For me, the easiest part about becoming a dad has been tapping into my 8 year old self so that I can work magic with Lego, train track building, and even help my son ward off the monsters that he hears coming down the hallway. I would like to imagine that he perceives me as a sometimes-semi-omnipotent God and fixer of all things mechanical. Last week, however, when I made a Lego man jump from one of my knees to the other, defying gravity and reality, my son interrupted my fictional dream and said, “Dad, stop showing off.”
Welcome to being a parent of a three year old. They don’t miss jack shit. I heard my wife laugh from the other room, and I knew she knew Sevan now had my number. As Paul Simon sang, “these are the days of miracle and wonder.” And they are. Every day, Sevan finds new ways to express who he is and how he perceives the world. It’s totally nuts.
He turned three at the end of March, and it seemed to be a perfect opportunity to slow down and smell the roses. Yes, I continued training for the 50km Sulphur Springs ultramarathon in May and the five day 170km Tour du Mont Blanc in July, but I also knew that if I didn’t stay mindful, life could quickly become a revolving door of doing with little or no reflection. Good parenting, like good living, requires some reflection. More on that in a bit…
Another reason to slow down is that my book project, Josef’s Lair, is currently being reviewed by an editor. A lot of physical and emotional energy went into preparing the project for review, and before I mount the grand effort to finish the book, a time-out seemed to be in order — to let the fields go fallow and soak up some creative inspiration around me.
So over the past few weeks, I finished the final season of Breaking Bad, as well as watched Katyn, the Polish film about the duel occupation of Poland during World War II by Russia and Germany. I was also treated to Sarah Polley’s superb documentary The Stories We Tell, about the secrets and varying narratives that exist in her family story. I also started to read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, caught a concert with my wife (Emmylou-Harris and Daniel Lanois), and even watched some home movies from our family trip to France last year. It has been restorative.
I think Sevan turning three has marked the beginning of something new, too. He can express his likes and fears more clearly, and, to a degree, can be reasoned with. Sev also spends long minutes alone in his room happily playing, talking to his trains, and creating worlds in his imagination.
I’ve said it before, but the first year of parenthood was quite an adjustment for me, as I struggled to resituate myself in a world where nothing was familiar (and everything was blurred by sleep deprivation). Then, the second year, I started to figure out where my old self fit into this new picture. Now, after three years, a clear picture of the future has begun to emerge.
With the extra space to think, I find myself moving away from “surviving” the days to planning longer term goals, whether creative, financial, or even where I would love to spend time in my golden years.
Part of this process, of course, is understanding the future I want and taking concrete steps to get there (of course, in consultation with Lara). A wise mountain biker once told me to always look where I want to go, not where I don’t want to go. I remember one time cycling the Don Valley looking where I didn’t want to go and ended up in the bushes, literally. I think this is why we need to actively imagine the lives we want to lead. Sounds obvious, but sometimes we get caught up in our fears for the future, which is the same as looking at the bushes.
All this is to say, I have unending gratitude for my wife and son leading me down the path of fatherhood. To my son, I say this: I can’t imagine having a more loving and entertaining creature to keep me focused on the journey ahead. Chapeau, sir.