This week, in honor of this Sunday's Father's Day, I thought I'd sit down with my husband and baby daddy, Hal, and ask him a few questions about being a dad. (He's a great one, by the way. And you're about to see why...)
Hal: Oh, hello.
Bec: This weekend marks your 10th Father's Day. What do you have to say about that?
Hal: Honestly, I can't remember any of the past nine Father's Days except for that one when it was also your birthday and I attempted to make you a cake and it exploded.
Bec: It was DELICIOUS though.
Hal: It was delicious.
Bec: ...Wait. But, like... what do you have to say about MAKING IT OUT ALIVE ten years into being a dad? Four kids is no joke
Hal: First off, and let the record state, I don't feel like it's MAKING IT OUT ALIVE. It's not an easy life we have but I'm grateful for all of it. Becoming a dad made me realize there were more important things than myself. It transformed me. Having children made me see individuality. It made me respect and value others in a way I hadn't before. Fatherhood has given me tolerance and the recognition that life is not mine to control. I'm still working on that by the way. I have control issues.
For example, and as you know, I was laid off yesterday. And I came home and saw you and Archer and Fable and I immediately felt like a loser. I was so afraid you/they would see me as weak and less than. I didn't want any of you to see me angry or upset, especially them. Because I saw them and I knew that they were concerned. I knew they were watching me and listening to the things I was telling you. And when they asked what was wrong, I wanted to say "nothing" and be done with it. But that wasn't true. And I wanted them to feel like they could be a part of my vulnerable moment in a way that might be empowering for all of us. Even though I REALLY REALLY wanted to say, fuck it, and start breaking shit.
And so I turned around and faced them. Severance package in hand. I faced them and told them what was up and suddenly I was able to see myself in their eyes -- and I looked different than I looked in my own mirror. I felt like instead of this being an end, it was a beginning... Sometimes, it's easier to explain things to yourself when you're explaining them to your kids.
And so. I explained to Archer and Fable what had happened and then we had a very important conversation about life and how sometimes shit just happens. And then I asked the kids if there was anything special they wanted to do and they were, like, "Yeah! Let's go to Dave and Busters and I was like, "FUCK IT! Let's go. LET'S GO LIVE IT UP!"
So we did. Instead of having a nervous breakdown, we all put on our shoes and went out into the unknown. Together.
Bec: You Became a father unexpectedly. What was that like?
Hal: It's funny because I'm in a very similar place right now than I was then. I had just moved to LA and I thought, "how the fuck am I going to do this? How are we going to make this work?" I had to summon a lot of strength and tell myself (and us) that everything was going to be fine. And I had to believe that. Like, truly believe that everything was going to be fine. I didn't have the luxury to dwell in self-pity and I really wanted to. I still feel that way. Right now, especially.
Bec: And then Archer was born. What then? How did you feel?
Hal: Amazing. I couldn't believe... and now I'm going to cry because I was so in love with you and that baby -- It was the strongest love I had ever felt in my life. I felt complete. In the hospital. With all these people helping us. Ha! (When we got home it got REAL real fast.) My love didn't fade, of course, but it was overwhelming there for a few weeks... months... years.
Bec: What, for you, is the most difficult part of fatherhood?
Hal: Constantly second guessing the messages I'm sending my children. Am I teaching them life skills? Am I helping them become well-adjusted? I know that I am instrumental in their development and I hope that I'm doing a good job. I think that I am. But I second guess myself constantly. I want to create a solid base for my children and I want to be very conscious of that. They're here and they see it all. They hear me and they see me and they're always watching and listening. That's a lot of pressure. Good pressure, but pressure...
Bec: Most gratifying?
Hal: There are those moments when your kids are looking at you and you're looking at them and you feel like you get each other. You're reaching each other. You're having a conversation or you're singing a song or you're walking down the street and it's like, "I see you." "Yeah. Same here."
Bec: You've been married almost as long as you've been a father? What's more challenging? Why?
Hal: In one sense they're wildly different. But in other respects they're exactly the same because marriage and fatherhood are both about maintaining respect for the individual on the other side of you. And that individual is JUST as complex as you are -- no one is a robot. No one is the same every day (or every minute). All relationships have good phases and really challenging times. And it's that way as a parent as well. Your kid is this amazing perfect creature one minute and the next they're drawing all over the wall... Same with marriage. Fuck, we all draw on the wall, you know? And usually it's pencil (which comes off fairly easily) but sometimes its crayon. Sometimes its sharpie.
Bec: How is it different fathering daughters than it is a son?
Hal: With Archer I am very conscious of what positive masculine ideals are and at the same time, I need to be equally conscious of positive feminist ideals for the girls. I didn't grow up with sisters and therefore never spent time with young girls, so I didn't have any experience observing/learning that until I became a father. And it's an amazing time in history to be raise daughters, i.e. soon to be young, empowered women. And, yes, we have a long way to go on this Earth, but with that said, it's still quite an exciting time to be a father of daughters. And Archer is so lucky that he can cover both bases; we have our little boy bond, but then having four females in the house has created incredibly this sensitive empathetic boyman who is so hyperaware of his surroundings. It's so T-Rex (20st Century Boy +1).
Bec: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom to share with expecting fathers or those new to this dad-hood scene?
Hal: Hmmmm... I think for most men, feeling a need to PROVIDE can be overwhelming and I guess I want to tell you to remember what it means to truly PROVIDE. Emotionally. Physically... your kids needs YOU. They don't need some new trendy stroller or whatever the hot overpriced baby thing is right now.... There are all of these financial pressures on new parents and in retrospect I realize that REALLY BEING THERE when your baby is born, and really BEING THERE as your kids grow up? That's everything. That's providing.
Bec: I love you. You're pretty great, you know that?
Hal: Wait - this isn't for a Dove campaign?