Category Archives: Being a Dad


First Day of School

Our preschool years are over.

Earlier this morning I watched my daughter get on the school bus for the first time (she starts a new school today), and in about an hour I’ll walk my son to his first day of Kindergarten.

We’ve fantasized about this day for years—the extra time that my wife will have, how much cleaner the house will be without children in it all day long, not having to pay for preschool, and so on.

And yet, here I sit, an unusual quiet to the morning, trembling.

I’m a much better starter than a finisher. I always loved the first days of school, when the year ahead was rich with possibilities, the opportunity to find new friends and unwrap new mysteries. By the end of the school year, I was disinterested and anxious, ready for summer to begin with its own possibilities stretching into the heat-miraged distance. I love Autumn and Spring. Beginnings, transitions.

Our preschool years are over.

When our children were born, we made grand promises to ourselves about the healthiness of the foods they would eat, the limits of screen time, the quality of our discipline, and the educational nature of our games and toys. We were naïve. Hopeful and bright and amazed at the vast possibility of it all, yes; but also, so naïve.

Way back then, we had beginner’s minds. And now here we are at the end of something, jaded, tired, and usually a little dehydrated. Our kids are as likely to have learned something from the television or iPad than from us. And don’t get me started about eating habits. It’s just so difficult. All. The. Time.

But if I turn my head just so, I can see the edges of the beginning we’ve approached and my attention turns away from all the botched decisions and lazy choices. The distance of the horizon ahead quickens my steps. Land ho—opportunity!

Our school years are just beginning!


My daughter, our first-born, turned eight yesterday and it’s got me thinking, particularly about how much my thinking has changed since 2004.

I used to think about “the kind of daughter” I wanted to raise. How could I have ever dared to define another spirit? Instead, our daughter has brought us the spectacular gift of herself, beyond any dream or fear or expectation.

This child is, thank God, utterly and fiercely herself. Even though many days her peculiarities fray me raw, I pray to never stop feeling grateful for and protective of them.

I can forecast the (not so far-off) storm approaching between her desire to fit in and her desire for uniqueness. The thunder that will roar as the super-heated air of her lightning personality collides with the cooler atmosphere of her peers will be mighty.

And then sometimes she is still such a little girl, loving a doll or playing dress-up at a museum. I try to remember to stay in Today, and not get too caught up in the whirling eddies of Little Girl Past and Tweenager Future.

I used to think I would raise my kids. By now, through so many missteps, mistakes, and meditation, I’ve learned the truth. We are, instead, raising each other, ever higher along the way.

This newly eight-year-old is so smart and so sensitive and so strange, she teaches me every day the extent to which I don’t know anything.

I used to fear that. Not anymore.

For my son on his 5th

Life isn’t always about chasing what you want. Sometimes life gives you more than you ever could have dreamed of had you kept yourself chained to your own delusions. Corny? True.

In only 5 years, our son has taught us every step of the way to embrace the unexpected.

A surprising but joyous pregnancy becomes a difficult and potentially dangerous pregnancy. An orderly, scheduled induction becomes a “this baby is coming and don’t anyone get in the way” overnight express train.

A little brother so easily overshadowed by an exuberant sister becomes the wisest and most quietly brilliant sun in the sky.

Keep surprising us, buddy, whether we want you to or not. And happy birthday.

Observations from a Series of Snowbound Days

  • We go through a lot of maple syrup
  • All else being equal, my children’s default state is “fighting”
  • Every morning, the fucking city plows another foot of snow onto the apron of my driveway and crushes my will to live
  • Podcasts are more enjoyable while commuting
  • We are filthy people
  • There is, in fact, a limit to how much coffee I can drink
  • Time, it turns out, is not the issue; it’s attention
  • Everything that happens in The Shining makes much more sense to me now

Make a museum

My daughter claims she wants to be an artist, and decided (all on her own) that she wanted to create a museum featuring her favorite "cruisers" (her word for art projects) that she had made in the past year.

So she went through the archives, selected a bunch of her favorites, and we decided to take the idea seriously. We all dressed for the occasion, hung the art in the living room, invited Grandma and Grandpa Morrow, served appetizers and champagne, etc.

It was a full weekend project, but we all had a blast.

She was so proud of herself.

Not to pat ourselves on the back, but here’s the thing I learned: if you have kids, and they are enthusiastic about something (anything), take the time and effort to really honor it.

