Nothing quite matches the depth of experience that comes with fatherhood. We had our first child, Lauren, nearly twenty years ago, about two-and-half weeks before the infamous Bush-Gore election debacle of twenty years ago. The weight of my newfound responsibility was awesome—shortly after she was born, I suffered a full-on panic attack under the strain.
The tension was shared. Perhaps our sensations were just the over-sensitivity or projection of new parenthood, but nevertheless we detected at the time an anxiety and tension in our newborn as that historic election unfolded. She’s never shared our politics—we now share hers—but it’s that unspoken emotional bond that can’t be replicated outside of parents and children.
Four more children followed, and all five have individually-developed personalities and abilities. What is remarkable is how my world has grown because of this. Growing up, I had a very few interests and these I adopted with missionary zeal: Politics, baseball, and Letterman. I also made some time to read.
But my children expanded my range of interests in ways that I never could have foreseen. They also made me think about my values, and what I truly believe.
An example. My oldest daughter has always been interested in theater. Our local high school has a well-recognized theater program and she was admitted. One of the first plays the program produced after Lauren joined was The Laramie Project, about the 1998 murder of a young gay man in Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. Lauren wanted to be on the costume crew, but the play critiques—among other things—the LDS Church. This posed something of a conflict, since we are LDS. A caucus ensued.
To be candid, there was very little doubt in my mind about what should happen. Theater is the art of telling stories, and people have a right to tell their story. And by helping others tell their stories, they might be more amenable to telling ours. If anything, the problems the play addresses would never resolve through withdrawal. She did the play.
The play went well and we took to heart the issues presented there in. In the meantime, her talents emerged. By the next year, she was designing shows. And by her junior year, she was the acknowledged leader of the costume department. She now studies costuming at Utah State, and we all hold out hope that COVID will again permit live theater one day.
It would be inaccurate to say that I ever changed my mind about the situation. It is more accurate to say that confronting the situation allowed me to discover and apply the values I already had. The experience was invaluable. And over the past several years, I have rekindled a love of theater that will never pass.
By the way, Lauren also got us backstage for Hamilton. I have no greater purpose in telling you this except to make you jealous.
So many other experiences have presented themselves. My second daughter Elizabeth has introduced the beauty of dance into our home, though I always have to ask what her modern dance performances are supposed to mean. My third, Caroline, plays piano medleys that warm the soul. And thanks to my boys, I broke a 20-year vow never to go camping again and discovered a new favorite pandemic tv show, Forged in Fire, a weekly blade-making competition. Not only that, but just today I received my first Every-Day Carry (EDC) blade.
We have been spending much more time together because of current circumstances. Apparently, America has decided to ignore the pandemic going forward, but, fortunately, we do not have to make that choice. I can work from home. We get along well. We have shared interests. We teach each other. It is easy to be here.
Twenty years ago, I worried myself sick about whether I’d be able to make a living. Now, I realize that it was all about making a life. Setting all else aside, that I’ve done.
Happy Father’s Day, fellow dads.