Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fatherhood: Imagine 30 Years on Today

Writing about the 30th Anniversary of John Lennon’s murder I came across a somewhat snide Bloomberg article by Mark Beech who asked his readers to “imagine there was no shooting.”

Imagining John Lennon was never shot is a good thing – Imagining nobody getting shot is even better -  But Beech’s imagination belittles John for choosing fatherhood over the music business.

He writes:

On the sugary “Double Fantasy” LP, he told his son Sean “I can hardly wait to see you come of age,” a line now heavy with irony -- at the time just cringe-worthy.

The best hope is that some headline or another would have shaken Lennon’s complacency and fueled feverish bursts of music.

I am reminded of something I heard Jessica Hagedorn say years ago when asked how motherhood had impacted her writing. I forget the exactly how the question was phrased. However, I remember how she replied. She said it made her much more conscious of time and how she spent it. It made practical sense back then when I was single and childless. Now a parent myself still wanting to pursue my own writing her statement becomes much more meaningful.

A good friend reminded me when I bemoaned self-pityingly about how I’ve let my own artistic pursuits fall to the wayside that being a good dad is probably the most challenging but definitely the most rewarding artistic pursuit. And I’ve come to learn just how right she was. I haven’t felt anything as exhilarating as when my children take my hand.

Beech is right. John might have fallen out of the public light. But he is wrong in assuming that John would have given up his writing and his music. Fatherhood changed the paradigm I use to assign value to things - including the grudges I keep and those I abandon. I imagine it would have done the same for John. Holding my children’s hand to cross the street or staying up with them when they’re sick gives life new perspective and meaning.

I know Sean isn’t his first child but his life as father to Sean and his life as father to Julian are quite different. The main difference being he was older and more experienced when Sean was born. So I concede to Beech that John had “mellowed” at the time of his death.

Most enticing was the prospect of a Beatles reunion. Paul McCartney, carrying a guitar, showed up at the Dakota during Lennon’s “househusband” years and was turned away. John was baking bread and looking after the baby.

Like Beech it’s easy for me to imagine John as a “househusband” but in my scenario he doesn’t turn Paul away. He invites this very important person from his past in and they bake together and play a song for the baby afterwards. They talk about the past, the chores of the present, and the potential in the future.

I imagine John drawing from the best interpreted influences – European, American, and Asian. I imagine he would have pioneered the current real world social trend of empowered Stay-At-Home dads.

The Today Show ran a series of stories on Stay-At-Home dads in their Parenting section. One of the reoccurring messages is that Stay-At-Home fathers are as able to raise their children as the Stay-At-Home mom. And that it isn’t a novelty. It’s natural. Like Rice Daddy Jason Sperber says in his Today Show segment: “It’s not babysitting. It’s called parenting.”

Just a dad celebrating time with his son.

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