One Personal Consequence of Violence

I still intend to write in more detail about my recent assault, but what’s most on my mind about it in my day to day life has to do with my kid.

You see, in the attack, I was knocked down face-first by the thugs, and braced myself each time with my hands. Then, as I tried to stagger home following the attack, I fell at least once face-forward and again braced with my splayed hands. So now they are strained very badly — the first few days after the attack, I couldn’t lift a glass of water or can of soda to drink. I couldn’t adjust my pillow or blankets in bed. And of course I couldn’t pick up my baby boy.

Almost two weeks later, I’m improved, but I still can’t do many things like open my prescription bottles. Simple tasks like pressing buttons or adjusting my kid’s high chair, a very simple device, take two hands and a lot of effort, and there are many other moment-to-moment compensations I have to make with different muscles in order to get through the day. I now wear two wrist braces when doing just about anything.

And I still can’t handle my kid. Not really, anyway — not without doing some very creative hugging/scooping wristless and fingerless baby-fu so as not to hurt myself. I can get him into my arms, but it’s a huge effort, and he is a heavy, powerful kid for his age who likes to squirm and play, and I can’t keep up like I did. So usually, I have to call for my wife to wrangle him when he’s heading in a dangerous direction or getting into some trouble. We have to bring a babysitter over — while I’m home as well — just to do simple things like dress him and unscrew his milk bottles. But the point is, I can’t pick him up like I used to. I can’t play with him like I used to. And my hands and wrists might be like this for a while.

God damn them. Those fuckers separated me from my baby boy.

My New Career: Full-Time Daddy

In 2004, I decided to begin to move away from my life in theatre to one in professional politics. I was tired of being on the sidelines, feeling unable to take part in what felt like was “the important stuff” while doing Shakespeare around the country (which I also think is very important, but I’d been doing it for years by then). Coming off a life of a touring actor, I was, in effect, following the lyrics of Mike Doughty:

My circus train pulls through the night
Full of lions and trapeze artists
I’m done with elephants and clowns
I want to
Run away and join the office

It took some time, but by January 2007, I had dragged my then-fiancée to DC so I could begin work on a master’s degree in political management and dive head-first into the political industry. I didn’t know quite what I wanted to do with that education, but that I wanted to be in the fight.

I worked in a lot of different jobs since then. By the close of 2008, I had figured out that the battle I really wanted to join was on behalf of my identity group, atheists. Eventually, I scored a job doing just that.

But something else happened. The wife and I had what my Twitter followers know as #babyfidalgo, my beautiful son Toby. We assumed that we were supposed to do what most other families are forced to manage — maintain our jobs while finding day care for the baby, and somehow make ends meet.

Something about that arrangement, commonplace as it is in contemporary America, seemed grossly out of sorts with the cosmos. At my core, in my heart, the idea of a paid caregiver essentially raising my son through most of his waking hours was simply wrong. (By the way, our nanny is wonderful, loves Toby, and takes wonderful care of him.) I would find myself tearfully apologizing to my uncomprehending baby son, asking his forgiveness for not being there during his babyhood.

Nothing I was doing in my professional life seemed to compare even remotely to the project of cultivating and caring for my son. I’ve gone through a lot in recent years to build a career that would provide fulfillment as well as pay the bills. Nothing I’ve done has made very much money, I should note, working mainly for small nonprofits, and I even took a pay cut to join the secular movement professionally. But more to the point, “work” has failed to serve as something that can define me. Being a father, however, has meant so much to me that it is sometimes overwhelming.

So my family and I did some heavy deliberating, and we’ve decided to change things up. I’ll soon be leaving my job, and starting in November, I’m going to be a stay-at-home daddy.

How will we make that work? It’s something of a patchwork solution; I’ll be doing some part time retail work on the side (and I hope to find some freelance writing gigs), and therefore I’ll see my wife a little bit less than I do now. But in the aggregate, the hope and expectation is that I’ll be happier, and as a result, my family will be happier.

As far as the relevance to this blog, I expect my lack of a connection to any particular issue-based organization will free me up even more to honestly offer my views on the issues I care about. I also expect that “daddyhood” will begin to creep in more and more as one of this blog’s main topics. Depending on how good of a napper Toby is, I may be able to blog more often as well. I can’t promise that, of course, especially given Toby’s unwillingness to settle down this week (big time teething, folks).

So after running away from the circus, I’m now running away from the office, and running toward the play date. I am lucky in that I have so many ways to find creative fulfillment outside of my job. I will still work on my music, my writing, and hopefully more so down the line, on theatre as well. But most importantly, I’m going to be there for my little guy, not just to get him up or to put him to bed, but to see him through his day — to see him through the beginning of what I know will be a wonderful life.

I think he’s waking up from his nap right now. Time to get to work.

I’m an NPR Daddy

Much to my surprise, I was part of a panel of daddy bloggers on NPR’s “Tell Me More” with Michele Martin, which aired today. The piece is the latest of the show’s discussions on the recent New York Magazine article about a trend of parents finding no joy in parenthood. This installment obviously focuses on the perspective of fathers, and spoiler alert, I’m pretty pro-parenthood.

I was joined by Jason Sperber of Rice Daddies, and Keith Morton of African American Dad, as well as Jennifer Senior, author of the article in question.

I haven’t listened to the piece yet because I get embarrassed hearing myself yammer, but I invite you to check it out.

I should also note that the funny title of this blog may pose a problem for further grandiose self-promotion—neither I nor the host really knew how best to pronounce it. I will contemplate that further, and if I get to go on the radio again, I may make a sudden-yet-easy-to-remember name change.