darndest things. It can be pretty amazing just to hear the difference in perception that a child has when faced with the same question or problem as an adult. You’ll see if you follow along this week. Whether you have kids or not, you’ll surely be able to identify with our kids talk week, so stay tuned all week for more…
And now, we’re sharing the comparing perspectives of a parent and child. The only “grown-up” we interviewed or spoke to this week (apart from getting parental consent of course), we thought this started the week off right. Goes to show how differently a grown up and a kid will answer relatively the same questions. Also goes to show how verbose some 6 year olds can be. And of course, this particular interview shows that sometimes 42-year-old men are really just 6-year-old boys with a car and a job.
Our grown up is 42-year-old man. Our kid? A just turned 6-year-old boy. They are father and son.
Have you ever been interviewed before? Dad: I was interviewed for a local paper when there was a fairly serious accident at my workplace.
Kid: That’s boring.
What’s your favorite tv show?
Dad: Game of Thrones.
Kid: I really like Little Einsteins but my mom said that it’s not on tv anymore and the player for the dvd broke because the dog knocked it off the table. I think my sister threw it away though.
What do you think is the coolest job in the world?
Dad: Navy Seal is a pretty cool job.
Kid: Superhero. Like if I was gonna get a job as a superhero I’d want the job to be Spiderman or Hulk. I think Hulk more. I don’t think I like being green but he is really strong and then I could keep away all the bad guys that try to break in to my house.
Do a lot of bad guys try to break in to your house?
Dad: Not that I’m aware of. Unless this goes on when I am at work.
Kid: Not right now, like today. But if it happens then I could be ready and shoot them with my laser gun.
So, you are a laser shooting Hulk. What about another job besides superhero? Can you think of another cool job?
Dad: I think being a brain surgeon is a cool job. (At this point I call the dad out for saying that just to try to subconsciously implant the idea of becoming a doctor to his laser gun wielding Hulk wannabe. He concedes.)
Son: I think a cop or like an agent. Like, you know, a secret agent or a spy. yeah, a spy. That’s a cool job.
What do you think your wife (and your mom) does all day at work? (She is a social worker)
Dad: She assists people who are struggling with paying their utility and other bills on time. She tries to get them on payment plans, find out of they are eligible for grants, and so forth. I know she spends a lot of time on the phone with various people and agencies. Probably about 80% of her day is spent on the phone.
Kid: I guess she talks on the phone. I don’t know. I know she talks a lot on the phone at home so she maybe probably talks a lot at her work too. I know when she picks me up sometimes she looks very very grumpy.
Do you think grown ups are grumpy a lot of the time? Why do you think that is? Dad: I try not to be grumpy. Or at least not when I am around the kids. Everyone gets grumpy sometimes though, right? Sometimes people are just having a bad day.
Kid: I don’t know about kids. I see kids who cry sometimes and kids who laugh sometimes if something is funny but I don’t think there’s that much grumpy kids. If they are grumpy they probably just play X Box or have a snack and then they feel better. Like my mom she has ice cream sometimes. When she sees me and my sister and when she has ice cream. Those are the two times she cheers up fast.
What do you think is the prefect age to get married?
Dad: Is this a trick question? I’ll say 30. I was actually 27. I think you need to be a little bit established. I think you need to be sure, be ready. But if you plan to have kids, you don’t want to wait too long. You need all the youth and energy you can get to deal with these guys!
Kid: Like a thousand (laughs). I don’t think I am gonna get married really because then I will have to live in a house that has kids and stuff in it like my house. If I have to get married though I think maybe 20 or 25 is a good age.
This Sunday is Father’s Day. It will be the first Father’s Day for the man we are talking to in today’s interview. Whether you’re a first time father as well, or a seasoned pro at this dad thing, I think you’ll find some common ground with this brand new dad. And perhaps too with some of our other dad-honoring interviews and posts coming up this week.
You just became a dad for the first time is that right?
“Yes! Ava! That’s my baby. She’s nine months old.”
That’s wonderful. Congratulations! What is it like being a father?
“It’s amazing. It’s scary and nerve-wracking. She is so unbelievably little. It’s a difficult conundrum because all I ever want to do is hold her and smell her and watch her sleep, and carry her around and at the same time I feel like she is so small and fragile that I don’t want to damage her. If that makes any sense at all, I don’t know.”
Absolutely. I remember being scared to touch them when they were that tiny, especially the first. There seems to be so much to be afraid of. What is your biggest fear in being a dad?
“Oh I don’t know. I mean now I think about if I am doing everything right? Am I putting her diaper on okay, is it too tight? What if I feed her something and she’s allergic to it? There’s a never-ending barrage of things that go through my head every day. And then at night when she’s asleep, I think about the bigger stuff. What am I going to do when someone makes her cry? Where am I going to hide the body? (laughter) How am I going to keep her from dating the wrong guy? I mean I can only clean my shotgun on the front porch so many times. (laughter) I have dreams, like crazy dreams, where I’m running after her and she’s about to do something wrong and I’m calling her name and she doesn’t hear me and my hands are tied. I just stand and watch her do whatever it is that she’s going to do. It’s pretty crazy. But enough about that….”
Something positive then! Your biggest joy? How about that?
“Oh man, right now all of them. Every time she smiles. Whenever she does something new it’s like ridiculous. The other day she was sitting on the floor and she picked up her little ducky and said “duck”. It was as if she’d found the cure for cancer. I took no less than 20 pictures, called 5 people, posted an update on Facebook. I’m like, THAT DAD. And I don’t even care.”
I don’t think too many people would have much issue with a doting, loving father. And you have a somewhat unique perspective in that you are a stay-at-home dad too. How was the decision made for you to be home with the baby?
