Vote for Books!

WARNING: Long, book-nerdy post to follow. But the short version: “VOTE FOR MIKE NUCKOLS IF YOU LOVE BOOKS!

This morning I was invited to speak before the Haddonfield Public Library Board of Trustees, which was an invitation that meant a lot to me personally.

I let them know where I stand as a candidate. I’m in favor of a diverse curriculum that presents a range of views and perspectives. I’m also in favor of treating our teachers like the professionals they are and trusting them to lead the vibrant discussions that have produced a district that is among the best in the nation. 

I also made it very clear that I’m firmly against banning books.

Books are emotional for me. Consider this…

In the 1940s, Hitler’s words were blaring all over the world.

At the same time, a 14-year-old girl was putting her words down in a journal as she hid in an attic.

Here we are 80 years later. Hitler’s words are long since silenced. But that little girl’s words?

The Diary of Anne Frank has sold over 30 million copies and has been translated into 70 languages. Every year it is taught in thousands of classrooms across the globe.

That’s the power of books.

Here’s how they’ve affected my life…

  • In my 20s, I spent a year living in my car and driving around the United States. Reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, was a huge reason why I did that.
  • Over the years, I have been told many times in subtle and not-subtle ways that my wife is out of my league. How did I get her to fall for me? On our first date, we spent at least two hours talking about books and bonding over how much they mean to us.
  • Inkwood Books keeps at least 6 copies of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row in stock, because I buy it so often as a gift for people who are going through hard times.

I genuinely believe that books have the power change the world, and the power to change the individual world of children who read them. And I think the group of people I met with this morning are on the front lines of changing the world.

It was my absolute honor.

Final campaign-related note: As recently as 2020, there have been attempts to ban A Diary of Anne Frank. I am the candidate that has publicly come out against banning books, and this is part of the reason why.

Important voting info

  • Deadline to register for mail-in ballot in Nov 1 (request yours).
  • Important for students away from home
    • Important for voters away for Fall Break
  • General election is November 8th 

With Gratitude to the Parents of Kids with Special Needs

Last night I received the best contribution yet to my campaign. Some members of the Special Needs Community in Haddonfield organized an event for me last night. It wasn’t so much about campaigning, but an opportunity for me to hear what their concerns are and learn what they need from a BOE member.

I walked away humbled and so grateful they took the time to educate me.

Here are 5 takeaways for me:

  1. The burden these parents face is remarkable. They have become experts in a part of the educational system that most of us don’t appreciate. ABA, IEP, BCBA…they learn an entirely new language in the service of their child.
  2. The search for consistency of services and staff is a constant challenge. I think the school and the parents are constantly wrestling with this.
  3. They feel supported in Haddonfield and grateful for what our schools provide (but it still takes a lot of work from the parents).
  4. Greater awareness among parents whose kids do not have special needs is an amazing opportunity. Kids with special needs DO NOT bring a classroom down, they ENRICH it.
  5. Finally…Shani and I both left feeling blessed to be in the same community as these parents.

And then after a meaningful and important conversation, we all hung out for another hour laughing and having a great time.

My deepest gratitude to everyone who attended and shared their experience with me.

3 Key Issues and Where I Stand

As promised, a post with less drama. I felt it was important to articulate where I stand on what I see as 3 key issues in this election.

1) Building on the Bancroft Property 

I’M FOR IT! 

This is a HUGE opportunity for our community. It’s our chance to set Haddonfield schools up to excel for the next decade. But to get it right, we need the entire community engaged. 

If we don’t act, we’re eventually going to have classes taught in trailers and dozens of kids told they can’t participate in sports. And that’s the last thing we want. 

I’d like everyone to feel invested in the direction we choose – and together we move forward as one Haddonfield.

2) Banning Books and Censoring Curriculum 

I’M AGAINST IT! 

I’m in favor of a diverse curriculum that presents a range of views and perspectives. I’m also in favor of treating our teachers like the professionals they are and trusting them to lead the vibrant discussions that have produced a district that is among the best in the nation.

My kids have benefitted from an amazing Haddonfield education and I’m fighting to keep the quality of our curriculum from being compromised for the next generation of kids.

