Raising Richmond: Q & A with Rob Huddleston

In the latest installment of our series highlighting Richmond parents, we talk to Rob Huddleston: musician, web designer, restaurant owner, and father to the almost-three-year-old Cash.

Editor’s note: Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. While we typically use Raising Richmond as a place to discuss parenting topics/issues/concerns, we’ve decided to add another facet (if you will) to our child-rearing exploration by introducing you to some of RVA’s most interesting parents. We hope their stories inspire you to share yours.

Rob Huddleston, former front man of internationally acclaimed punk band Ann Beretta, currently splits his time between work as a web designer and developer and his role as the solo singer/songwriter behind The Foundation Band (his most recent album, Chimborazo, was on the ballot for a Grammy in 2009). As if life with their almost-three-year-old son Cash doesn’t keep them busy enough, he and Amy, his wife of 10 years, recently opened The Mill, a restaurant and bar in the Bellevue district of the Northside, with partners Josh Carlton and Chip Zimmerman.

Did you always think or know you would be a parent or did your own journey surprise you?

I had gotten to a point in my 20’s where I knew that I wanted to have kids but wasn’t done yet being one myself. I was too busy playing music and traveling around the world….and I was single. I was in no way ready for the responsibility but I also figured that sooner or later that would change. In my head I thought that 30 was some sort of milestone by which point I would have started a family. It didn’t exactly unfold that way, but I did get married at 30, priorities shifted, and I actually began to think that my time to be a dad had passed me by — that I was getting too old to really enjoy being a parent. I think that came from having very young parents. At the time I found myself thinking about things like “when my mom was 30 she had a son who was learning to drive” and it both freaked me out a bit and made me realize that if i wanted kids I should get to it.

What do you miss about pre-kid days?

The selfish freedom of being able to come and go on a whim and to spend money on whatever I wanted, whenever. I assume the same selfish things that everyone misses about the pre-kid days. I miss traveling and I miss the freedom. Most of all, it might be sleep that I miss the most.

What is your favorite age/stage and why?

My son Cash is almost three and right now is pretty awesome. He’s sometimes a huge pain in the ass, but when he decides that he wants to tell me that he loves me and that he hopes I had a good day, nothing else really matters. He’s at a stage too where everything is still new and he just continues to soak it all up. Every day he throws some new knowledge my way that blows my mind. It’s pretty awesome. And he suddenly likes to sing random songs which, of course, I think is awesome. Today we were driving home down the Boulevard and he randomly throws out “Daddy, that’s a museum and I wanna go check it out.”

What one thing surprised you about parenting? or your kid/kids?

The initial shock of how hard it was was a HUGE surprise. Not that I didn’t think it would be hard but more that no one ever really is honest about how hard it is. Anytime I recall someone being asked about parenting the answer is always how life changing and amazing it is, but I never heard anyone say anything about how insane and frustrating and traumatic the first few months are and how incredibly hard it all is when another living being depends on you for every bit of their survival and the only mechanism for communicating with you is through crying. On the flip side, a more positive surprise has been the reminder of how amazing and huge some of the simplest things can be. I never thought that the sound of someone’s laugh could have such an impact on me — I love hearing him laugh. It’s probably one of the best parts of my day. When I’m able to take a breath and to slow down I just love to watch him enjoy the little things. I mean who really remembers when a cardboard box brought them so much happiness? I’m glad to have those reminders.

What do you love most about being a parent?

I think the best part is re-experiencing life through him, how excited and amazed he is by everything. Seeing him do just about anything for the first time is pretty amazing.

How has parenting changed you?

All for the better, I hope, although I still have plenty to work on. I think in some respects it has slowed me down a bit, in a good way, and made me rethink life in general and what’s really important in it. I mean, I’m not living for me anymore; it’s all for him.

What is your most favorite thing to do with your kid/kids?

I like all of the normal playing around, going to the park, going for a walk or a bike ride, or whatever, but really what I love is when he wants to do or asks to do something with me on his own. It’s really amazing and almost indescribable when he grabs a guitar and says “Play a song for me, Daddy” or does something like comes up to me and asks if I want to go to the park or “Do you want to play trains with me, Daddy?” I mean, of course I do. How do you beat that?

How do you get out of the occasional parenting funk?

I actually think I need help with this one if anybody has any pointers. I have to remind myself all the time that he’s only two-and-a-half and that I need to take a deep breath and relax or whatever. Actually that’s kind of a lie. It’s usually my wife who reminds me to take a breath and has to calm me down when I’m losing it. Yeah, I really need some pointers with this one.

Give us one good parenting confession. We know you have at least one.

Well I think like most dads with a toddler I think anything inappropriate like a random swear word is hilarious. For a while he had a hard time with the word ‘frog’ and I used to get a big kick out of finding clever, or not so clever, ways of getting him to say his version of the word ‘frog’ in public — which , of course, stopped being funny when it started sounding like he was dropping F-bombs all over the place. Probably not much of a confession, but it’s the best I’ve got at the moment. Lately, I do love getting him to leave a room screaming “Peace out, bitches!” at the top of his lungs. It’s equally hilarious and cute.

What is your parenting superpower?

I’d have to say my wife is my superpower — she’s a way better parent than I am.

Do you think you grew up differently than your kids are or is the pretty much the same?

Different in the obvious differences between the 70’s/80’s and today and my growing up in the country and his growing up in the city (which I’m absolutely jealous of). But I think, or I hope, the same in the sense that he has two parents who love him without boundaries and will do anything and everything possible to make sure knows it and that he has every opportunity to live life to the fullest, to travel, to know art and music, and to know that he has the freedom to explore what interests him as he grows up.

What’s one thing do you do that your parents did? Are you like your own mother or father?

It’s hard to say in respect to the fact that he’s not yet three and I have no idea how my parents were with me at that age, BUT I can say that as a rule if I’m half the parent that mine have been to me then I’m doing a pretty good job.

Did you turn into your parents?

I have no idea… I think that there are points in our young lives where we swear that we’ll never be like our parents and I think in all honesty that there are some things that we all can look back at and say that we, as parents, will absolutely do differently. I think the true test is learning from our parents and choosing our own path or putting our own spin on what we have as a frame of reference from them and doing our best to be better parents to our kids than what ours were to us. That’s the goal for any parent right? I have to be honest: I had great parents. Not perfect by any means but still pretty great, and my son is lucky to have them as grandparents. I think if I can pass on all of the positive traits that mine passed to me than I’ve done my part.

What do you want your kids to know or say about you when you are old and gray?

I hope he thinks of me like I think of my parents. I hope that even beyond returning the love that his mother and I feel for him that he can look at me and think “I really do like that guy. He’s my bud.”

When the jury is out, all is said and done, what one thing do you hope your kids leave with or know?

That I did my best with what I had to give him. That I loved him unconditionally and believed in him wholeheartedly.

Know of a Richmond mom or dad we should interview? Should we talk to YOU? Send us an email and let us know.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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