“It was pretty easy really. She makes more. All things being equal, it made more financial sense. Plus she has a position that requires her to be out there in the workforce every day. I have a job where I can stay home with Ava and still do some paid work from home when I have the time.”
Obviously there’s lots of stay-at-home dads nowadays, but there’s still a misguided belief about moms being the ones who “should” stay home while the dad works. Were you concerned at all about stereotypes or stigma?
I’m a 6’3″ bearded man in a Heineken T-shirt wearing a Moby wrap (a baby carrier sling) and carrying a binky, it’s pretty clear that I have no issue with what people think of me. It’s all about my baby and my family and that’s it at the end of the day.”
Well said. What was the dynamic like with your own father when you were growing up?
“Oh it was definitely Ozzie and Harriet.”
“I’m kidding. It was nothing like that. My dad travelled a lot. My mom worked. They barely spoke for the bulk of my childhood and might not have spoken at all for my adolescence had it not been to conspire on the best punishment options for whatever I had done wrong that week.”
Do you think that has shaped the kind of father you are, the kind you want to be?
“It gave me the perfect picture of what I didn’t want. I love my parents, don’t get me wrong. I just like loving them from 200 miles away. Or over the phone. Or even better via email. I definitely love them the best via email. (laughter)”
Lastly, what will you do for your first Father’s Day?
“I was kind of hoping that Ava and my wife would get together and build me a new workbench, maybe clean out the garage for me. Then I thought Ava could write me a song about being the world’s best dad and my wife could rub my back and bring me beer after beer while I watch whatever I want on tv all day. Oh sorry, I got lost a minute there. Uh, we’re probably going to my in-laws for a BBQ. (laughter) Yeah, it doesn’t sound quite the same does it?”
Happy Father’s Day to you. I hope you enjoy it. And to all of the dads reading, Happy Father’s Day to you too. We moms couldn’t do it without you. Well, we could, but then who would we blame when something goes wrong?
You’re funny. So are you.
We should’ve been a team. Damn. Is it too late to send back the one I’ve got? Pretty sure it is.
Oh well, Happy Father’s Day then.
We’re finishing out the week with the story of someone who spends today (Mother’s Day) every year honoring the memory of her mother and aunt. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you magical, magnificent moms!
HOW DO YOU SPEND MOTHER’S DAY EACH YEAR? I do the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PARTICIPATING IN THAT EVENT?
This is I think the 9th year. We started in 2006 when my mom was first diagnosed.
SO YOUR MOTHER HAD BREAST CANCER?
Yes. She was diagnosed in 2006. She underwent treatment for about 18 months. She was doing fairly well, and then in 2009 it came back. She passed away in June of 2010.
I’M SO SORRY. HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH THIS EVENT AFTER YOUR MOM WAS DIAGNOSED?
My aunt actually had breast cancer as well. It wasn’t my mom’s sister. It was actually on my dad’s side. My dad’s first cousin, but we all called her an aunt. She had passed away in 2003. She was only 35 years old. It was a real blow to both of my parents, to the whole family really. She had become involved herself when she was undergoing treatment. It’s a name you hear all the time now, even if you don’t have cancer, or even know anyone who does. But back then it wasn’t quite so prevalent. She met a woman in treatment who was fundraising for her team and she told my aunt about it. I remember her telling the family that she wanted to participate and get a team together. Team Linda was the first team we ever had in the family. I wasn’t a physical part of it back then. The team had about 5 people on it.
CAN YOU TELL US WHAT IT IS EXACTLY, WHAT IT MEANS TO PARTICIPATE?
Well, Susan G. Komen is the largest breast cancer foundation in the country. It started in 1982 by Nancy Goodman. She was the younger sister of Susan Komen, who died of breast cancer in 1980 at the age of 36. There are so many efforts and events all over the country, but the Breast Cancer 3 Day and the Race for the Cure are probably the best known. The foundation has been under some scrutiny over the past few years, but pound for pound they still raise more money for research and patient support than anyone else. I do it because it makes me feel like I am honoring my mother’s memory, and her name.
SO WHAT ARE THE DETAILS OF THE EVENT?
It takes place every Mother’s Day. This year it is Sunday May 10th. It starts at Eakins Oval, right in front of the art museum (The Philadelphia Museum of Art). I think they’ve changed the route slightly but we run Kelly Dr. all the way down across Girard Ave. and back up MLK Dr. It’s a 5K run. There is also a walking version.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR TEAM?
Our team has grown! We’re up to about 30 participants now. It started as myself, my sister, my mom, my (other) aunt and her friend. After my mom passed, we added my dad, my uncle, a few of our neighbors, and some of her friends and co-workers. People have come in and out over the years. The core of us has always been there though. If it weren’t for this event, this day, I think Mother’s Day would be absolutely horrific for us all.
ARE YOU A MOM YOURSELF?
I am. I have 2 girls. My husband brings them to the race. They don’t participate yet. They watch mom. They charm strangers. They participate in kid’s stuff. Someday they’ll be walking or running along with us.
DO YOU WORRY AT ALL, HAVING LOST TWO FEMALE FAMILY MEMBERS TO THE DISEASE?
Naturally I worry more than the average person does, I’m sure. I must have more frequent mammograms and I live a very healthy lifestyle. They talk about all sorts of genetic factors involved. I worry more about my girls I think. But I try to never let it get the best of me. My mom would have hated that. She would have been furious knowing that her contracting this disease had caused me to live my life in fear or doubt. That is not how I want to honor her. I want to honor her by living, by doing everything that she would have wanted to do, her and my aunt, if they were still here.
GOOD LUCK ON THE RACE! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Thank you! Happy Mother’s Day to you too!