3) The increase in HIB incidents 

I’LL WORK TO PUT AN END TO IT! 

HIB (Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying) has spiked dramatically since we’ve returned from remote learning. This needs to be the top priority of our administrators.

I will give it my full attention to ensure that Haddonfield schools are a model of inclusivity. We need to come together and build a school system which recognizes that all of our students are worthy of acceptance, worthy of empathy, and worthy of an outstanding education.

Confrontation on the Campaign Trail

IMPORTANT NOTE: The conversation below is paraphrased. These are not exact quotes. You’ll see why that’s important soon. But I did have two volunteers right there watching, so I feel confident in saying the gist of it is accurate.

Holy moly! Things are getting nuts real fast.

Yesterday evening I went to stand outside Tatem Elementary for Back to School Night and hand out campaign flyers. I got there early and was with two of my volunteers. We were actually talking about my opponent, when I turned and there he was. Coming right down the sidewalk and right at me.

Hi, Mark! Did you bring your ice cream truck?

(That was a joke, but Mark wasn’t in the mood.)

I read what you said, and I don’t like it one bit! You’re putting words in my mouth and that’s totally not acceptable!

He was hot! Legit furious.

What did I say?

Your NuckolBall post! You said I called for book banning! I never said that!

That’s what it sounded like to me.

I never said those words! You’re putting words in my mouth, and I would never do that to you!

My volunteer jumped in.

Can I just ask you…what issue you have with the book you reference?

I’m not going to debate that with you right now!

Then they ended up going back and forth for a while. She was pretty calm, but he was still super angry. And to be fair, I don’t think was angry at her. I think my post really made him mad. He turned back to me.

Don’t put words in my mouth!

Uh…Ok.

Don’t blow me off!

And then he stormed away.

Things cooled down after that. His family showed up and they handed out their flyers. My crew and I kept a respectful distance and handed out my stuff. I saw him having what looked like good conversation with voters. I got into some terrific conversations as well. Overall, handing out flyers is a lot more fun than I thought it would be.

So in the spirit of transparency, I recommend you watch the video and see if my interpretation of my opponent’s comments about a book he said was problematic is fair. I am against school boards that decide to ban books. I think his position is decidedly less clear despite his protestations.

My orignal post read:

“Shani found a video of my opponent telling the school board what books he’d like to ban and why (which I’m completely against)”

I think my interpretation is fair, which is why I’ve amended my post to read this way:

“Shani found a video of my opponent speaking to the board of education about a particular book. I Interpreted his message as providing the reasons he felt this book should be banned (which I’m completely against)”

OK. Pretty exciting stuff, right? Well, I promise the next blogs will be more boring and more substantiative. Also, I’m going to be offline for the next few days. My uncle is having some health issues, so I’m going to spend some time with him in Boston. (Actually, you can read about his situation here.)

FINALLY…the mandatory reminders and links

Generally Well Tolerated

I’ve worked as a writer in healthcare marketing for 25 years. I’ve written hundred of brochures, websites, and sales tools about dozens of different drugs. And when it comes to side effects, you really aren’t allowed to say much. The FDA is very particular about overpromising tolerability. So most of the time you just say that the drug is “generally well tolerated.” In fact, I’ve typed those words literally thousands of times.

But now I’m watching Alex live those words and it’s altogether different.

He’s now on a drug called Pazopanib (Votrient). Here is his tolerability report.

  • His hair has turned white, which is pretty bad ass.
  • There was immediate weight loss. He lost all desire (and joy) for food. He dropped about 10 pounds. So we saw a nutritionist and the doctor put him on medical marijuana (pill form). We stuffed our fridge with ice cream and Ensure shakes. And he started to gain some of it back.
  • Diarrhea. Not too bad, but pretty much the everyday norm. It’s “generally tolerable”, but it has kept him home from school a few days because he’s made it clear he’d rather die than use the high school bathroom.
  • Then, around 10 weeks in, the pain started. Hip pain so he walks like a marionette and has to use his arms to get himself in and out of the car. Wrist pain that affects his ability to write and take tests. Even occasional jaw pain to the point that he had to have smoothies for dinner because it hurt too much to chew. Hiking is day to day. Backpacking and diving are out of the question.
  • Because of all of this, they have reduced his dose. The pain is still there, but much reduced. His shit is suddenly solid again which came with 3 days of brutal stomach pain.

