It is five o’clock on a January morning in 2014 and I’m driving a pickup truck on the Grand Central Parkway. My pregnant wife is in the passenger’s seat. It’s dark and the roads are nearly deserted.
“In a few hours we’re going to be parents,” I tell her. “Isn’t that crazy?” She agrees.
This week our older girls, fraternal twins, will turn five. That’s a half decade of parenting in the can. We have three now, the youngest will be three in June, sharing a birthday with one of her uncles.
Having kids is a definite turning point in everyone’s life, and it brings a kind of happiness that is hard to achieve in other places. But it’s not panacea where unicorns and rainbows to replace the regular sturm und drang of life. All the same stresses and difficulties are there, and now they are there with new mouths to feed and diapers to change. Kids won’t turn you into a better person. You’ll still be an angry curmudgeon if you were one before their birth. But as miserable as your life may get from that point onward, your children will be a consistent reason to be happy, even when they are throwing up on you.
I am extremely fortunate that I went into parenthood with a very wide support network, a steady paycheck and a happy marriage. Not everyone has that. When I was born my parents were half the age I was when I had kids. Neither one had a college degree at the time. I started out way ahead; I have no excuses if my kids become serial killers.
Luckily, our kids are great and continue to inspire us to be better people. I see how bright they are and how they enjoy learning and I want them to never stop loving life or the pursuit of knowledge. Despite the many stresses and strains; my wife and I enjoy our molding, shaping and unconditionally loving these impressionable young lives. It’s an awesome responsibility but also one of unlimited potential.
I vowed not to be the kind of parent that gauged someone’s worth by whether or not they reproduced – I faced enough of that before I had children.
“So do you have a family?” someone asked me at a business reception years before I met my wife. They meant to ask if I was married and had kids, but the question seemed like they were checking to see if I had hatched out of an egg. Well I was raised by wolves and since I’m not biologically wolf I can’t track down the pack that raised me by my sense of smell, so no I guess. —was how I should have answered, but I mumbled a simple ‘no’ and noted I wasn’t married and changed the subject.
And while my kids are crushing life, we must refuse to put their accomplishments in place of our own. No one outside a tight circle of family and friends care how awesome your kids are, and having children is no excuse to fall on your face in every other aspect of life. No slacking.
This weekend we’ll be hosting a kids’ birthday party for the twins with pizza, cake and animals. It will be a big, tiring, stressful day but one that will have a happy ending because we get to spend it with our children.
Five years have gone by fast. Wish us luck on the next fifteen.
My wife’s cousin Erin ran the New York City Marathon and several of us planned to go meet her along the route. Erin had arranged things so that friends and family would meet her at several points along the 26.2 mile run. We were scheduled to meet her about halfway through the run in Long Island City, Queens.
Taking two toddlers onto the 7 train is one of the most torturous mass transit experiences you can have. We gave them munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts and that sated their hunger but made them thirsty. We had no water for them, only giant coffee drinks that they couldn’t have. They cried and tried to wrestle free. Where on the 7 train they intended to go we had no idea, but they cried and screamed to be free of us.
Time slows down when you are the couple who brought crying children on the subway, but we eventually reached the Vernon-Jackson stop on the 7 train in Long Island City. Not wanting to take a double stroller onto subway, we brought backpack baby holders to carry them around in, but we had to hustle off the train to have space on the platform to wrestle the girls into those. We emerged from the subway stop into the cool November air. The weather was perfect for the race, and the marathon was close by and well under way.
The New York City Marathon is a somewhat of a crazy carnival. People show up with funny signs and runners often jog by in odd costumes. People show up to push their own causes: people handed out pamphlets for Bernard Sanders and solicited donations; the Jewish group Chabad had a space set up with a PA and hospitality to cheer on the runners.
There were a plethora of inspirational signs: ‘You CAN even!’ and ‘Run like the METS Depend on it’ were two of the more clever ones on display in Long Island City. A few held up signs that read, ‘Welcome to Queens!’ A few groups had enlarged photos of their friends and loved ones in the marathon. A couple near where we were standing had two large neon-colored Ls, their daughter’s initials. She gave them big hugs and was moved by their presence.
The runners reflect the city’s diverse patchwork of oddities as well. There were lots of runners dressed in the spirit of Halloween. I saw one competitor wearing a sheep suit and many more dressed superheroes such as Superman or Iron Man.
The runners are also an inspiration and represent all that is good about New York. They showcase the perseverance of the human spirit. There were runners that looked like they had to be in their 60s or 70s, including one elderly runner hobbling along with forearm crutches. One marathon runner was blind and was being helped along by some guides.
Lots of runners had their names on their jerseys and it was easy to root for them by name. More still had ear buds in their ears and were listening to music and so shouting encouragement to them was in vain. I decided I would shout, “Vive La France!” at French runners. They seemed to appreciate my support.
After tracking her via smart phones, our family group saw my wife’s cousin Erin as she approached us. She was in great spirits and chatted with us for a bit while waiting for her running partner. She munched in a snack, gave us hugs, and was off again. She finished the race in good time.
Here’s to all the marathon runners and everyone hitting the pavement and chasing your dreams.
No city is as emblematic of the urban life as New York City, so it may be a surprise to find that there are several farms operating in the city. There’s a working farm in Queens, the city’s largest borough.
The Queens County Farm Museum is a real working farm located in the Glen Oaks neighborhood of Queens.
The farm dates all the way back to the late 1600s and is the longest continually farmed site in New York State. It started as a farm during the days of the Dutch settlers. For many years it survived because it was run by patients of Creedmoor State Hospital, a mental hospital. Creedmoor is still in use today even though some of its buildings are abandoned. It’s fitting that farming survived in this area of Queens because of inmates from an insane asylum.
