Doug French is a single dad and blogger raising his two young sons in New York City. He writes about his life with his children (and beyond) on his blog, Laid-Off Dad. He also co-writes (with his ex-wife) the blog, When the Flames Go Up, which chronicles the challenges of parenting, post-divorce. You can follow him on Twitter @LOD …
1. If we were to film a reality show of your family, what would the camera catch in a typical day?
A lot of talking. Now that I'm working freelance, I spend most of my daily hours talking on the phone, or talking to myself while I'm trying to write something. (I am a loud writer.) Then I bring the kids home, and I get to listen.
I also move my car a lot.
2. What's one of your favorite daily rituals with your children?
I'm a big fan of sitting down to dinner. So every night the kids are with me, we sit at the table, raise our glasses, and drink a toast to the "Three French Men." It's sort of Three Musketeers-ish, and I'm sure the kids would like it even better if there were more swords involved.
3. Are there any traditions from your childhood that you have now passed on to your childen?
That's a great question to contemplate, since the way my boys are growing up is so very different from the way I did. One of my favorite memories is when my dad would come upstairs to say good night to me. After 11 footsteps, he would bring his left hand down on the corner newel post, and his wedding ring would hit the wood with a quick *knock*. The rhythm and constancy of it was oddly reassuring.
I can't do that for my kids now, because I don't have a wedding ring. Or stairs, for that matter. But that memory drives me to help create a structure that the kids can depend on.
4. What is a current parenting challenge you are encountering with one (or both) of your sons and how are you handling it?
Third grade has been a bitch. My older son hates all the homework he has to do (because of the standardized tests he has to take), and he's been involved in bullying incidents, both as a bully-er and a bully-ee. All we can do is encourage him to talk about what bothers him, and make sure he knows we'll always act as fairly as possible, and we'll always have his back.
It's been hard, but he's also developing a better sense of how humans interact. The other day he told me, "You know what's wrong with Sesame Street? Everyone's friends." I didn't figure that out until high school.
5. If your boys had to pick their favorite place in the in the city, where would it be?
That's a tough one to nail down, especially now that their tastes have diverged so much. They really like Wave Hill, and every time we hike on its trails they concoct some new adventurous storyline.
The four of us go out to dinner on the boys' birthdays, and when we ask them where they'd like to go, they always choose this little sushi restaurant in our old neighborhood. The food is wonderful, but I think the real reason they like it is the cramped little staircase and tunnel you have to go through in order to reach the bathroom. You never saw two kids rush off to wash their hands faster in all your life.
6. What made you start blogging, and can you tell us a little bit about the Dad 2.0 Summit?
After I got interested in blogging in 2002, I spent about a year thinking "I should really start one of those." Then I was laid off, and my son was 15 months old, and I was an unemployed new father with a lot on my mind. So writing about fatherhood (and geeking out on the code, before WYSIWYG platforms existed) helped fill my hours and vent my steam.
Blogging helped me find my tribe of people who liked writing about parenting, but it happened that most of those people were moms. The Dad 2.0 Summit, I hope, will help get dads together and amplify the voice that says men can be engaged parents, too.
8. What are some of the challenges you face being a single dad?
Mostly, it's the all-or-nothing aspect. Day-to-day parenting is a lot easier when there's a division of labor, but the Weeknight Wrangle of cooking, cleaning, bathing, reading, and refereeing on your own is just exhausting. I usually get about an hour to enjoy the peace before I pass out. But then it's morning, and the kids pounce on you for Morning Hugs, and it's all good.
9. Do you and your ex have an agreed upon method of discipline for your kids or do you each have your own methods?
I think we're unified on that, for the most part. We might agree on what's right and wrong, but we don't always agree on how to deal with it–mostly because each of us thinks we're the bigger hardass. When we exchange the kids we make a point of telling the other what punishments are in place. If one of us has brought the hammer down, the other sees it through.
10. Lastly, if you could tell your younger self one thing you know now, what would it be?
We find our true character by recovering from the mistakes we make, not by living in fear of making them. Also: buy Google.
*Photo credit: Karen Walrond