Part of what’s so hard is that it keeps changing. It’s inconsistent. You can’t get into a routine where you know what you’re dealing with and how to handle it. He’ll get three days in a row when he’s pain-free and he thinks he’s figured out the right routine of stretching and then BLAM he’s floored for 2 days straight. If I’m being honest, it’s wearing all of us down.

But there have been some good things too.

In January, the MRI showed that the tumor in his leg had shrunk 49%. That was a night for champagne and sparkling cider.

We finally got the results from his genetic testing (which had been hanging over our heads for months). Desmoid Tumors sometimes come with a genetic mutation called FAP. If you have FAP, you are 100% certain to get colon cancer before you turn 30.

So in January they called us and said: “We have the results. We’d like all of you to come in as soon as possible. You’ll meet with your oncologist and then a team of genetic counselors.”

That was a grim drive to CHOP.

But when we got there, they told us Alex did NOT have the FAP mutation. He had a different one that made him slightly more likely to have colon cancer and he should start testing at 40 (instead of 50). No big deal at all. They had called us in because they didn’t want us to read the results ourselves and misinterpret them.

Then the doctors left the room and I went over to Alex, buried my head in his lap, and absolutely sobbed for a solid minute.

And we broke out champagne and sparkling cider again.

It’s been a haul. I thought life would get easier with only one kid in the house, but things have taken a pretty crazy shift.

It’s Sunday as I write this, and Shani and I are home alone. Jack wrote us Thursday and told us he was coming home from Fordham for the long weekend. He announced that he and Alex would be taking the car on Sunday. So now my boys are off somewhere blasting through Pennsylvania, listening to music, talking about God knows what, getting ice cream on my credit card.

That actually might be about the most joyful thing I can imagine.

On top of that, Shani’s parents are coming over for dinner tonight. Covid has derailed things, but tonight the six of us are finally going to have a meal together. I have a fire going in the fireplace. The dog is asleep against my leg. I’m in love with and deeply appreciative of my wife, who is reading a book by the fire.

Life is weird.

Stumping for Warren (How Alex won my vote)

First, some exposition

In 2016…

I did a lot of volunteering for the Hillary campaign. I knocked on doors, made calls, gave money. But in reality, I wasn’t doing it because I was excited about Hillary (I liked her all right). My primary motivation was fear.

So when Trump won, it hit me with a solid sense of despair. And upon reflection, if Hillary had won, I don’t think I would been like “Hell yeah! I’m pumped for the next 4 years!” I think my main emotion would have been relief, and probably some joy at watching Trump crawl back into his golden cave.

All said and done, it was a pretty rotten experience.

But 2018…

Was totally different. In 2018, I followed my mighty activist-maven wife into the service of the Andy Kim congressional campaign in a district near ours. And that was a blast. I don’t think I even knew who he was running against, but I liked Andy Kim, and I loved getting out there trying to take back the House of Congress. And he won.

So here we are, approaching the 2020 election.

First off, I’m doing stuff. No way I’m sitting this out. My feeling – you’re only allowed to have an opinion about politics if you participate in the process. Watching MSNBC and Fox News is not participating in your democracy. Sharing a meme does not make you an activist. If you’re not out there putting in real time and real money, then you deserve whatever elected official you get. In fact, my New Year’s Resolution for 2020 is really get at it for this election.

However, for my own well-being, I didn’t want to go out there with the primary motivation of getting rid of Trump. I wanted to be for someone. I wanted to be excited about the potential of someone being President.

And I liked my options. I liked Harris, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Bullock, Castro…lots of really smart people who I felt like I could get behind. I think of an election as a job opening where I’m the hiring manager. This felt like a lot of highly qualified candidates.

But I hadn’t really made a pick. I guess I was hanging back, ready to really go at it when it became clear who the winner was going to be.

