A few days ago at a tour of the GM (Chevy) headquarters in Detroit, I met a fellow “daddy blogger” who runs a website on fatherhood called 8BitDad. I told him how last week I interviewed myself for the first of my new series, Interviews with Non-Famous People, and was currently looking for more dads to feature in it. (In order to be considered the least bit famous, you have to have a Wikipedia entry written about you.)
Zach Rosenberg, the Co-Creator and Editor-in-Chief of 8BitDad, was game for being the 2nd person to be interviewed for my series. (I’m in bold italics, he’s not.) Here’s what went down:
How is your daddy blog, 8 Bit Dad, different from mine?
I think the main difference is that you run an actual blog – that is, a “web-log” – a journal of events. 8BitDad is closer to a culture-site. So, where yours is deeply personal about your own family, ours isn’t – but is deeply personal matter. In a sense – and this is of course not an insult – if someone wasn’t interested in hearing about you, particularly, you lose them as a reader. Generally, I just lose readers for making bad jokes and ruffling feathers around moms and dads.
Does the term “daddy blog” annoy you?
It does – I don’t like “blog” in general. But there’s a distinction – not all fatherhood (and motherhood) sites are blogs. 8BitDad, not a blog. Parents.com, not a blog. But Parents.com has bloggers who blog on their particular wing of the site. I don’t necessarily like being “lumped in” as a daddy-blogger because I’d like to think of myself as more of a journalist, but let’s be honest – I’m not really beating the street the same way I used to when I worked for a newspaper, and as far as being lumped-in, what a great set of guys to have as company. All of the “dad-bloggers” I’ve talked to have been awesome.
Though I have my assumptions, tell me exactly how you came up with the name of your blog. (I will need you to use the word “stellar” in your answer.)
Well, my friend Bryan Ferguson and I were talking about starting some kind of fatherhood site one night while talking smack about a couple baby products. We thought “man, we’ve got to get this attitude up on the internet.” So we had our goal – a stellar, fatherly attitude. But what to call it? We both liked that nostalgic idea of the Nintendo as being the icon of “our generation”, but knew we couldn’t be something like NESDad or Nintendad. We had maybe three names we liked at the end of the night and when I woke up the next morning, Bryan texted me “I took the plunge and registered 8BitDad.com” so we ran with it.
In an effort to mock the trend of using 3 one word sentences (Just. Like. This.), please describe your blog accordingly. Just. Three. Words.
Paternity. In. Pixels.
Recently you published a post criticizing Parents.com. For those who didn’t instantly click the hyperlink in the sentence above just now, explain what your beef is with the website that is ironically hosting this interview.
I know, right? Talk about some form of irony, or coincidence, if you’ve got a degree in English and know that it’s not really irony. Well, I’ve got a beef with most “parenthood” sites. In a nutshell, parenting websites are typically very mom-oriented, even if they use the words “and dads” from time to time. They’ve got largely female staffs, primarily female bloggers, and, if you’re into chicken-or-egg debates, primarily female readers.
Fathers do still visit parenting sites like Parents.com but it’s tough to feel like part of the community when it’s all mom-this, mom-that. I love moms and I respect all the things they do – but Parenting sites need to also consider fathers – and that’s where my specific beef came in: I get Parents.com e-mails, and they use banners like the one I showed on 8BitDad – emblazoned with things like “Free Stuff for Mom & Baby.” Well, I’m neither mom nor baby. I’m a parent, which is why I was on Parents.com.
I’m a father – a proud one, and I don’t want to sift through mom-stuff to find something that applies to me. I mean, hey, you don’t need to really answer this, but as a father, doesn’t it irk you that right above your bio is a link to “Mom Tools” and “Win”? Where’s “Dad Tools”? You know why it’s not there? Because ask anyone else on your editorial staff why “Dad Tools” is missing and I guarantee they’ll ask “what tools do dads need? They’re not carrying a baby.”
The perception is that dads don’t need anything, and if it were offered, they wouldn’t take it. I’m not trying to knock moms down, I just want equal representation in a place that’s named after the genderless reference to kid-having folk.
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a dad?
My biggest challenges have been walking-the-walk, so to speak. I do a lot of talk on my site about patience, but patience with a baby, toddler and youngin’ is tough. Sometimes, you just don’t know what to do. And I’ve always had a rule – whatever I want to do/say right after my kid makes me hit the roof is exactly what I don’t do. I take time to think, relax and be consistent. Any fight you have with a 2 year old is a losing one. If you’re fighting with a kid that has no sense of reality and logic, you lose. That’s a tough nut to crack. So staying patient and being the adult, when all you want to do is yell back, that’s the toughest.
What is the weirdest thing about your parenting style?
