May 22, 2012

The Dad Chronicles


In Celebration Of Father’s Day, We Asked Some Of Our Favorite Local Dads For Their Best Parenting Stories

By kathryn test nov3


Comedian Bill Cosby may have written his hilarious, anecdotal Fatherhood in the ’80s (remember that one?), but somehow we’re still going back to it for
a few laughs every now and again. Sure, soap-on-a-rope is more like a dinosaur
diorama nowadays ("Honey, it’s adorable!") but just like him, these
modern dads have stopped to pause and reflect on what exactly fatherhood and
being a parent truly means to them.


HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING

When
my wife went back to work, I used to sit with the baby in the evenings by a
window watching construction on Columbus Avenue, hoarding ounces of frozen
breast milk and jabbering nonsense until she came home. What were you supposed
to do all day with someone who couldn’t even hold his head up? You walked, you
shopped for groceries, you moved your car across the street. You read
books—because it was something you’d learned to do somewhere, the baby didn’t
seem to mind it (the baby minded everything), at least you weren’t
jabbering, and if there were actually any residual benefits to be gained, all
the better.

It
turned out I finally had a couple of other interests to share with my children,
but books were the first indication we even belonged to the same species.

−Jay Bushara is the Founder of an
online children’s bookstore at onepotato.net.


ADVENTURE DAYS


"Playground!" "Aquarium!" "L train!" "George Washington Bridge!" "Queens!"
"Candy store!""Shamir_Khan_and_family.jpg"

One summer, I had the flexibility to take time
off for "adventure days" when my sons were younger. Every morning, the boys would try to guess the day’s agenda. The parameters (with my wife’s blessing):
to do something new, eat something new, travel a new way or go to a new
place—some days we would conquer all. (And yes, one day, candy store was
the right answer.)


We walked across every bridge: Queensboro, Willamsburg, George Washington, Broadway,
Brooklyn. We travelled by taxi (road and water), ferry, car, bus, trains and
tram. We traversed neighborhoods across the five boroughs and ate foods from
around the world. We marveled at animals from different zoos, complained in
long lines at tourist spots, discovered amazing playgrounds, and most
importantly, sprinklers.


That summer, my boys lived each day as an adventure and found wonder in the
world around them. While I had learned a similar lesson in my early 20s—
backpacking in different parts of the world—I had unfortunately forgotten it.
My sons helped me to rediscover my own sense of adventure.

−Shamir A. Khan, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist (shamirkhan.com) and
Founder of the NYC Private Schools Blog (nycprivateschoolsblog.com).


LIFE LESSONS–ONE RIDE AT A TIME

I’ve always encouraged my children to be vocal and
speak out if someone or something is not right. 

As it happened, we were visiting relatives in
California and the children wanted to go to Disneyland. Four hours into the
trip, and with only two rides under our belts, a ride broke down. Because we
were next in line, I asked the attendant to give us passes to be first in line
when it was fixed. "Dr._Mark_Hochberg.JPG"

The attendant stated park policy was to give passes
for first in line only if the ride broke down while you were on it. To
spend so much time and money at the park and to only have been able to go on
two rides was not right.

With my family in tow, I quickly headed for the
customer service office. My two kids, six and eight at the time, were a bit
worried to see my angered reaction. Upset, they would have been okay to
have just left the park, rather than to see me make a scene. But I had to make
my point.

As I approached the front office of the park, my family
made it clear that I was on my own. I entered the office, explained my
situation and after a little bit of persistence, the manager understood what
had happened and refunded my money. However, park policy stated that I
must be escorted out of the park by their security guards, as to not take
advantage of my refund.

So there I was, with my family nervously waiting
outside, walking out of the front office with two security guards flanked at my
sides.


"See Mom! This is what happens when you speak up. They’re taking Daddy to
jail!"

−Dr. Mark Hochberg, DMD of the Manhattan
Pediatric Dental Group


SHARING IS CARING

We had a great Saturday planned—a pre-birthday
celebration for our eldest, soon-to-be 8-year-old.


