I’ve been working on a new book since last July. Back in October I wrote, “I’ve been told that becoming a parent lights a fire under your ass like nothing else, so we’ll see what happens.” Ha.
I made a promise to Owen before he was born that I would not use him as an excuse to fail at The Thing I needed to do.
Oh sure, I would use him as an excuse for plenty of other things I didn’t want to do, like answer emails or attend various social functions, but I would not use him as an excuse to give up on The Thing.
Writers are constantly looking for excuses not to write, but there’s nothing more pathetic than a man who blames his family for not being able to write.
This is not to say that I wasn’t worried about becoming that pathetic father. Oh, I worried.
Right after Owen was born and we were still in the hospital, this woman got on Twitter and sent me half a dozen tweets about how she just knew Steal was written by somebody without kids, and just you wait, mister. She then proceeded to quote passages from the book, followed by little ejaculations like, “Ha! Try that when you’re up at 3 a.m. with a crying baby!”
Now, I have been on the internet a long time. I get a lot of emails from people who are, as far as I can tell, sad, awful, or completely insane. I have a pretty good firewall that filters what I let get to me.
This woman got to me.
It is one thing to have The Asshole in your brain, it is another thing to have a stranger hold a megaphone up to it and let it shout.
That woman’s tweets haunted me for that first month of survival mode, where it’s a great day if you get a shower, a hot meal, and a few hours of sleep. Maybe this really is it, I thought. Maybe it really is all over.
Now I’m on the other side of it all, and it hasn’t been easy getting back into the swing of The Thing — in fact, it’s been way harder than I expected. But I’d like to tell all would-be parents (and especially dads!) out there:
Don’t listen to these parents. They are using the precedent of their failures to predict your own.
For every tired, overworked, bitter parent who tells you how much you won’t get done when you have kids, there’s a parent like John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, who talks about cradling his son in one arm, and picking out melodies on the piano with the other. Or George Saunders, who stole time from his office job for seven years to write the stories that would become CivilWarLand In Bad Decline. Or any number of moms and dads who make it work and make the work. They are out there. Find them. Hang out with them. Ask them how they do it. Let them be your role models.
Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence…on their children than the unlived life of the parents.”
You owe your kid food, safety, and love, but you also owe him your example. You give up on The Thing, and then when the kid grows up, he might give up on His Thing, too.
So don’t give up on The Thing.