Just over a year ago I became the father of two beautiful and perfect twin girls. It’s been a great year and I look forward to many more as a Dad.
When I say my girls are perfect, please take that with a grain of salt. In theory no one who can’t speak any language fluently and soils themselves on a daily basis could be considered perfect. These girls are both unemployed and do not go to school. They waste food by throwing it on the floor or rubbing it into their hair. They rudely grab my wife’s breasts. If they were adults, they’d be the worst people in the world.
I marvel at the things my girls do, but if I wasn’t their father it would be pretty normal baby stuff. Just about every baby learns to walk and talk and makes cute sounds while they’re trying to form words. It’s a pretty normal part of life and not exciting unless it’s YOUR baby that’s doing it.
I try to keep in perspective that not all people have or want children and don’t really care about the details of my children’s lives. Endless child-rearing talk can get pretty old pretty fast even when you have kids. There are a lot of shitty parents out there, and you notice that even more when you become a parent yourself.
A lot of parents adopt a bullshit attitude that doesn’t take other adults seriously unless they’ve had children. I have made it a point not to fall into this trap. Being a parent can become a crutch and I’ve seen ignorant people push strollers around like they were some kind of moralistic steamroller. Way too many parents think that the fact that they’ve reproduced puts them on some higher moral plane.
Here, in no particular order of intensity, are five key things to expect when you become a parent:
You will get disgusting bodily fluids on you. When you set out to paint your house, you know you’re going to get paint on your clothes. When you go to do carpentry you know there will be sawdust on your shoes. You will get unpleasant bodily fluids on you when you are a parent. Just a few weeks ago I had one of my babies on my lap as we flew from New York City to Atlanta to visit relatives over the holidays. My daughter’s diaper sprung a leak, so I had large urine stains on the crotch of my pants
A baby’s cry will push you towards insanity. Do you like loud grating noises that you can’t stop waking you up at 3 a.m.? Then you’ll love this aspect of parenthood. Sometimes a baby will go on a crying tantrum and drone on in the loudest, most annoying crying possible. You will do everything for the baby and it will still cry. Something in the human psyche snaps when it’s subjected to loud, unstoppable noise. Your baby will cry uncontrollably at the worst possible times and push you to the brink of insanity. You will think dark thoughts and not act on them, and the baby will eventually stop crying.
To some extent you will join the parenting herd. If the 25-year-old-me could see the 42-year-old me, he’d be horrified that I do things like grocery shopping and give babies baths on weekends. I’ll sometimes talk parenting crap with other parents. I’ll even consider buying a minivan or SUV. No part of being a parent is immune from looking lame. You think you can remain an absolute badass through any situation? Sure champ, try looking edgy while carrying a Cabbage Patch kid across a crowded restaurant.
You will lose a lot of freedom but gain a measure of immortality. There are great times when someone suggests something at the last minute that leads to a fun outing or great adventure. That tends to stop happening when you have little mouths to feed. Those days when your wife or girlfriend suggested you go to the beach or to a movie and you just drop everything and go won’t be back for a few decades. The kind of sudden outings are gone for now, and your freedom is tremendously curtailed when you have kids. But, you have insured that a piece of you will live on after you. You have helped make another human being, another small version of yourself who has a whole lifetime of glory and possibilities ahead of them.
So enjoy the measure of immortality you achieve by having kids. It will be the most annoying yet the most joyful thing you will ever do. I understand it’s not for everyone, but I highly recommend it.
Swearing off the usual litany of New Year resolutions (except to maybe be kinder to people), the New Year is still a time to do something new or seek to improve yourself. I’ve decided that this year is the year I become proficient at archery.
Hunting is an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors, and while a gun is still the preferred method, a gun usually only gives you 10 days or so each year to hunt per state.
Bow hunting season, however, is much longer. For example, New York State’s deer and bear bow hunting season can be about three months long, depending on area. And on Long Island and parts of New York State closest to the city, where the population is very dense, only bow hunting is allowed for regular hunters. Bow hunting is also a bigger challenge. You have to be much closer to the animal to take it with an arrow and you will usually have to track that animal for a much longer distance once you’ve hit it.
And even if you don’t hunt, archery is an excellent and fun skill to develop. It’s something that city dwellers have the ability to do with several centers within the five boroughs. Archery is also a way to connect to the past and to characters in literature from Robin Hood to Katniss Everdeen.
I decided to visit Queens Archery, which is located not too far away from where I live. I showed up without a reservation but was getting a good archery lesson only a few minutes after arriving. The cost was only $25. That included an excellent lesson using a really sweet compound bow and some arrows on a target.
The young instructor taught me the basics of a proper stance and range safety, as well as other basic essentials that I had no idea about. For example, you NEVER “dry fire” a bow without an arrow in it. It can seriously damage it and cause it to come part. The compound bow uses a hand-held trigger device that one uses to release the bow and shoot the arrow. It was simple and the arrows flew into the target with a satisfying thwack!
A bow has to be set for each individual user and since mine wasn’t set for my specific use, it was not as accurate as it would have been if it had been customized. But with a little bit of adjustment, I managed to do pretty well. The instructor quickly moved me from the five yard line to the 10 yard line.