But before the festivities could even start, the birthday boy couldn’t seem to
leave the bathroom. It didn’t take us long to realize he’d caught a stomach
virus. How I wish he hadn’t gone back for that fourth bowl of pasta and
white clam sauce, followed up by a huge dessert the night before!"Scott_Chosed.JPG"

After a couple of days, the 6-year-old was out
of commission along with his brother. Then came the wife, then the 2-year-old.
I’ve never cleaned up so much ejected material in my life—the carpets, the
sofas and the floors.

Normally I wind up catching what the kids have
right away. But I was spared this time and able to care for everyone. Boy did I
feel lucky, and maybe just a bit superior. The virus ran its course with the
four of them in the span of a week or so…and then I got it.

But, this once self-proclaimed "bachelor for
life" still wouldn’t trade his family for anything. (Or, the washer/dryer.)

−Scott Chosed, Real Estate Consultant and Owner, Chosen Pictures


IT’S WHAT DADDY DOES

I have always been a big sports fan: football,
baseball, hockey, auto racing—you name it. Before kids, I would just do
them, go to them or watch them—with no thought to scheduling or how much time
they take up. Specifically "EJ_Zgodny2.JPG"baseball on Randall’s Island, skating at Wollman
Rink, gymnastics at Elite.

Now, my love of sports has been redefined by my love of family. Coaching my son
Jack’s baseball and flag football teams. Coaching my daughter Sydney’s softball
team and watching her flip around the gym mats. Getting on the ice to
watch toe loops and sow cows or playing father-son hockey tournaments. Racing
now means loading up the truck with equipment and teammates, and zipping from
the end of one sport to the beginning of the next across town. And then there
is the pride of seeing Jack field a ground ball or watching Sydney sing a solo
in front of a packed auditorium like a Grammy-winning artist.

But I still get some time alone—when the
Giants kick off on Sundays, the kids know to give Daddy his space as he
hollers, yells and jumps up and down in his Giants jersey.

It’s what Daddy does.

−EJ Zgodny,
Head Dad of YOUAREONTHELIST.com


THE "SOUND" OF INSPIRATION

Far from the era when Simon & Garfunkel’s "The
Sound of Silence
" was not just a popular song, but also an attribute
adults lauded as the gauge for obedient children, I always believed that I
tolerated noise better than most, considering I am the dad of six wonderfully
boisterous kids. Recently, though, I went from tolerating the cacophony to
embracing it. "Ari_Weinstock.JPG"

During a game of Pirates versus Aliens versus
Zombies (or something like that), I watched in amazement as my kids transformed
a quiet living room into a movie set. While the couches, lamps and chairs
served as props, it was the sound effects that got my attention. Be it the
pirate "aarrgghs", the zombie moans or the blast of a ray gun, I was
amazed at the vast array of sounds that a human could make and amused at the
fact that my kids had seemingly mastered many of them. Inspired, my kids and I
collaborated to create a line of products based on crazy sounds. It was during
this time that I realized the sweetest sound of all—the sound of children’s
laughter. 

−Ari Weinstock,
CEO of Wowopolis, created Sound It! Found It! and other games with the
Wowopolis R&D team—his kids


NATURE BY A KNOCK-OUT

When our first son, Ry, was born, equipped
with the parenting philosophies we had exhaustively researched, we set out to
conquer childrearing with the right balance of love and discipline. We got him
on a feeding schedule right away. By four months, he was sleeping through the
night. And at just under a year, we weaned him off breast milk. As Ry grew into
a happy, well-adjusted child, we congratulated ourselves for our stellar
parenting skills—we were naturals!"Keith_Klein.JPG"

Then, the second baby came.

Feeding schedule? Ha. Weaning?
Ha-ha. Sleeping through the night? Yes, with one small wrinkle: It was
happening in our bed.

So what happened? How did we go from stellar
to sucky? We didn’t. It turns out that in the whole nature/nurture argument,
nature has a very powerful voice.

