Questions For Our Fathers: Jessica’s Dad
In honor of Father’s Day we’re interviewing our dads to find out how their lives changed when we were born and what they learned about love and life as a parent. Today, Simcha’s dad.
On paper my father and I have not a single thing in common. Dad is a die-hard Republican who went to go see John McCain on the campaign trail and actually worked on a state-level campaign back in Connecticut when I was a kid. He watches FOX News every night, especially his bestest friend in the world, Bill O’Reilly (gag). He a guy’s guy who likes watching NASCAR racing, John Wayne cowboy movies and “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” drives a ride-on lawnmower around our yard, and loves the home repair projects that blow sheet rock dust all over the house. None of this matters, though: I completely adore Dad. He’s one of the few people in the world who I feel comfortable being truly goofy around, like talking to each other in the voices of our pet cats. (Did I just tell you that?) Every year, he jokingly buys me chocolates for Valentine’s Day addressed to “My Sweet Baboo” and about once a month, he mails me all the Peanuts cartoons he clips out of the newspaper where Snoopy is sitting on top of his doghouse with his typewriter. Dad is the parent I went to when I wanted birth control at age 16 and when my dumb boyfriend got blood-alcohol poisoning at 17; both times he wasn’t judgmental and he wasn’t angry. Plus, my dad might be a political conservative but he is pro-choice, supports civil rights for gays, and once admitted to me that he thought the war in Iraq was a mistake.
Interviewing my pops for our Father’s Day interview series was entertaining for me! Dad confirmed my mom’s confession in her Mother’s Day interview that I was a complete and utter accident from the stork’s baby factory — and the suspicion of mine that I’ve been a pain in the ass since birth.
Did you always know you wanted to be a dad?
I don’t think I ever “knew I wanted to be a dad.” I don’t remember ever thinking about it in any philosophical sense. Couples got married (younger than today) and had kids. Most wives didn’t work after having children, and the dad was the breadwinner. Not much introspection there.
How was your life different before you had kids?
Before kids, life was much less regimented. It wasn’t mandatory to eat, sleep, etc. on a schedule. But with kids, it was not like we were giving up some vague “freedom,” because the joys and responsibilities associated with children became their own reward.
What did you think when you found out Mom was pregnant with me?
Surprised. Pleasantly surprised. As Mom indicated in her interview, we hadn’t planned one way or the other about having another baby. And then you came along, really chubby and cute. I can still remember the first six months when you had colic and screamed almost non-stop. We used to go out in the car, because the motion would often put you to sleep. We did eventually make a conscious decision that five kids was enough, and I’ve always been happy that we had all of you.
What were your fears about becoming a dad?
Fear of the unknown. With the first child you know nothing and quickly find that reading Dr. Spock is a waste of time. But you eventually figure out whether it’s time to feed baby, or change a diaper, or time for a nap. Also, that babies are pretty durable. By the time you came along I pretty much knew the drill. Even with the six months of colic, we knew that would eventually end.
Do you have any regrets about how you raised me?
No special regrets. I was always sorry that I never continued with a musical instrument after college and in retrospect have always thought it would have been good if my kids had learned to play something. We always supported all of you kids in pursuing your interests, whatever they were. I can remember telling [my sister] Cathy that she couldn’t get a horse. I don’t have any regrets about that.
What’s the best/worst thing about being a father?
Worst thing is when teenage kids are out at night and are late coming home. I never really slept until everyone was home. Best is when kids grow up and move out as responsible adults. One of the worst I can remember with you was the morning of 9/11 when I was talking with you on the phone from my office, you were so scared, and there was nothing I could do but try to keep you calm. When a kid is in danger and there’s nothing that you can do to alleviate it is the most helpless feeling of all.
What was your proudest moment as a dad?
Over the years [there have been] just a ton of proud moments. Every time a kid achieves something, graduates from school, wins some award, etc, a parent has a tremendous amount of pride in their achievements. For example, with you I can remember taking pictures outside of Madison Square Garden after the graduation ceremony [for NYU], and then the next day when you walked by in the march at Washington Square Park. I can also remember the evening that you won the town-wide Spelling Bee.