On my first day proper on Twitter I followed this man. I did so because he is a dad. Who writes. And had as his Avi a Clash single cover! Apart from one afternoon about a year ago, I haven’t regretted it for a second!! One of the best tweeps, a very intelligent and witty man who makes you think. @dadwhowrites is really worth following and I am thrilled to be able to host this guest post
I am not in the business of editing guest posts but I have decided to add to his #attempt2 I hope he won’t mind…
Five unsuccessful attempts to write a post about challenges fathers face in 2011 and a commentary
I have no idea what challenges dads face in 2011 beyond the ones they’ve faced and will face in 2010, 2012 and Sung era Imperial China, where Mei Yao Ch’en apologised for not being able to visit a friend because his children “…hang on my clothes/and follow my every step/I can’t get any further than the door…” (translation: Kenneth Rexroth).
The challenge Mei Yao so charmingly expresses dogs us all. On the one hand, our devotion to our families provides meaning and sustenance. On the other, it leeches away those very same things from any sense of self we have as individuals outside of the generic label of ‘Dad’. You could express this as the Western identity problem – how can we find time to be ourselves when any time spent not spent as worker bees is so thoroughly swallowed up by our families? And yet, as Mei Yao’s poem makes clear, how could we wish for it to be otherwise?
Five records I need to teach my kids to worship in 2011 instead of Mr Ray or the Tweenies. I could write a detailed commentary about each one and what it means to me.
Record No. 1 – Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Record No. 2 – High Violet by The National
Record No. 3 – Have One On Me by Joanna Newsom
Record No. 4 – Fever Ray by Fever Ray
Record No. 5 – Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth
The black metal and laptop stuff will have to wait.
I’ve believed for are a long time that there are two pernicious social constructions which we have the power as fathers to directly influence.
1. Women look after the home
2. Men go to work and run the government
What’s the big challenge for fathers in 2011, a year when the above stereotypes are being codified and re-imposed with a virulence that surely must be making Nick Clegg’s eyes privately water? To bring up sons and daughters who disagree with all of the above, who treat either gender with utter respect, who don’t see it as the ‘norm’ for women to do the cooking and cleaning and to always be the follower, not the leader, in a society where 19 out of the 23 ministers in the Coalition Cabinet are men.
Of course, every day I fail dismally in this. It’s an iterative process.
What is the main challenge for fathers in 2011?
7yo: I hate you.
3yo: He hates you.
Me: No, he doesn’t. He’s just saying it.
3yo: Yes he does. He hates you.
7yo (to 3yo): Shut up!
Me: Don’t say ‘Shut up’ to your sister.
3yo: He does hate you. You aren’t his daddy anymore.
Me: I am his daddy.
3yo: No, you aren’t. You’re only my daddy now. Not his. Just mine.
7yo: Shut UP all of you!
The biggest challenge fathers face in 2011 is talking to their children about sex. NOOOOO!
Notes on the five attempts
Why did I struggle with this? I think the problem lay in the awkward intersection between audience and subject. The subject would be a problem for me at any time. As I noted in attempt #1, the challenges really are generic with the – forgive the contradiction – wider particular being limited very much to those things shaped by politics or culture. And (attempt #3) those particulars are hard to change. That left me with the local and and my own challenges.
Attempt #1 fell apart because it simply ran out of gas. I’d said all I had to say and the rest of it was so much waffling. It was turning into one of those futile Athena-postcard items people churn out on parent blogs and I really didn’t want to inflict that on anyone. Attempt #2 disintegrated under the weight of my ego and an over-sensitivity to the audience for Only Dads. I didn’t want to be trying to appear ‘cool’ yet (of course) I was trying as hard as I could to come up with a list that was in fact ‘cool’ whilst at the same time being composed of records that Only Dad readers might have heard of. Yet who was I to try and filter or make assumptions on what it was they might actually listen to? The unknown and the obscure wouldn’t matter if I was writing reviews but I was trying to reveal something of myself. So I ended up with a deeply compromised list that I simply couldn’t work with.
The previous paragraph shows a problem inherent in writing a guest post – you want to adapt but you shouldn’t adapt. Trying to be cool is a deadly error. On my own blog, of course, I’d have just written about the black metal, noting that I’m a complete dilettante as part of the process (Liturgy out of Brooklyn http://www.myspace.com/liturgynybm, by the way. They totally rock).
Attempt #3 is very me.. On my own blog, it would have been angrier, nastier. It went wrong (and it went on and on and on) as I became more and more aware of the crew – single fathers – I was preaching to. So I tried to accommodate what I hypothesized as their particular pressures; I tried to nip and tuck my argument to take in their possible views. I tried too hard and ended up somewhere a long way from where I actually wanted to go. The patronising thing again.
Attempt #4 Done it. Hate repeating myself.
Attempt #5 My last, desperate throw. Ran out of time and energy.
So there you have it. Thanks for the opportunity, Bob, but I’m just not the stuff guest posters are made of!