How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

When We Were Kids Together

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My son launches into a cackling spell befitting a dictator watching an enemy fall. Or, at the very least, bellowing as any genius villain would in a James Bond flick. Finn has a great laugh. Even when it’s forced, the wind flies from his lungs and I get the impression he’s letting the whole world know he’s enjoying himself. He’s sopping up the moment. Broadcasting his joy.


We have a lot more moments like these nowadays. It’s funny to think that I get along better with an almost-four-year-old than I do with anyone my own age. His laugh makes me laugh. His logic, hewn from an unvarnished belief system, is more genuine than all the counterfeit “grown-ups” walking around trying to prove they’re right or honest. Somehow, he still manages to be as ridiculous as ever. Maybe rationality and foolishness are more corresponding than we know.

The newness of having a baby makes every single moment a milestone. You live your life in a constant state of awe and observance. Maybe you’re the overprotective parent who wants nothing to ever befall your child. Maybe you’re a sort a parent journalist wanting to record every moment so it never slips away. Maybe you just want to do a good enough job. For me, I was stricken, steeled and love-stung. But the experience of raising an infant was also fraught with rough moments of being very frustrated, utterly impatient and not in control of my anger. Mainly, I grappled with myself and struggled to understand my own child as well as how best to help.

I still do.

I also find myself writing differently about my boy when I speak of him in the printed word. We live in these experiential and adventurous times now. An intersection of mortal timelines. As he grows, there are so many decisions to be made. Constant adjustment is required and we continually jibe or tack depending on the gust. These decisions have made me put down the camera and close the laptop. I want to help him climb not simply write about his ascent.


We have grown together so much now. Side by side. Every day, I see his trickster perspective developing. Finn’s got the coyote spirit in him, a quality he shares with his father and his father’s father. I learned about the coyote when I was a very young boy. Coyote was often a trickster hero, standing as a mediator between the living and dead worlds. He would steal what was precious for his own pursuits. He could look like one of us, but secretly never was. He wasn’t malicious, just looking for a good time and couldn’t help his mischievous habits. Sounds familiar.

You can see it in his eyes, my son will grab some piece of this world to steal for himself and play a game with it. Perhaps, humankind will be better for it in some small way.

I’d like to think we are friends and that would we would’ve been friends had we grown up together as kids. We would’ve run into the forest and howled at the moon. If you and your kid had been born at the same time, would you have been friends?

Go play some tricks.

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9 Responses to “When We Were Kids Together”

  1. Liza Hippler says:

    You’re such an awesome writer, Charlie. I’d say Sailor and I would have been friends – though there would have been many times when we’d try to out-boss each other. But they would have been overruled by the times we would have tried to make each other laugh. What a fun question to think about!

  2. Larry says:

    I really like this piece.
    Two parts in particular struck me. The second paragraph where you talk about his honesty, etc. left me shaking my head.
    The last line about running into the forest and howling at the moon – GREAT!

  3. Chris says:

    My daughter and I have the same type of bond you and Finn do. We both love to sing, dance and act, with the only catch being that she figured it out much sooner than I did. I know that she’s going to do something great someday, and I’ll be there to cheer her along while she does. Good story, Charlie.

  4. Chris says:

    Definitely can relate to the part about moments of being very frustrated, utterly impatient and not in control of my anger. I try hard to keep myself in check and remember that my 19 month old daughter can’t express herself in words yet. So she does it with yelling, throwing food and biting when she’s upset. I’m sure this will pass once she finds her way with words, but then she’ll probably come up with something new to replace that 😉

    Also, wanting to help him climb not simply write about his ascent. Couldn’t have said it better.

  5. Jo says:

    My daughter and I would definitely be friends had we been born at the dame time. Were are a lot a like, her and I. Both bold and not afraid to speak our minds but hesitant and unsure of ourselves at the same time, always looking for approval from our loved ones. Not afraid of the world and what awaits us but afraid that we might be doing something wrong that would rob us of some happiness we might otherwise enjoy. I see so much of myself in her, it scared me sometimes… there are some things you don’t really want to pass on to your children, you know? But I pray for her and Hope that she will everyone the obstacles that are before her…and she really is much stronger than I ever was.

  6. I’m enjoying the heck out of my four year old for many of the reasons you cite. There’s a purity to nearly everything he does, and I find it endlessly entertaining. And when he impulsively hugs me, assuming it’s not a ruse to get candy, it means the world to me. Sometimes I give him candy just because …

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