FATHER-TASKING.

My son caught me talking to myself the other day. This isn’t unusual. I’ve accepted talking to myself as a requisite part of being a writer. I talk to myself in order to work through ideas that sound reasonable in my head, though may not, and often don’t, aloud. But bemused and a little curious, holding his large bouncy ball with both hands, Further just stared at me. Suddenly embarrassed, I stopped talking and stared back.

You see, Hannah needed a chance to do some work around the house without Further undoing it, so he and I went on a little walk down the road. Further was throwing the ball, mostly at Wendell or Charlie, and I was taking the opportunity to work out ideas for an article, absently chasing the ball down when it got away. So out loud, pacing back and forth, I was conducting an interview with a professor I was planning to call the next day. In other words, though technically walking with my son, I was somewhere else entirely.

Because the reality is, I can’t just do one thing. I am a chronic, borderline obsessive multi-tasker, physically uncomfortable doing just one thing, even when it’s taking a walk with my son. And though I used to think this was a positive trait, one that would get me ahead in the world, I now as a father wish I could turn it on and off, that I could be fully with my son when I’m with him, not just as a guardian, but a participant in his life.

He’s growing fast. He’s developing his speech, constructing sentences, having opinions, running, jumping, dancing, singing. It’s a lot of fun. Hannah pointed out the other day that I couldn’t wait for him to be old enough to play with. Yet here we were, our chance to play together, and I couldn’t see anything but my work.

The phrase “to live in the moment” has always bothered me a little. I don’t know why. Perhaps something about it felt evocative of new-agey privilege, that I can be so fulfilled in my needs as to be able to remove myself from the world and just bask in my riches. But I get it now. It isn’t about being with yourself. Living in the moment is about finding the things that are important to you and those around you then being with them when they’re there. It’s a different kind of multi-tasking. It’s the kind that instead of doing two different things at once, one part of you deletes your distractions while the other part bends down, holds out his arms in the shape of a basketball hoop, and says the words he should have been saying aloud since he started this walk with his son, “Further, you wanna dunk it?

further ball.

MISSING OUT.

I wanted to go. I mean, I was tired, we’d just spent the whole day at market, but listening to a lecture by Joel Salatin––whom I’d never met, only read many books by––sounded like a nice cap to the evening. So after market, Hannah, Further and I walked over to the conference center, chatted with some friends, and sat down.

However, Further, I could tell, was not going to have it. He was too tired––parent’s will know what I mean. He was wound up and dissatisfied with anything that resembled sitting in a seminar. So a few seconds after Joel started his talk, I had to leave with Further.

Outside the room, I could hear Salatin doing his thing––railing, ranting, being himself (he does a notably superb southern gentleman impression). Further, however, wanted to run.

So that’s what we did. He ran up and down the hallways as I lumbered behind him tiredly. We circled the building, occasionally hearing laughter or applause make its way to my emotions. Because I would be lying it I said I didn’t have moments of jealousy, of disappointment in missing out. But you know what, I liked watching my son. I liked knowing Hannah was in there enjoying herself, getting a nice break from being the one who chases child. I was having father/son time and it was, when I would look down at my son, lovely. Further was having a blast––he wasn’t missing a thing.

At some point, maybe an hour in, we came to a room with another young boy. His father introduced himself and we got to talking. The man, perhaps Mennonite, told me this was his eighth child, about eleven months old. “Eight,” I commented joshingly, “That’s a fair amount of little ones.”

He said they had always wanted a big family, but insisted you have to be able to provide for each one of them. But by provide, he wasn’t referring to food or shelter. At least not entirely. He was referring to having a good relationship with each one. This to me was a strikingly beautiful sentiment, and it stopped me for a second. Here we both were, missing a seminar we had both wanted to attend, but spending time with our sons. I realized in talking to this father of eight, while his little boy crawled over him as mine bounced off the walls, we weren’t missing out at all. Joel we missed. Everything else that mattered, we experienced entirely.

-Jesse.

further.

 

HERE is Jesse’s review of Joel’s newest book for Hobby Farms.

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME.