The Queens County Farm Museum is open to the public and while it is largely used for educational purposes, it is still a legitimate farm. You can buy fresh eggs laid by their chickens and eat vegetables grown there. When you go to visit you’ll see workers moving wheelbarrows of dirt and feeding animals.
The farm is visited by school groups and has lots of activities for students and volunteers. You can take classes there on a variety of topics. You can also rent space for parties. In the autumn, the farm grows an elaborate corn maze and the public is challenged to work their way through it with a map. My wife and I entered the maze a few years ago and it was not easy to find your way out.
This past weekend, they held a carnival there and the wife and I took our 15-month-old girls there to meet up with the in-laws and enjoy the nice weather. They got to pet rabbits, feed goats and sheep, ride ponies and take a hay ride. The girls got free balloons from the Glen Oakes Volunteer Ambulance Corps. We were able to take the girls up on a large tractor and got to see a great magic show by Cordone.
The five boroughs used to be covered in farms. New York City at one point did not extend far beyond the downtown area. Where City Hall is now was considered the remote outskirts of town (when they renovated City Hall Park in the late 1990s, workers unearthed graves from a poor house that used to be there).
In addition to the Queens County Farm Museum, there are urban farmers growing vegetables and raising chickens on small plots of land throughout the city. Staten Island has several working farms, though not open to the public. And there are people trying to preach the gospel of organic food by carving gardens out of abandoned lots and any scrap of space they can find.
The city currently doesn’t have enough arable land to make a dent in the agricultural markets, but it’s nice to know that people who live in this hothouse of a metropolis can get a taste of the farming life without leaving the city.
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.
I am glad to say that baby feces has its own useless scientific name. Meconium is the waste produced after a baby ingests nothing but amniotic fluid for several weeks or months. I don’t know why it gets its own name. Early baby poop is still poop. Anyway, the good people at Street Carnage published my musings on the subject. You can read the article here.
It’s always been my philosophy to engage in any and all adventure within reason. I have gone skydiving, hiked mountain trails, traveled to foreign lands, acted in a play, started a punk rock band and even had a bit part in a movie.
The one adventure that still terrified the shit out of me was having kids, but I could put it off no longer.
I once held the idea that having kids was a disastrous act reserved for spoiled suburbanites, entitled ghetto-dwellers, or saps too stupid to use birth control. I thought the human race was a doomed enterprise and the sooner the planet was turned back over to the hump-backed whales, baboons, tapirs and sloths, the better.
But circumstances blessed me in semi-adulthood with much younger siblings and I found my tolerance for dealing with children. When I was an underemployed bum living in my father and stepmother’s basement at the age of 24, playing with my stepbrothers and dancing to Johnny Cash songs with my young sister were among life’s few joys.
Over the years many of my friends have married and had children and I have watched people I once saw launch fireworks indoors or drink a jug of Southern Comfort at 10 in the morning suddenly in charge of small human lives and doing a good job of it.
Plenty of people with experience told me never to get married, but everyone I know who has had kids, no matter what misery has befallen them since, recommends having kids with the highest of praise and encouragement.
It’s a natural instinct. Everyone with a soul has the need to leave something behind in this world as a monument to the fact that they have lived. Few of us will wield the influence that will make our names live after for many years. History only has room for so many Caesars, Michaelangelos and Einsteins. But if we have kids, we’ve guaranteed at least a small piece of us will live on. We have made our mark in the world in some small way and shown we are secure enough in our personal survival to make more of our own kind. Of course part of this is ego-driven. I happen to think I’m a good person and that the world could use more people like my wife and me.
So it was with gusto and success that my wife and I set about to conceive. We soon learned that we were having twins and that they would both be girls. We debated names and set about preparing for their arrival.
Nine months passed by quickly, and it was soon time to deliver the goods to a phalanx of family and friends. With great patience and perseverance, my wife brought two beautiful baby girls into the world. They are perfect and destined for great things. If they are anything like me and my brother, they will fight like hell spawn for the first eighteen years of their lives.
So far my brief foray into the adventure of fatherhood has been all it was promised. I have a deep and abiding love for many of my family and friends, but if any of them crapped their pants while they were visiting me, they would be taking that all with them. True parental love is getting human feces on your hands and somehow not minding.
Living in New York City, raising children will be a difficult task. The cost of living is very high, waiting lists for good schools are long; there are dangers everywhere. The city is not designed for the modern conveniences of child-rearing. The streets, sidewalks and shops are too narrow for double-wide strollers, car seats, and screaming toddlers.
We have vowed not to become the worst of what I have seen in child-bearing among the many strangers I encounter in the Big Apple. A lot of people think that because they have reproduced that their lives are somehow more thrilling or important than others. The parents who have thrived in some of the “upwardly mobile” areas of the city have made their neighborhoods by-words for some the worst kind of overindulgent rot the human race has seen since the fall of Rome. I promise on my life and on the blood of my children that I will not become such an effete, self-satisfied, latte-breathed snob that are overrunning parts of Brooklyn and even Queens now. If that happens, I hope someone runs me down with a hijacked city bus.
There are many scary events on the horizon. These kids will get sick; they will say embarrassing things in public. They will refuse to eat their vegetables and maybe set fire to the cat. Eventually they will start dating, go to college and ask us to pay.
I don’t want to think about these terrifying things. I’ll save some money and make all the preparations I can, but this is the greatest and most consequential endeavor of all. There is little one can really coherently do but embrace parenthood as another great adventure. It’s the adventure where the stakes are the absolute highest and that you will never feel really prepared for.
Wish us luck.