It wasn’t convenient, and it wasn’t my first choice of how to spend last weekend, but it made my daughter absolutely shine with pride, and her interest in “being an artist” has grown even brighter.

And if you don’t have kids, what are you enthusiastic about? What can you make the time to honor for yourself? What’s your museum?

PS—I decided to try Animoto to make a quick montage of some of the pictures. It’s too short (you only get 30 seconds for free), but kinda nifty.

The Green Light

In the middle of a cul de sac in the town where we used to live is a little island of grass and a single, nondescript street lamp that holds the stature of myth in our family.

I speak of The Green Light.

The Green Light, so named and mythologized by my daughter at two years of age, cast a peculiar green shade from its vantage point at the end of our street. I’m sure that with a little while of dedicated Googling I could determine the reason this light cast such a verdant hue, though as you’ll see I’m not so interested in the light itself as what it represents and how it came to embed itself in the young imagination of a family just getting its feet underneath itself.

My daughter discovered it. Of course, it was always there, flicking on automatically at dusk and shutting itself off at dawn. But neither my wife nor I ever paid it any attention until it had captured our daughter’s imagination a way that very little else had before it.

My daughter G was captivated by it, and how different it was from the more pedestrian (ahem) light in front of our own home. She noticed it, in the way that a two-year-old notices things: with the realization that something out of the ordinary can transport us into a different world altogether.

“It’s The Green Light!” G would exclaim as we drove home, or left the front door, each time like a bolt of recognition that a long-lost friend had made the visit from far away.

We would drive past our house and drive ’round the cul de sac to visit it, sometimes multiple times, to satisfy G’s desire to see it. If the weather cooperated, when I got home from work we would walk together to pay it a visit. On more than one occasion, G would hug the stone lamppost. And on every occasion we would flirt with a tantrum at the prospect of being forced to leave its presence. The light had a personality, a life beyond our visits, and was the topic of toddler conversations and imaginings.

Who cares?

It was the first instance we witnessed of my daughter noticing something in the outside world and internalizing it into her vision of the universe. It was different, and so was special, and had nothing to do with her parents.

I desperately wished I had thought to document some of the tales that G told us about The Green Light; the specifics of the stories are lost. But if you ask G today, she still remembers it (as “part of the Old House").

It has worked its way back into my consciousness—in part because my son is now approaching that magical age of discovery, and in part because I’ve spent a great deal of time lately thinking about where we anchor our creative energies.

This lamppost in a far north Chicago suburb became a totem for a little imagination, the source of focus for a mind teeming with ideas and hungry for explanations.

A mind not all that different from the more grown-up ones that you and I try daily to “manage” or “control” or “organize.”

We each tend to cluster our creative energies on something, and usually the brightest or shiniest or most immediately appealing.

We need a beacon.

For my daughter, it used to be The Green Light (and is now replaced by her various “kids” and fairies and art projects). For you or I, it might be our Work, or a Blog, or a Person. It may be a healthy focus, or it may not be so positive right now. But I think there must be value in recognizing It for what It is and looking deeper into how it informs your worldview.

And of course we can’t miss the symbolism of a Green Light meaning “GO,” can we?

So what’s your Green Light, and where is it telling you to go?

“The number 143 means ‘I love you.’”


While we’re talking about uber-nice people, let’s take a minute to fondly remember all those quiet moments we spent in front of the tube as children (or even adults) watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

And, courtesy of Mental Floss (via CNN, of all places), a list of “15 reasons Mr. Rogers was best neighbor ever.”

This particularly blew my mind:

In covering Rogers’ daily routine (waking up at 5 a.m.; praying for a few hours for all of his friends and family; studying; writing, making calls and reaching out to every fan who took the time to write him; going for a morning swim; getting on a scale; then really starting his day), writer Tom Junod explained that Mr. Rogers weighed in at exactly 143 pounds every day for the last 30 years of his life.

He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t eat the flesh of any animals, and was extremely disciplined in his daily routine. And while I’m not sure if any of that was because he’d mostly grown up a chubby, single child, Junod points out that Rogers found beauty in the number 143.

According to the piece, Rogers came “to see that number as a gift… because, as he says, “the number 143 means ‘I love you.’ It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you.’ One hundred and forty-three.”

Fred Rogers is like a god in our house.