I’ve worked very hard to get where I am, the father of two kids with a mortgage and a job that’s paying me more than I’ve ever earned in my life with full health insurance benefits. When I met the mother of my children I was the consummate bachelor with no kids and a part-time job, earning just enough to get by. I gave up my bachelor pad to get a bigger place to raise a family, even though it wasn’t in the area I wanted to live and was more than I was used to paying. I took on as much work as I could to support my new family of four, which was a big change from my family of one. This included taking on a one-year old girl with no father and being her father ever since and the girl is now almost eight years old and has always called me dad. The birth of her younger brother, my son, was the happiest day of my life, even though I had to hop in an ambulance with him minutes after birth and travel to the emergency room while his mother stayed behind. At first I was terrified of being a father and even wanted to take the chickenshit way out of abortion, but luckily for me (and my son!) I changed my mind at the last minute and have been so thankful and rewarded ever since.
When the kids are wtih me they get my undivided attention the majority of the time. I work from home and am accessible to them and actively engaged with them even while working on the computer. It’s not easy but I do it. I’ve had many heart to heart conversations with the kids about important life stuff, like talking with my son about how it’s not right to make up stories or excuses when he’s done something wrong as it just makes him look worse and the story gets him in more trouble than the original deed. I’ve talked with my daughter about her troubles at school, and she confided in me in March of this year something that she said even her mom and teacher didn’t know, which was that she was way behind in her reading, and her and I worked together on the basics with no impatience or judgement on my part, as I knew it took a lot for her to tell me and I wanted to make her feel as comfortable as possible. I’ve also made her aware of the importance of being on time for things like school, which will one day translate to a job. I’ve explained to her that being on time is a show of respect for the other people in her life who manage to be on time for her, and that not being on time is a sign of self-centeredness and not being aware of how her actions affect others.
I like to play the role of the guy who’s cool and unaffected but the truth is I’m super sensitive. This is a role I am able to relinquish in the presence of children, and not just my own children. Their innocence allows me to let down my guard and just be myself, and I often find myself being approached and talked to by many different children in group situations. I never knew about this side of myself until I had kids, and I’m most happy and relaxed in the presence of my two kids. When I told people last year that I was taking both of my kids to Hawaii on my own for ten days, many people asked me how I was going to manage such a stressful situation, taking a six year old and a four year old on such a trip by myself. I never even considered that it might be stressful; I love my kids and can talk with them about anything, and we had a great time together. It’s something they still talk about a lot almost a year later.
Perhaps my favorite time with the kids, however, is when I read to them at night. I would guess it’s their favorite time too. Ever since their mother and I separated, almost two years ago, I’ve read to them every night they’ve spent at home. We’ve managed to get through five books of 800 pages or longer, as I read to them for at least a half an hour each night, making sure they’re sound asleep before finally closing the book. This, to me, is almost a lost art in today’s world and I love how peacefully the kids just drift off to sleep.
Being a father isn’t easy but it sure is worth it.
VaporDave with California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom February 2017.