More newcomers arrived and they were soon shooting alongside me, some with compound bows and some with more traditional recurve bows. They varied in ability but they all seemed to have a nice time and they quickly improved their aim with some additional pointers from the instructors.
The instructor was happy with my abilities and said I might be able to move over to the more advanced part of the archery range on my next visit.
It was very satisfying to see the dozen or so hunting trophies on the wall that the center’s hunting club members had taken using their skills. It felt good to be in the city and be at a place where people appreciated were dedicated to developing skills for the outdoors.
New York is a city that lives on the freedom of expression. It is the place where people come to from all over the world to be free and to be themselves. There are many thousands of Muslims in New York and no one has been killed here over a cartoon.
New Yorkers were aghast that people in a civilized country like France could be massacred because they published cartoons of a religious figure. Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of lots of religious figures, it was their depiction of the prophet Mohammed that got them killed. True to form, the newspaper has vowed it will publish again.
If I were a better artist, I’d draw up some nice Mohammed cartoons of my own. But cartoonists quickly reacted with great artistic aplomb and there are now many great works of art depicting the Islamic prophet in a host of inventive poses. More power to them.
That there is any reluctance to embrace the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ movement is a troubling sign that the cowardice in the face of Islamic extremism is already firmly rooted among many in the West. Some media outlets are even declining to publish the controversial Mohammed cartoons that Charlie Hebdo published. Those editors are cowards.
Each terror attack generates more pathetic coddling of Muslims than backlash attacks against them. The bodies at the Charlie Hebdo offices weren’t cold before the Internet was littered with the usual moral scolds warning us against “intolerance.”
Intolerance is actually OK when faced with the intolerable, and murdering people for publishing cartoons is as intolerable as it gets. It is right to be intolerant of any ideology that feels justified treading on the freedoms of others. It would be wrong to paint all Muslims with such a broad brush, but not acknowledging Islam’s greater propensity for violence is being willfully ignorant. The immediate calls for “tolerance” in the face of terror cross the line from reason to submission.
There’s also a big difference between criticizing and satirizing the tenets of Islam and attacking Muslims. People who burn down mosques are attacking Muslims. Publishing a cartoon that makes fun of the prophet Mohammed is par for the course. Like it or not, Mohammed’s success in founding one of the world’s largest religions has made him a public figure and public figures are subject to ridicule regularly.
Most of my family and friends are Christians and they can take seeing Jesus ridiculed. Christians believe Jesus forgave the people who crucified Him, so posting a cartoon of Jesus giving Mohammed a reach-around has got to be forgivable.
We should have as many Charlie Hebdos as the newsstands and Internet can hold. We should saturate the market with as much blasphemous imagery as possible and let religious fanatics see their icons desecrated every day.
The idea of killing a cartoonist or a writer over satirical work is so appallingly immoral that it demands we double down on the blasphemous satire. There should be no publication in the world not running offensive Mohammed cartoons.
Islamic fundamentalists have now made it a moral imperative to insult their prophet in the most objectionable manor possible. No one should hesitate to publish a single one.
Most Januaries are for a plethora of resolutions that don’t normally survive the spring thaw. But here is one that might work and improve your life if no one else’s: do one kind thing every day this year.
I know, I know, imploring people to be kind to each other is for hippies, religious folk and other delusional softies. But hear me out. Doing your best to be kind to people will help you out and make your life better. You’ll be happier with yourself.
Of course you shouldn’t be overly deferential or fall into the trap of pathological altruism, the legions of self-flagellating bleeding hearts are giving kindness a bad name. But a little bit of human decency goes a long way in today’s world.
Don’t be afraid to be kind in fear of it rendering you soft or foolish. Real kindness won’t make you weak. Being kind and humane is in fact a sign of strength.
The truly hard people in the world don’t need to be mean to people, they live the hard life when it counts and don’t have anything to prove. I’ve met armed forces veterans who have killed people in battle, I’ve met former I.R.A. bombers and others who did hard time in prison and I’ve met drug dealers with visible bullet wound scars on their bodies. All of them were nice and pleasant to speak with. They knew who they were and didn’t need to put on a tough guy act.
The person who made the best case for showing kindness on a daily basis was a former Marine who had seen some of the most horrific famine and violence in Somalia. He suggested giving two compliments a day to people and have at least several acts of kindness or generosity in your recent memory when you go to bed at night. I’ve heard the spiel about being nice and paying compliments to people from a lot of sources, but his talk was the one that remains fresh in my mind. I knew he had seen some of the worst the world has to offer, and the Marine Corps is the only institution in the world where it’s a compliment to be called a “jarhead.”
This Marine understood something that is easily lost in our world of cyber communication and online anonymous hate. Human beings have an ingrained need to keep a check on their own humanity. We are social creatures. For all of our individualist motivation, the people who actually do live without connections to other human beings wind up living like a scrambled mess. Simple acts of kindness to other people reassure us that we are still able to function in the world.
In New York, citizens of the Big Apple relish the tough reputation of our city, but also cherish the opportunity to help tourists and strangers where appropriate. Our love of the city motivates us to help others enjoy it and navigate its many quirks.
Be kind this year. You’ll be better for it.