But then I went for a walk with Alex.

Alex is in “Model U.N.” where kids represent different countries and debate political issues. This year their issue is climate change, and quite reasonably, it’s scaring the shit out of the boy as he learns more about it. So we were talking about that.

EXT. SUBURBAN STREET – DAY

ALEX, a 14-year old boy, walks with his father, MIKE.

MIKE
(using his “patronizing dad” voice)

Well, you’re not powerless, Alex. In fact, a big way that you can affect the issue of climate change is to participate in who the next President is.

 

ALEX

Oh, I like Warren.

 

MIKE

I’m glad you are aware of the candidates. Elizabeth Warren is a strong option for sure.

 

ALEX

She has a plan to try and get to 100% renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions by 70%.

 

MIKE

She does?

 

ALEX

I also like her Green Apollo plan where she wants to invest $400 billion dollars over the next ten years into clean energy research – so that will help the economy at the same time.

 

MIKE

Right.

(As he talks, the tone Mike’s voice slowly changes. And as Alex talks, one would swear that his voice takes on a tone that sounds just the slightest bit…patronizing.)

 

ALEX

Plus the Blue New Deal she has for cleaning up the ocean is good too. Not to mention that offshore wind power can make 4 times the amount of energy that our whole grid uses today. Most people don’t know that.

OK, so as Alex went on explaining the finer points of Warren’s policies, a lightbulb went off.

  • How cool would it be to do all this election stuff with Alex?

It was followed by a series of supporting light bulbs.

  • Doing this with Alex would motivate me to do it even more. Like a gym buddy.
  • Alex would be an animal on the phone
  • Bringing in Alex would get me a TON of brownie points with my hyper-activist wife

And that’s how I landed on Warren. Alex.

So the next week, we went to a campaign event in town to make calls to Iowa voters, and I was right: Alex was awesome at it.

Phonebanking is basically getting hung up on 19 out of 20 times. But when people hear a kid on the phone, that’s quite a hook. Hearing Alex read the Warren script in his cute mid-puberty voice – people stayed on the line with him…I guess to be patronizing…but, whatever. He was a force.

We’re in for Warren. We’re actually planning to host an event in the next couple of weeks, so I’ll keep you posted.

Final note: I’m gonna be a little bit of a dick about comments on these posts. Not really into hosting a political snipe fest. However, comments about what a great father I am are always welcome.

Lessons learned: Tips for Spring Training

If you are planning to head to spring training in Florida (which I highly recommend), here are the following things to take into account:

1) Get your tickets early

These games sell out. It’s not like minor league games where you can assume tickets are available at the window. Get your tickets a few days in advance at least. And maybe do your research here.

2) Get to the games early

We normally get to ball games early and are among the few people there. Spring training, EVERYONE is there early. So be there a solid 2 hours before the game and get ready for the long haul.

3) Don’t overdo it.

We tried to schedule multiple games in one day, which was too much. It ran us pretty ragged. One game a day, then take it slow from there. One game is plenty. And be wary that it’s usually more than an hour to reach any park.

4) Eat fruit

You’re gonna stuff yourself on salty ballpark food and eat out a lot. Make time to buy a bunch of fruit and eat it every day.

5) Lines for the mens room are long

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The crowd is full of old guys with old guy bladders. The line is long. Take that into account.

6) Bring sunscreen. Bring blankets.

The weather is wacky. In the bright sun, you can bake in 75 degree heat. Then at 6:30, it can drop into the 40s. This can all happen in the same game.

7) Follow the crowd for autographs

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The stadiums are filled with professional autograph seekers. You’ll see them with the binders and notebooks. They know where to stand to try and get autographs. (Or if you’re lucky, you have Jack as your guide.)

8) Teach your kids manners

If a player stops and signs a ball for your kid, and your kid doesn’t say “thank you” – that is an indicator that you are a crappy parent and raising an entitled little shit.

I will end by saying this. On our third day into the road trip, Shani posted this:

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She saw the truth of the matter. Assuming Jack makes sure that his grades don’t suffer, this trip is now part of our lives.

