Being a public dad

The inner struggles of someone who writes about his kids for all to read.

Photo by: Sam Wolff

You may not know this about me, but I care quite a bit about internet privacy issues. I don’t like being tracked without my consent for the benefit of advertisers. I certainly don’t like my government collecting a record of everything I do on the internet to use against me if it ever decides it wants to. I have an EFF bumper sticker on my car and regularly send encrypted emails to myself1. All this being said, I write a column, where I’ve openly discussed my vasectomy, my ADHD, and a whole lot of my experiences as a father.

I’m a generally open person who loves talking about myself. I’m more than happy to share details about my life publicly, as long as it’s my choice. I get to decide what information I disclose, and how I disclose it. This doesn’t mean that I always express my thoughts as clearly as I’d have liked to, or don’t change my mind about opinions I’ve publicly held, but it does mean that I engaged willingly.

You’ll note that I say “I” a lot. Just as I want to have the choice about what I share to be my own, I need to extend that same right to my wife and children, my friends and family. Any stories I share about my wife, Kat, she consents to prior to them going up. Some sentences, paragraphs, and entire pieces have seen major revisions (or been scrapped altogether) because I crossed the line between speaking about my experiences and feelings into speaking about our experiences or feelings–and maybe one of us wanted to keep them just to ourselves.

With the girls, it’s more difficult. At the ages of 5 and 9, they can’t really consent to me putting a story about them on the internet. Regular readers will note that I try to write exclusively about how being a dad makes me feel. Part of this is the aforementioned “liking to talk about myself,” but most of it is not wanting to tell stories that belong to my daughters and not me. I try to focus on my feelings, fears, and experiences, and talk about my girls in a more general, non-specific way.

All kids are annoying to their parents sometimes, but I don’t want my girls to come back on these columns and read caricatures of themselves.

I also have to realize that the internet is forever, and that my daughters will, barring zombie apocalypse, likely read these words. It’s not enough for me to just tell cute stories and say “Boy, aren’t my kids so annoying?” in humorous ways. All kids are annoying to their parents sometimes, but I don’t want my girls to come back on these columns and read caricatures of themselves.

So I try to write about how being a dad makes me feel. I want my girls to read this column and get a sense of their dad as a man who loved them very much, but also had (and likely still continues to have) very little clue as to what I’m doing.

Parenting any human is hard because you love your kids so much and know that you’re going to screw up along the way. It’s unavoidable. Something I say or do is going to cause my daughters to become more flawed human beings, because that’s just how human beings work. But, I’ll likely have no idea which of those moments will be one of the ones that stick. It might be one of the times we’re both tired and hungry and get mad at each other. More likely, it’ll be some throwaway line that I say that I forget about immediately, but sticks with the girls forever.

Girls, if you’re reading this on the future direct-brain interfaced internet, know that 99.9% of the time I’m just winging it and making it up as I go along. I’m writing these columns to help process my thoughts, feelings, and experiences that I have while doing my favorite thing, being your dad. I hope none of these sentences scar you for life, and that you learn a little bit about your flawed dad as he tries his best to help raise you.

  1. As I’m the only one I know who bothers to set up GPG, the only person I can send encrypted emails to is myself. 
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Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the father of two daughters (ages five and eight) who lives in Northside Richmond. He and his wife Kat are trying their best to not raise sociopaths.

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