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The Serious Limits of Fatherhood Pt. I

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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Serious Limits of Fatherhood Pt. I

Today's writing prompt comes from li'l Sean C., age 14, from Des Moines, IL.  He writes,

Dear Joe,

You know what I'd like to see from you? Hardcore father. Something about coming up against the serious limits of what fatherhood requires of you, and finding out that your devotion to the kid trumps it all. Yeah, I am an old-fashioned moralist and see great virtue in that paradigm.


Actually, Sean is Sean Craven, who co-edits a terrific little literary magazine out here called Swill (  He's read for Lip Service West, and will be doing so again August 12th in Oakland.  He also has his own blog, Renaissance Oaf (, which you should check out. That takes care of the plugs.  Now onto the question.

It's a good question.  Which is why I am answering it.  It's why I started this blog in the first place.  Well, one of the two reasons, the other being what all blogs are for, ranting.  But the more people who read this, the less inclined I am simply to vent, and the more responsibility I feel not to waste anyone's time bitching and moaning (needlessly).

Of course, the biggest responsibility I feel is toward the little guy, my son, Holden, the boy who will one day be king.  At least this is what I tell him.  I suppose the biggest test of being a dad is suppressing my natural proclivity toward negativity. That is how others see me, negative, although I see myself less as a pessimist and more as a realist.  Holden will (most likely) never be king.  There are only a handful of monarchies left, and we ain't one of them (and most of those positions are already filled).

My primary job as a dad is to get Holden to believe he can be anything he wants to be.  Even though life, most likely, is actually going to go like this:  Which I've always known, intellectually, and I would've accepted that there simply comes a certain amount of disingenuousness with being a dad.  Santa Claus and all that.  I was "lied" to, and that just seemed to be a part of how all this works, working through the bullshit you are spoon fed from childhood, gradually shedding layers of mistruths, on your slow march toward the grave.


Here's the rub, the part I didn't anticipate.  I really believe Holden can be anything he wants to be.  Such hopefulness for me feels like this:

Still, I believe it. It's the strongest primal pull I've ever felt, the need to give this kid everything I had (and never had).  It's a form of self-preservation and -ascension.  I have seen the future.  And he is me.

So to answer Sean, it don't get any bigger than that.  My hatred, disgust, the governing force of my (pre-dad) life, my desire to say fuck it and fuck up and quit, Holden trumps it.  Something bigger than I takes over and makes me want to protect, shield, help, do right, do good for this kid.  And maybe those tendencies to do the same for me were always there, but for whatever reason I didn't find the subject worthy.  With the heir to the throne, I do.

Fuck, what do I know?  This is eons of evolution.  Lions and cubs and all that.  This is bigger than me.  And realizing that, just might be a first.

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