 

Spring Training road trip in 27 photos.

Footnotes included at the end.

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1) Headed out in the midst of a snow storm.

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2) Night in Richmond with DeMottes

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3) Headed south again

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4) Long ass day of driving.

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5) Dinner with Beatties in FL

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6) Drinks with Dave on his couch

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7) Tigers game at 1:05

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8) Seats in the sun along third base. It’s March and we are watching baseball!

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9) 6:05 game — Jack watching Yankees warm up

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10) Learns Aaron Judge not in the game, but Didi Gregorius is.

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11) Right back to work

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12) Pushing for autographs.

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13) Got Greg Bird, Tommy Kahnley, and Chasen Shreve.

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14) Signed ball from Kyle Higashioka (who told Jack it was because he was the only kid to say “please”)

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15) Game on. Watching from the grass.

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14) Main event time. 7:45 AM arrival at Pirates

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15) Interview with Cole Tucker (Pirates #5 prospect)

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16) Interview with Austin Meadows (26th ranked prospect in entire MLB)

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17) Interview with Steven Brault (starting pitcher)

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18) Team building event — the players did a Chopped-esque challenge.

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19) Checking out which players made the best dish.

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20) Press passes gave us field access, so we took advantage.

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21) Jack taking a pee in the dugout bathroom

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22) Right there for batting practice.

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22) Our seats for the game.

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23) The master at work. (5 balls and dozens of autographs)

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24) Late night driving. Family Guy clips to stay awake.

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25) Long haul home. 10+ hours of driving.

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26) We got home close to 11:00. Alex was not asleep. He helped us bring in our stuff and asked Jack to show him all the swag he collected. Jack said to me later: “I really missed that kid.”

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27) The full road trip. 5 days. 2 Rambler stops. 3 ballparks. 2303 miles and 35 hours of road time.

Footnotes

Things we talked about in the car: Popularity, my mom, suicide (tragically relevant), relationship with his brother, baseball (lots and lots), future road trips, how I met Shani, times I had my heart broken, more baseball, Family Guy, hardest we’d laughed with our friends, play-by-play of my trip around the country, play-by-play of trip around the world, how we approach the future.

People we want to invite for future spring training trips: Shani’s parents, my Dad and Mary, Skinny and Spider.

Observations of a 14-year-old boy: At times he is so powerfully self-involved that he will answer someone’s questions inaudibly, not even considering whether the person can hear the response. He is open to being told to get off the screen. When he hangs back and seems disengaged, he is still paying attention deeply and will later recount the incident with vivid excitement. He deeply appreciates and loves Shani. And finally, he has a presence, a soul, something — it’s hard to describe. But it makes him an other-worldly traveling companion for a road trip. I may only feel that because he’s my son, but I feel it just the same.

And finally…I got a selfie with Ron Washington, bitches!

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The Sex Talk

Aaaaand…The Sex Talk.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I’m gonna make a little PSA. I wrote a book (that twice came astonishingly close getting published) where pedophilia is a key theme. I did a shitload of research about it, and here is a proven fact:

The more you talk about sex with your kids, the less likely they are to be the victims of a sexual predator.

Pedophiles play on shame and secrets. When you avoid talking about sex with your kids, you make it a dark, shameful, secret topic. And that’s part of what pedophiles use to groom, lure, and hide their actions.

Now…this isn’t a proven fact, but I think it’s also safe to say that having the Sex Talk is always awkward. There is not a natural time to comfortably slide right into the topic. You have to just go for it. That has been my experience.

The Sex Talk with Jack

The trigger? The NFL.

Every damn commercial break has a spot for Viagra, Cialis, or both. We would sit through 30 seconds of semi-awkward and pregnant silence every time we watched football. Finally, he asked…

“Dad? What is erectile dysfunction anyways?”

I gave him the obvious response:

“Erectile dysfunction is something your father HAS NEVER EVER EXPERIENCED!”

But that night we were both reading in my bed and I went for it.

“OK, remember when you asked about erectile dysfunction?”

“Yeah.”

