Closer Than They Appear

reflections from life as a dad


Episode Ten: Why Start Now

Back in September I read an article in the New York Times called “Pot for Parents.” It’s written by a dad from San Francisco. Here’s the opening line:

“The youngest of my three daughters was born around the same time I became a card-carrying medical cannabis parent.”

The article continues to explain his history with medical marijuana to help his stress, anxiety, and lower back pain…and then how it has made him into a better parent. Let me quote the article further.

“Here’s what a typical weekday evening exchange between me and my oldest daughter once looked like:
Child: Daddy, can you how me how to make a Q?
Father: sipping bourbon and soda, not looking up from iPad–just make a circle and put a little squiggle at the bottom.
Child: No, show me!
Father: Sweetie, not now, ok? Daddy’s tired.

It’s different now:

Child: Daddy, can you show me how to make a Q?
Father: (getting down on the floor) Here, I’ll hold your hand while you hold the pen and we’ll make one together. There! We made a Q! Isn’t it fantastic?
Child: Thanks, Daddy!
Father: Don’t you just love the shape of this pen?

It’s the same with my middle child:

Child: Can I watch a video?
Father: Of Course!

Child: Can I watch a video?
Father: Why don’t we read a story and then pretend we’re in our own video! Go pick out a book, and I’ll go get the finger puppets.”

It’s a very funny article–the guy wittily writes that pot is associated with short term memory loss, and the writes the exact same thing a second time–but it hasn’t stuck with me for 6 months because of its humor. It has stuck with me because it is is the first time I’ve ever heard someone claim that smoking pot makes them a better parent.

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Read the full New York Times article Pot for Parents.


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Episode Nine: 13.1 Miles of Dad

There’s that scene in the movie, no movie in particular, just any old movie, where the woman is frustrated with the man because he’s out doing his thing. Maybe his thing is driving motorcycles, or surfing, or playing music, or whatever it is, but it’s his thing, and it’s largely what first attracted the woman to the man in the first place, but as she fell in love with him, she realized that this thing might at times be too big, too powerful, and it would cause friction between them. This scene, the one that is no movie in particular, just any old movie, is the one where the woman is lost in that friction. She feels she is losing the man to his thing. She’s home alone, and he’s out feeling life explode in his veins, and she’s wondering whether he’s coming home, and if she can keep loving him while he still has his thing.

You know the scene I’m talking about.

I believe that every man has his thing, his thing that he loves and gets lost in and in many ways makes him who he is.

But as all men know, when you fall in love and get close to sometimes, you sometimes have to make compromises. Your thing can’t always come first. Sometimes the other person has to come first.

And when you become a dad, those “sometimes” become “a lot of the times.” And if you’re a full-time stay-at-home dad, “a lot of the times” becomes “pretty much all the time.”

My thing is being active. I’ve at times thought that my thing is surfing, but I’ve realized that surfing is too fickle to be a thing. The waves aren’t always good, and you can’t invest all your happiness into something as dynamically unpredictable as surfing. For me, surfing is my favorite way of being active, but it’s the action, the being outside, working my body, that I love the most. I have always prided myself on my physical fitness. I aim to be in the type of shape where on any given day I can either a) run a half marathon, b) swim 2 miles, or c) bike 50 miles. I’m proud to say that I have achieved this aim for most of my adult life.

Since I’ve become a dad, my time to exercise, and pursue my thing, has plummeted. I sometimes go running late at night, when I should be asleep, because it’s my only chance. Or if it’s the middle of the day and I just can’t take it anymore, I bring the baby in the jogging stroller. But the truth is, more frequently than not, I simply don’t exercise. And as those days stack up, one after the other, I am afraid. I am afraid that I might be losing my thing.

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Episode Eight: Bjorn, Baby Bjorn.

Once when I was wearing our son in the baby bjorn, I guess I was standing a certain way and my wife looked at me and laughed. “You look like Zach Galfianciakshdies” she said, which was funny because she didn’t know his last name.

But it was also funny because I don’t have a beard. I hardly ever wear sunglasses. And I have yet to be described as “portly,” so it’s not like the physical description was apt. The entire comparison was based around one criterion: the baby bjorn.


I believe that the baby bjorn has become the symbol of the modern dad. If you google image search Baby Bjorn, the first image is of a dad…not a mom, but a dad. Second image is a couple and guess who is wearing the bjorn? The dad. It isn’t until the 4th image, from the official baby bjorn website, that you see a mom wearing one.

The bjorn is our interpretation of mom jeans, our calling card, our way of broadcasting out into the world, “I am Dad, hear me roar.”

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Here’s the Atlantic article I mentioned in this episode, Dads Caring for Their Kids: It’s Parenting, not Babysitting.

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Episode Six: Bread

One morning this summer we woke up to feed Jonas, and we finally got him back to sleep around 4:30am. I had set my alarm for 5:15 because I wanted to go for a swim in the bay, so I figured what the hell, that’s only 45 minutes from now, I may as well stay up.

I read a magazine profile to kill some time and the next thing I knew, it was 5:20, and I had to get going. I needed to be home by 8am, so I timed out the morning perfectly. Leave the house at 5:30, get to Aquatic Park around 5:55, change into my wetsuit, jump in just as the sun was making its grand entry into the day, swim my two miles in the bay, get out, change, and be home by 7:45, which built in a 15 minute buffer for the unknowns like traffic, wetsuit mishaps, and finding the right filter on instagram for my obligatory photo of the sun rising over the San Francisco bay.

I grabbed a banana from the kitchen and went down to the garage to get my swim stuff. I rounded up my wetsuit, my towel, and my two swim caps, which is standard for cold water swimming. Even the brave souls who swim in the bay without a wetsuit wear two swim caps, to protect them from the ice cream headaches.

But I couldn’t find my goggles. I tore through the garage, to no avail. I hustled upstairs and looked through my gym stuff there. No goggles.

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Episode Five: I’d Rather Dance With You Than Talk With You

The best place to see different parenting styles on display is at the grocery store. I find the parent that most impresses me is one I’m sure we’ve all seen before. She’s the mom who is in the produce section, and she talks pretty much non-stop to her baby. Like this.

“Honey, this here is an onion. Mommy needs to get onions for the soup she’s making daddy tonight. It’s his favorite soup and it’s supposed to rain later so I thought it would be a good idea to make the soup for him. Will you help mommy make the soup? We need to get three onions for the soup, let’s count them, 1, 2, 3. Good job! We also need peppers, one red one, and one green one. Here’s the green one. What else do we know is green?”

and so on and so forth, and I’m standing there with Jonas and a bag of carrots thinking, “Goddamn that is one good parent.”

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Episode Three: Fly By Nursing

Do yourself a favor. When you are up in the middle of the night, with your new baby crying because he wants to eat, even though he just ate 90 minutes ago, and two hours before that, and you’re at the peak of sleep-deprived frustration, do not go on the internet. Do not go on the internet to google phrases like “4 month old up every 2 hours at night” because you will find your way to discussion boards, hosted at websites like and, and you will read the comments on these discussion boards, and you will want to kill someone.

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Here it is, the notorious “fly by nursing” gif. Feel free to save it for use later.