Sunday, December 11, 2005

papifesto -- the intro for rad dad #1

This is long overdue, and I fight the urge to just not do it at all. Sometimes I feel that maybe the new fathers should be the one to start this. Or that I, having been a father now for fourteen years starting when I was twenty-one, am too old, too complacent. Well, perhaps this will get me off my ass. I’m thirty-five, a father of three and ready to get this party started. Here’s one of my stories: as a young father I realized very quickly how isolated I felt on the playgrounds of San Francisco, how little community there was for us. Now playgrounds have long been revolutionary breeding grounds for women and other caregivers, to sit and talk, to bond, to laugh, to find support, to pass on information and education; I can’t tell you how many times I have found peace of mind hearing someone tell me that what my daughter has was just like what hers had and that if I do this or that things would be ok. Sometimes empathy is the most revolutionary thing. But I was a guy, and I was welcomed and am grateful for that, but I still felt on the outside, not really part of that oh so tight inner circle. Damn my cock! Although I know cocks don’t always make men and men don’t always have cocks, but that’s an essay for another time.

Where were the men; there weren’t that many that seemed to hang around playgrounds, but by looking around at all the kids there certainly were a lot of men doing a little somethin, somethin…but again -- where were they?

It was around this time that someone, again on the playground, showed me a copy of hip mama. Wow! Immediately, I wanted one for dads. Now the problem with me is that I tend to think that others will do it better than me, that if I’ve thought of it then at least twenty others have probably done it already. So I did nothing, but waited for it to fall in my lap.

It never did, and I went on to father two more children with a wonderful partner, to begin a teaching career, to discover anarchist theory that helped me challenge myself and my politics and values, to reconnect with chicanismo and with my own father locked up in la pinta for most of my teenaged years; I struggled to incorporate feminism, environmentalism, and activism into my life and my parenting, to explore unskooling and discipline, to watch as other men became fathers. At some point, I finally picked up the pen to take my writing more seriously, to trust my voice and my experiences, to write for myself in other zines and journals. But during all that time, I never ever discovered that magazine for dads. Until now.

But this project seems daunting. I fear people will think I’m being narcissistic: like who does he think he is callin himself a rad dad; I also worry that there is too much to say, too may important issues about race, about class, about patriarchy to address and that this can only be a failure, so why say anything at all. And well all of this might be true. But fuck it; here it is, read it to your kids (I did), your friends, give it to the men in your life as well as the women; forget gender and just give it to everybody. I give you rad dad as a proto-type hoping that it will lead to that community I still long to be a part of, those circles where us fathers can chew on parenting that isn’t based in sexist, out dated gender biases, and yet that can be honest and open though about those same pressures and images we face daily. I hope this continues with me and other fathers. Because I know there are so many fuckin cool dads trying to parent in these dangerous times in loving, meaningful, authentic, and ultimately revolutionary ways. This is for you.