“OK, here’s the deal…”

I gave him the whole story. I said penis. I said vagina. I said a whole lot of words like that. I plowed through the whole damn thing.

Here are some points that stand out:

  • I was talking theoretical. “A man and a woman...” But Jack was going to the personal and individual. His questions weren’t about “a man and a woman”, his questions were about me and Shani. It added an extra layer of awkward to the conversation.
  • About halfway through the conversation, he interrupted me to say…“So you’ve done this twice.” And I had to back up and explain it in a different way.
  • Jack then interrupted me again to say: “Wait a minute. So you do this, regularly?” The idea disturbed him deeply.

His concluding thought…

“Sounds gross.”

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The Sex Talk with Alex

I did it last summer (Alex was 10). We went on an overnight backpacking trip, and on the drive to the trailhead I went for it.

“So we’re gonna have a talk about something, and it might be weird, but we’re still gonna do it even if it is weird and let’s do it. Right? That make sense? Let’s do this.”

“OK,” he said, not really knowing what the hell I was talking about.

Alex didn’t ask any questions, so I kept rambling on and on in a nervous babble stream. I explain sex. Pedophiles. Gay and straight. I must have gone for 25 minutes. Finally I stopped and let the silence set in.

“Well,” he said. “That was awkward.”

“How much of that did you already know?”

“Most of it.”

“Did Jack tell you?”

“No.”

“Who?”

“I have my sources.”

And that was pretty much that.

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Since then we’ve had more talks. All of them brought up by me. All of them awkward and forced.

“So…you’re going to be in the locker room with older boys. You know that…”

“I know, I know!”

“Not that you’re sexually active yet, but you know that when a girl says no…”

“Stop it! God!”

Actually, it’s gotten to the point, where this is the reaction I get whenever I bring up the subject. Which I see as a very good sign.

 

 

 

 

About Fatherhood (The Curse of Donna G’s Boobs)

 

This is the final and concluding installment of the Donna G Project. This project has been written to and for my boys. It was inspired by my wife’s friend Donna G and her experience with breast cancer.

The final subject of the Donna G Project: fatherhood.

If you’re a dad, and you take your kids out for breakfast without your wife, there is a 100% chance that someone will come up to you and say:

“What a good father you are.”

It’s a sure thing. It usually happens 2-3 times over the course of the meal.

Now let’s break this down. A dad spending time with his kids without his wife is so extraordinary that strangers feel the need to come and recognize it. Hell, you’re not even making breakfast – you’re taking your kids out so someone else can do the cooking. But still, it stands out as a marvelous act of fatherhood.

Think that happens if a mom goes somewhere alone with her kids? Not a chance. But that’s how low the bar is for dads.

The fact is, dads get a pass. For some reason, wives, kids, society, everyone is just fine with dads getting away with doing 10% of the parenting. Watch families in public for 5 minutes and you’ll be stunned.

Dads pretend to not smell the dirty diaper. They pretend to not hear the baby crying. They dodge their own kids and for some reason that’s OK. It’s actually expected.

That’s the bar for dads.

Now you may ask yourself: How can this be? Why is it like this? Good question. Well, as a father, I can share 4 reasons that help explain the current state of fatherhood.

Reason #1) There are times when fatherhood sucks

Everyone will tell you it’s wonderful being a dad. Children are a blessing. But in reality, some things about fatherhood are just awful. Fatherhood is sitting through 2-hour pre-school “concerts” where 14 classes of kids sing crappy songs. You wait for your kid’s class to sing and then afterwards you tell them how amazing they were at singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Fatherhood is pushing a big wheel around the driveway until your back is killing you because kids don’t pedal for themselves. Fatherhood is deep knee bends down the hall at 3:55 AM trying to get them back to goddam sleep. It’s rushing into the skankiest gas-station bathroom for an emergency poop and suspending a 4-year-old over the bowl for seven minutes with your face level to the lip of the foul-smelling toilet.

Fatherhood is boring. It’s exhausting. It ruins vacations. Hangovers are brutal.

A lot of the time, it sucks having kids.