So we have changed our approach. We still love them
unconditionally—how deeply is maybe the most astonishing realization that comes
from being a parent. We still discipline them (my boys call me Captain Kibosh).
And we still work hard to give them a set of values that they can stand on. But
mostly what we try to do now is look at who they are and what sort of
challenges and opportunities their own wonderful and unique personalities are
going to present for them, and give them tools and tricks that can help them. Then,
step back and watch in awe as they go into the world.

−Keith Klein,
Founder & Proprietor of Milk Truck, New York


EVERY DAY IS FATHER’S DAY

In December 2003, I was faced with the loss of
both my children from an out-of-control fire at their mom’s home. All three
died. I lost my son on the 14th, my daughter on the 16th. I can’t even speak of
all the details, I clench my teeth just thinking about it."Thaddeus_Harden.JPG"

My son was DOA but my daughter still lived,
though in a coma, for two more days. In the most twisted way, I was grateful
that my daughter lived two days longer after the tragedy. I prayed
massively. I begged. I pleaded. And yet, I lost them both. An unspeakable
tragedy—one that you might think is the end of the world. And in many ways, it
was. It was so permanent. But, no matter the odds, no matter how gut-wrenchingly
bad it seemed, life continued all around me. It almost seemed incredibly wrong
that time just didn’t stop at that very moment. But, it kept going, and the
healing did eventually kick in.  

Several years later, I’ve been blessed with a
new beginning and an adamant wife wanting a child! I’ve been married now for
four years and we have a beautiful 2-year-old son. Every day is Father’s Day to
me. Though I look back with a huge amount of grief, time is always in the
present. And every single minute that I can make a difference for my child,
really does matter.

−Thaddeus Harden
is a portrait photographer specializing in commercial, sports-action and family
portraits (thaddeushardenphotography.com). 


HUG IT OUT

Because I was in the midst of the construction project
that ultimately built the new Children’s Museum of the "David_Kaplan.JPG"Arts, the summer of 2011
offered our family few opportunities to take a long vacation. We opted instead
for renting a car and making a series of day trips to upstate New York. As the
days wore on, my wife, Elaine, made sarcastic comments about my driving skills,
especially going too fast around turns.

At one family gathering, I mentioned that all the
driving was "a pain in the neck". My six-year-old daughter, Marae, ever-so
cheerfully offered to the whole room that "maybe my neck hurt because of all
the turns I made on two wheels". The group’s raised eyebrows and glares told
the whole story, and I didn’t offer a denial. I just shrugged and gave Marae
(and her mom) a big family hug.

−David Kaplan, Executive Director of the
Children’s Museum of the Arts



WHY
WORRY?

As
a stay-at-home father, I have the wonderful privilege of feeding my
daughter three times a day. I use the word privilege a bit sarcastically
because I often have to deal with her throwing food on the floor or at me, not "Jack__Jake__Howard_Potter.JPG"eating,
only eating chocolate bunnies for dinner or some other worrisome event. 


I know I am lucky to have food to feed her and a floor for her to throw it on but
it is stressful and I worry. I worry if she is getting the right nutritional
balance for her development; I worry about her future table manners; I worry
about cleaning the entire area when she is done…three times a day!


It is natural to worry—our instincts tell us to worry, feed, protect, nurture
and love our kids. But I have learned
after a few years of this that there is no sense in worrying the way I
do. She is developing perfectly, she can complete full sentences and very often
says, "No Daddy, I do not like it!" She
says "please" and "thank you" when I do give her chocolate bunnies and kneels
down next to me after meals with a paper towel and wipes the floor to help. For
all my worrying, she is just like any other kid growing up and that is
the real privilege.

−Jack (Jake) Howard-Potter is an artist, blogger, stay-at-home dad and
triathlete (steelstatue.com).


