Saturday, March 15, 2008
Spotlight on Dads is a weekly series from Discovering Dad that features involved fathers from around the world. The objective of the series is to inspire fathers to connect and learn from one another, while also deconstructing the stereotype of fathers as 'second' parents.
This week's spotlight shines on James Austin from Seattle, Washington, who chronicles his experiences as a dad at Luke, I am Your Father.
Tell a little about yourself . I’m James Austin. Unbelievably, I turned 40 years old this past September, and I will celebrate 9 years of being married to my amazing wife this coming May. I am also a first time father to Lukas Aldrin, born June 27, 2007, and who, with his birth, has shifted the forces of the universe so that, incredibly, the planets and all associated matter (including dark) now revolve around him. The widespread scientific community has yet to catch onto this however, but sometimes that happens. Remember poor Galileo?
What about your background? I grew up on the family dairy farm in Southwest Washington and, after college, was in the business for 11 years with my father before moving to Seattle and starting a new career. This was after I met and married the love of my life, who had career opportunities here in the city. The dairy farm is now organic, and we visit as often as we feel we can. As Lukas grows older, I am sure we will visit more often.
What do you like most about being a dad? Lukas is a wonderful, happy boy and I love everything about being his dad. I guess I would say the thing that I like most is watching him discover new and interesting things. Everything is new to an infant and to watch Lukas’ face light up and flash a big, toothy smile when he makes a new connection or discovers something new, is priceless.
What do you find most challenging about being a dad? To this point, at 8-months-old, it has to be the disruption to my sleep cycle. Lukas spent his first 6 months sleeping no more than 4 hours at a time, and many nights he would wake every couple of hours. We decided early on that he would sleep in his crib in his own room, and once we decided to forgo nursing at night, I was the one who would go to calm him with each waking. For the record, he is not sleeping better now! I say that because almost as a rule whenever we mention that he has been doing better and sleeping through the night, he responds with a rough night. So, he is still sleeping terribly. Really!
What's your most memorable experience(s) so far as a dad? Well, you can’t beat the birth for memorable. That was simply amazing, and I will always cherish being there to witness it. We had an 80 hour labor with 6 hours pushing, which caused some swelling for Lukas - so we stayed at the hospital a couple of extra days. A funny thing happened while we were still at the hospital, a few days after the birth, during the circumcision. It was a tough choice to make, but my wife left the decision to me. She insisted that if I decided yes, then I should be there with him when it happened. I was beyond exhausted, and although I had been in the farming business most of my life and seen a lot of crazy stuff without being fazed, when you are that tired and it is your child you can toss all that experience out the window. I actually had no sense that I was in trouble until maybe 2-3 seconds before the room started spinning and I hit the floor! When I came to the doctor, nurse, and I all had a genuine gut-busting laugh at my expense. I still can’t believe I passed out.
In general, how do you think dads are perceived? Why? I think the image of the father is definitely changing from the days when I grew up. Today’s dads are more involved and are sharing more of the duties with mom. This is the way it is in our home and with most of our friends as well. I even read a front page article in the Seattle paper within the past week that echoed this trend for families all over the region. I believe this is due to the cost of living being so high these days. Many families need two incomes and with both parents working, the job of raising the kids is more evenly split up. This is fine with me, since I love taking care of my son.
How has the experience as dad helped you discover something new about yourself? I have discovered that my immune system is not as stellar as I thought it was! I have been sick 3 times in the past 3 weeks. I am looking forward to spring when colds and flu bugs hibernate once again. That’s what happens, right??
Who do you go to for advice about fatherhood? At Lukas’ age, I don’t seek much in the way of advice from other dads. Right now, most of the advice comes from books, doctors, or from my wife, since she used to run a daycare and seems to instinctively know how kids tick. I think as he grows older, I will be asking lots of questions of the many friends, family members and neighbors we have who have children older than Luke.
Do you hang out with many other dads? If not, why? If so, what do you do together? Currently, I don’t spend much time with anyone other than my family (work people don’t really count). Although, as Lukas has been getting older, we are beginning to do more outings with other couples and inviting 'couple' friends over. I think it is important for all of us that both mom and dad take some time to spend alone with friends. Now, I just have do it.
Tell a little about your blog. Luke, I am Your Father has been up since early January and as you can probably surmise, is focused on my experiences as a new father to Lukas. I stayed home with him for 6 weeks, beginning in January, and I thought it would be a nice creative outlet. I posted a lot during those weeks at home, but I have slowed a bit since returning to work. I would like to keep the blog current, so it can act as a digital scrapbook of these early times with Lukas.
Anything else you'd like to share? I am relatively new to the blogosphere, and I have been amazed at all the terrific parenting and dad themed blogs out there. My blog is mostly anecdotes about my experience as a new father, but many others, such as Discovering Dad, routinely post articles that are extremely helpful to new fathers like me. I appreciate that, and also having the chance to get to know many of those dads, who post those articles just for the sake of being helpful. I am a better dad for it. Thanks!
Next weeks Spotlight on Dads takes us to Camelot - stay tuned for more!
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Your feedback and recommendations will help to shape this series. Thanks!