Reason #2) Kids make it easy

Fatherhood is the most unfair relationship in the world. You have all the power – and that is awfully seductive. You make the rules. You define good and bad. You have the power to punish and reward. You can say: “Daddy needs to watch this game and then we can play.” And because you said so, you’re right. Hell, you can punish them if they don’t leave you in peace.

In other words: if you want to avoid fatherhood, all you have to do is tell your kid that it is right to do so. They will accept your rules as right because you’re the dad, and you have the power to enforce your bullshit rules.

And on top of it all, that kid worships you. So after laying all that unfair bullshit on them, when you finally do get up and spend 20 damn minutes kicking a rubber ball around the backyard, your kid will forget the 3 hours of waiting. They’ll be deliriously happy. Kicking that ball will be their favorite memory of the whole week. They’ll tell you you’re the best dad in the world.

That is how easy kids make it.

Reason #3) Technology makes it easy

Give your kid your phone – done. Put on a video – done. Set them up with the iPad – done. This one is obvious, but still it is so easy to fall into that trap. Whole teams of brilliant experts are developing technology designed to be more interesting than you. Your kids will beg for it and all you have to do is say yes and you’re off duty.

Reason #4) Society (including wives) make it easy

Think of it this way: if you went to your job and 90% of the time, dodged your workload and dumped it onto your co-workers, what would happen? There’d be a damn mutiny. You’d be fired in a week.

But dads do that every single day and for some reason it’s fine. Maybe wives just give up and decide it’s not worth the fight.

In fact (and I swear I’m not making this up), I wrote a draft of this in an airport and right across from me…a mom, dad, 3 little kids. The kids were crying and fighting and the mom was struggling to wrangle the 3 of them. That dad sat right there, talking on his phone, like he didn’t even realize his kids were there.

So now when you ask yourself why the fatherhood bar is so low, you have 4 solid reasons why. Someday you may experience these reasons first-hand. In fact, that’s where we’re going to go. But before we go there, we’re gonna take a time out. This is the last installment of the Donna G Project, so I thought it made sense to check in with Donna G. Let’s revisit her story, shall we?

It started with an abnormal blood test. Then a scan and the detection of cancer in her right breast. There was telling her husband. There was telling her two daughters. (You boys know them, imagine that moment.) There were logistics and appointments. Then the surgery.

They laid her on her back, put her under, and took scalpels to her breasts. They cut down the tops and across the bottoms, discarded her nipples, and then peeled the skin back like opening up an orange. Then they cut out all the flesh of her breasts. They slid implants under her pectoral muscles. Then with great care and precision, they sewed the skin back together.

Start there. Consider that mutilation. That physical devastation.

From there, the slow, plodding, aching recovery. Physical therapy. Muscle spasms in the pectoral muscles. Knots in the tendons under her armpits that a physical therapist would have to “crack” by pushing down hard with both thumbs. That’s what Donna G went through.

It’s been two years and no sign of the cancer returning. But still the thought never leaves. When Donna’s knee hurts after going for a run, cancer lingers. She will think: “Has it spread to my bones?” Horrible doubt and fear lurking. Donna G lives under that shadow.

She takes medicine that causes her hands to ache. Her daughters will notice when it’s bad and say, “You don’t have to braid my hair, Mommy. I’ll wear it straight today.”

Donna has faced it with grit. With bravery and clarity. She told me, “cancer is a control freak and you have to take control back from it.” That’s what she does. That’s what she has done. “It’s the new normal,” she says.

And as I read that over, it occurs to me that those are her reasons. If she wanted to do a half-ass job as a parent, she had plenty of compelling reasons.

So with that, let’s go back to fatherhood, shall we? Because as we come to the conclusion of this project, I am invoking all the power of Donna G. The suffering, the endurance, the refusal to live under any terms but her own. I invoke all of it and bring it to bear in the form of a curse.

When it comes to fatherhood, you two don’t get a pass. Your pass has been revoked. You two get a different bar and I’m setting it right here and right now. In all the other things I’ve written, I’ve given you advice. This is not advice. This is a requirement. This is mandatory.

I am calling on the full power of Donna G’s boobs and laying this curse upon you.