BLUEGRASS ON THE RADIO

For eight months in the year 2001, my band and I played every Sunday afternoon
at a place in Chelsea called The Park. It was, and still is, a festive
restaurant with a big outdoor courtyard. We played the day they opened and went
from there. Families could come in for free and spend the afternoon eating and
drinking and listening to our music. "Dan_Zanes.JPG"

My daughter was about six at the time and we
had our routine: wake up early, load the equipment into the station wagon,
listen to bluegrass on the radio while driving to Chelsea and unload the gear.
She would find a bartender to pour her some juice while I set everything up and
then we would have breakfast together. Usually some of her friends would come
by and they would run around among the families that filled the courtyard.
September 11th happened during this time. The owners of The Park were
incredibly understanding and this became our refuge, a place where we could
have a semblance of normal communal life during those difficult autumn
afternoons.

Looking back, what I remember most are the
drives—the bluegrass on the radio and the quiet of New York City early on a Sunday
morning. This was our chance to really talk to each other. It was a magical
time.

Dan Zanes,
Grammy-winning maker of 21st Century all-ages social music


WHAT’S BEAUTIFUL?

Two years ago, my son Jack came riding along the corridor on his tricycle and bumped
into my leg saying, "Dada, why do you take photographs of people?" "Nigel_Barker.JPG"


I answered, "Well Jack, I take pictures of people to capture memories and
things that are beautiful."


Jack retorted, "What’s beautiful, Dada?" 


Now this is a question that I have been explaining for years on America’s
Next Top Model
,
so I thought I had this one…but looking down at his
little face, I knew that I had to think of something that he could relate to. I
was stumped for what seemed like an eternity.


"Beautiful is your mother, Jack," I stuttered back, to which he
huffed, rolled his eyes and scooted away unimpressed!


That night, I wrote down all the different things I find alluring when casting
a model, an actress and what I found most beautiful in his mother: confidence,
compassion, sense of humor, motivation, energy, honesty, charm and spontaneity.
All of which were inner-beauty attributes, which for a fashion photographer I
realized may sound surprising. So I have Jack to thank for my first book.

−Nigel Barker,
fashion photographer and author of Nigel Barker’s Beauty Equation


LIKE FATHER, NOT LIKE SON

Fatherhood has taught me to manage
expectations. If there were two things I looked forward to before the
birth of my son, it was having a catch with him and just teaching him how to do
things. My son, Calder, is now three and a half and has zero interest in
sports beyond jumping up and down or off the couch. Scooter "David_Ludwig.JPG"riding,
no. Anything involving a ball, forget about it. He’s much more
interested in drawing and playing with cars—neither of which are my
specialties. I find myself trying to convince him to play sports with me to no
avail.

Adding to this is his stalwart refusal to take
advice or help on any and all matters big and small. From getting dressed
to drawing trains, he is simply not interested in hearing my opinion. I
love this fierce independence, but I’m also dumbfounded by it. I had
always imagined my son would look up at me with sheer admiration as I unlocked
the secrets of the world around him. Instead, I find myself unable to
convince him that I have a thing or two to teach him.

I’ll continue to nudge (and even eventually
beg) Calder to play ball with his old man, but in the end, I’m just as excited
to support his inclinations and encourage him to simply be himself.

−David Ludwig, Community Programs Director,
Asphalt Green


CONSTRUCTION WORK

I ride my five-year-old to school every
morning on a bicycle past the Second Avenue subway construction site.

On a recent ride he asked, "What holds up the street?"

"The ground," I answered.

"What holds up the ground?" "Harold_Stephan.JPG"

"The earth."

"Did construction workers build the earth?" he asked.

I started laughing. Considering a few short
years ago my son was diagnosed with a learning disorder, I was thrilled my kid
was putting me on the spot with such a great question.

When my wife and I were told that our child
had a learning disorder, it was one of the most devastating moments of our
lives. Instead of burying our heads in the sand—and believe me, the temptation
was there—we embraced the challenge to discover that there is a world of
support for children like ours.

Einstein didn’t speak until he was three.
Mozart, Tesla and Newton displayed behaviors consistent with "spectrum
disorder". The only way to truly know your child’s potential is to give them
the support they need. Wait. And then see.

−Harold Stephan is a music producer and
songwriter with the NYC-based production duo, The Ultras (theultras.net). He
and his wife share their experiences raising a special needs child through
music at their blog, Parents With Angst (parentswithangst.com).

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