You never think you’ll become that dude. Never––growing up a hiphop fan, a skateboarder, a besotted twenty-something in New York––could you imagine yourself as the kind of person who sings “The Wheels on the Bus” or “Twinkle Twinkle” on a regular basis. But it happens.

And you know what? Heck yeah it happens! It happens all the time with us and frankly, I love it. The other night, coming home from market, Hannah was in the front seat with me (as opposed to her usual back seat, nursing position) and Further was crying. Since Hannah couldn’t just nurse him, we decided to sing. We sang “Twinkle Twinkle”. We sang “The Rainbow Connection.” We sang “You are my Sunshine”. And, a personal favorite, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Twice. So long as we were singing, he was happy.

Now, Hannah and I really work to not judge the way other people parent their children. Having one of our own, you just can’t. It’s a hard business, parenthood. We’re learning that quickly. But singing like this, interacting with Further, having these ridiculous family moments, is important to us. We want him to grow up in a environment where we don’t just hand him a device (again, no judging), but where our solutions to his discomfort encourage his, and our own, creativity.

We won’t always succeed at this. We know that. A movie or a tractor YouTube video will be, and has been, utilized. Sometimes we get frustrated and do nothing but grin and bear it. But by creating the goal itself, we can at least have a direction in how we deal with a disgruntled toddler, how we want to parent through the hard times: all together, creatively.

And I like when it’s singing. Hannah is the musical one, and hopefully he’ll get a little of that. But it’s okay if not, so long as he remembers that it’s “Root root root for the CUBBIES,” just like he learned in those ridiculous car rides home from the farmers’ market.

-Jesse.

jesse and further.

LET THEM EAT DIRT.

It was a rare warm day a few weeks back, and Further had been cooped up inside our tiny cabin for days and days. I was going a bit stircrazy myself, and lamented to Jesse that I wish we had some little toddler rain boots for him so we could go outside. Our farm turns into a muddy disaster during the winter, especially after snow.

I was outside washing diapers when Jesse brought Further out and promptly placed him on the ground – no shoes necessary. I felt like smacking myself on the forehead – D’OH! Further had a blast and I was reminded of the importance of letting go of control and embracing the mess – it was so easy to clean him up afterwards and I simply washed his onesie in my last load of diapers before the mud was even dry.

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Today, we’re back to snow and rain and cold, but I am looking forward to warmer days ahead and more happy, dirty feet to clean.

BUT AS A SIDE NOTE – where do y’all find little tiny rain boots??

-Hannah.

further.

BABY STEPS.

The other day I caught Further in a curious routine. He would pull himself up against our closet door, then stare longingly at the bookshelf a couple feet away. Next he would sit back down, crawl over to the bookshelf, stand up and stare back at the closet door. Then he would repeat this action––back and forth, bouncing off the walls in slow motion.

But I could see it in Further’s eyes, and in his posture, what he was trying to do. I could see how much he just wanted to walk from the bookshelf to the closet, closet to bookshelf, and do away with all this crawling business.

We are, I suspect, only a couple days or weeks away from a first step. Maybe even hours. I am excited for Further to be able to experience the efficiency of walking. And I am terrified as a father of the new level of bonk-potential he will achieve by doing so. It’s a bit like it was when I was skateboarding. The better I got, and the more tricks I learned, the more dangerous skateboarding became. It wasn’t so bad when I was scooting around on my butt. It was when I was trying to kick-flip down stairs that it became real. To me, walking is Further’s newest, more dangerous trick.

But skateboarding also became more fun. The better I got at skating the more the world opened up to me. And I am excited for my son to experience that for himself––the freedom that better mobility allows. I think a lot about how many times I’m going to have to let my son go off into the world, learn things, get banged up and experience life. One day he’s going to walk. One day he’s going to shoot a gun. One day he’s going to drive. One day, I fear, he’s going to want a skateboard. And I will advise him––teach him where I can––but ultimately I have to let him go. I have to, I suppose––both metaphorically, and probably legally––let him walk.

That being said, I think of what my friend Pavel reminded me recently about children aging, that it happens gradually. Because I need my slow motion “bouncing off the walls” to ready me for the real thing––the real wall bounces, the real kick-flips, the real growing up. I need my baby steps, too.

– Jesse.

further.

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