If you choose to have kids, you are going to be kickass dads. You read that right; I am placing an honest-to-God curse on you.

Oh, and remember those 4 reasons I laid out? Well those don’t hold water for the two of you.

“But sometimes being a dad is so annoying. I thought it would be fun.”

Too bad. Get in there. I don’t care how bad it sucks. Especially when it sucks. You will engage every friggin’ time. You will get your ass off the couch. You will dress up in dumb costumes. You will play hide and seek even though kids always hide in the exact same spot every stinkin’ time.

“My kids tell me I’m a great dad. They understand that I need time to myself. I’m helping them be independent.”

You don’t get to pull that bullshit. That incredible power over your kids is to be used to make them good people. It is to teach them good life habits and ingrain them with a sense of right and wrong. You get to use that power responsibly and for the interest of your kids, not for your own self-interest. It takes tremendous restraint and discipline – but that’s exactly what you’re gonna do.

“They don’t want to play with me – they want their devices.”

You’re gonna put that shit down. Devices are not the parents — you are. You need to be more fun than the device. Cut that bullshit out.

“But that’s how dads are. My wife gets it.”

BULLSHIT! 100 times – bullshit! You will not buy into that – do you hear me? You’re gonna get down on that rug and roll around. You’re gonna push that kid in those swings and chase them around the playground – then do it again. You are going to be the first to smell that diaper and you change it, goddamit. That’s your kid. Spring out of bed at night when you hear the crying. Read those awful picture books over and over.

You two listen to me, and listen good. This curse is real. It is legal and binding. It is happening. If you boys choose to be fathers, you will honor this curse or you will spend fatherhood with my foot (and Donna G’s foot) up your ass.

That is the curse of Donna G’s boobs – and I hereby lay it squarely on you both.

Pause.

Full stop.

Take a moment to appreciate the fact that you’ve just had a curse placed on you. Because now I want to follow that rant with a few stories. Check it out.

My precious son, Jack:

The day after you were born I went for a run. My run took me through a tunnel and as I ran through it I suddenly found myself bellowing: JACK! JACK! JACK! It just gushed out of me. Again and again, I yelled it with all the might my thunder-throated voice could bring. The sound of your name crackled off the concrete arches and each time I heard it, reality sunk in deeper and deeper.

What had happened didn’t seem possible – but it was real. I was a father. I had a son.

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My son, Alex:

When you were three we spent a whole day together. Mom and Jack were away for some reason. You and I ran errands, we played ninja fights, we had dinner together. That night, I put you to bed and you were falling asleep the second you lay down. As I tucked you in, you said to me in the sleepiest voice:

“I wish we were twins.” Your voice was so tiny.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because then we’d be together always for our whole life.”

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My son, Jack:

When you were two years old and we were living in that temporary apartment in Pennsylvania, you wanted to play cars outside after dinner. It was raining just a little, so I sat down on the concrete and rested against the door. I expected you to go play cars on the sidewalk, but instead you sat down right next to me like it was perfectly normal and suddenly everything everything locked into crystal clear focus. The whole universe instantly made perfect sense. In that moment I literally knew the meaning of life with absolute certainty. I had it in the palm of my hand. The doughy little boy, side by side with me on that cold concrete was everything I had ever wanted or needed. It was more than I ever had the right to ask God for, but there it was just the same.

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My beautiful son, Alex:

Our first backpacking trip. We slept in the shelter, and in the middle of the night it absolutely poured. The rain rattled so loudly on the metal roof it woke me up. I sat and listened to the whole world roaring around me. Out there with no one around for miles I sat there with your tiny sleeping body next to me, and I wished that moment would last forever.

My two sons. My two magic boys:

These moments are endless for me. I could fill pages and pages and pages with these moments. You boys have brought me joy that dwarfs anything else I have ever known. When it comes to my love for the two of you, it feels like God himself pulled the sun from the sky and stuffed it into my chest. To me, that is fatherhood. That is what the two of you have brought to me.

So yes, I have put a curse on you. But in spite of what the majority of people seem to believe, Fatherhood is not a curse.

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