I've mentioned the new Hank Azaria's Fatherhood web series on my weekly newsletter before, but the first few words from this trailer above deserve another post.
First of all, everything Neil deGrasse Tyson says is brilliant and deserves its own post/page/blog. Hell, the guy deserves his own Internet. Here Tyson brings this truth:
We spend the first year of a kid's life, teaching them to walk and talk, and the rest of their life, telling them to shut up and sit downWhich also reminds me of my favorite line from Cat Stevens' "Father and Son":
From the moment I could talkAnd it's funny and it's sad, and it's almost universally true, whether we're strict children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard parents or progressive parents who believe in the importance of letting our kids express themselves.
I was ordered to listen
I tend to see myself as a progressive dad. I like to see myself as encouraging my 6-year-old kid to have opportunities and support to truly become whatever he wants to be: a soccer player, a dancer, a construction worker, a stay-at-home dad, an astronaut, a ninja, gay, straight, or all of the above, but in reality, this kid, who hasn't stopped talking since he was born, and only stops talking when he sleeps, whether he's talking to himself, asking endless questions, or making weird noises, ends up hearing things like--
Please, not now.
Take a break! I can't hear myself think!
If you want to make these weird noises, go to your room, make these noises, and come back down when you've got them out of your system.
Or in other words: "Shut up and sit down."
In a way, I may be too hard on myself: it's true that when I'm with my boy, I can't hear myself think, and being a stay-at-home dad for 6 years, hearing myself think is not something I get to do very often. On the other hand, maybe now that he's in school and I get less and less opportunities to be with him, I should spend less time thinking and more time listening. This kid... this amazing kid who's been reading since he was 3, who sits in class during a rainy recess and solves math problems, who loves astronomy, dinosaurs, and Star Wars, and can talk about everything to anyone who's smart enough to listen--I should consider it a privilege to be in his presence when he's on a roll, whether he's decided to count to 1000 by 5s, or act up all the voices for the story he's just made up in his head.
Soon enough, my kid will stop trying. He'll have enough friends in school, who'll be more than happy to listen, to count with him, and to play along with his imaginary voices, and he'll end up seeing me just like any other kid sees his dad: as just another obstacle to overcome on his way to self-expression and self-fulfillment.
So here I am, making an effort, stating publicly that as much as these voices and the numbers may take years of my life, this life is not worth the time if I spend it dismissing my boy. For the first year of my kid's life, we taught him to walk and talk, and the rest of his life, I'm going to push him to walk further and talk as much as he wants to talk. And if my brain explodes in the process, then so be it.