Probably my commitment to my kid’s health. You look at me and think “alright, he’s a 300-pounder, his kid’s got to have bacon grease for blood.” But it’s not like that at all. We make all our kid’s food fresh and healthy. He gets peas and carrots on his pizza, made with thin, homemade dough and homemade sauce.
He doesn’t drink juice – I’m one of those weirdos. So he gets milk in the morning and night, and water all day. Kid loves water. He’s on the right track. And shhh, don’t tell him, but when my wife and I indulge in fast food, we make him that at-home-healthier-equivalent and wrap it in one of the fast food wrappers so he thinks he’s getting a treat too.
Poor kid will think Taco Bell burritos have peas, corn, carrots and broccoli in them until he’s old enough to drive there himself and buy one. I mean, really. I may have hit the hamburger buffet a little too much in life myself, but my kid doesn’t know good from bad – so I need to teach him good eating so by the time he’s a teenager, he’ll have the foundation for healthy living.
What is your favorite quirk about your child’s personality so far?
He’s picked up my wife’s and my speech patterns and phrases. So if we go out to dinner, he will ask a waitress for a glass of water, and use “please” and “thank you.” You don’t expect it from a 2 year old. And I know being polite isn’t a quirk, but it just sounds so funny. You don’t expect toddlers to be polite. They’re pretty unsavory people, so when they say “thank you” or “I love you” unsolicited, they sound quirky.
Is your dad a rabbi or does he just play one on TV?
Both. He played one on Diagnosis Murder, that old TV show with Dick Van Dyke. Sometime later, he finished his rabbinical school and was a real one. He usually played judges, jerk doctors and sweater-wearing fathers, but never decided to become one of those. I mean, we live in Los Angeles – no need for sweaters there.
What is your favorite (8 bit) regular Nintendo game? Your answer must serve as a metaphor for fatherhood, in some way.
I always go with the underdog, Metroid. Large, free-roaming world, ominous music, deep weapons system for the time, multiple endings, secret codes (including one that wasn’t unveiled until recently!), and a surprise female lead. Hmmm…not sure I can come up with a fatherhood metaphor for that one since it was “Mother” Brain and a woman protagonist. Maybe…uhhh, that’s what happens when there’s no fathers around? *snicker*
I could, for the record, be persuaded to say MegaMan 2 solely for the music.
I’m sorry; you’re wrong. The correct answer was Super Mario Bros. 2. It serves as a metaphor for fatherhood because it teaches kids to eat vegetables. Actually, it teaches kids to pick up vegetables and kill their enemies with them. I guess you’re right, Zach Rosenburg.
See bro? Also, I’m sticking with my answer, even thought my metaphor is weak.
You have the last word, 8 Bit Dad.
I may sound like I’m militantly pro-dad and anti-mom. I’m not. I’m against the splitting up of moms and dads. From time to time I enjoy a good joke but not at the others’ expense. The Father’s Movement was born out of the Women’s Movement; when women started going to work, someone had to stay home with the baby. So – that became fathers. But there’s still a lot of leftover law and not-on-the-internet legislation and perception changes that need to happen for fathers to get their fair dues.
We’re slowly being regarded as legitimate parents – but the laws are far behind. So, although us fatherhood writers have a lot of fun pissing and moaning about simple stuff on the internet, there’s more important work to be done out in the world. Check out the National Fatherhood Initiative or Fathers & Families to see what kind of laws are being made (and which ones need help) if you really want to give father’s a boost! Also, thanks man – always good talking to another father. Power to the Paternal!
Zach Rosenberg’s Bio:
Zach grew up under a nearby orange tree in California’s San Fernando Valley. He has worked at publications such as Filter Magazine, Geek Monthly Magazine, UNleashed Magazine, WYWS Magazine,The Los Angeles Sentinel (“the largest Black-owned newspaper on the West Coast”), and also worked on His Side with Glenn Sacks (“The largest mens’ and fathers’ issues radio show in America” in 2001).
I consider myself a “good movie connoisseur.” Because I know the criteria for what makes for a good movie, I have cleverly avoided dozens of lame movies during my lifetime. If I’m going to invest 90 minutes or more of my life to a movie, it better be worth it.
When I watch a movie, it’s not simply a passive event. For me, it’s a deeply involved event where I am eager to mentally bookmark subtle symbolism, look for nostalgic familiarity, and decide what deep message about life the movie is trying to convey. A few prime examples of flawless movies that fit this criteria are Garden State, (500) Days of Summer, Away We Go and Sideways.
Combine my passion for good movies with my love for writing and that means it’s only natural for me to see different stages of my life as their own movie in which I am the narrator. Never has my life been more of its own movie since I found out I was going to be a dad. Since April 2009, my life really has been documented on a nearly daily basis, as it pertains to parenthood.
I view this Dadabase of my life as a movie and I imagine how that movie would play out.
As far as who would play me, I have to think back to all the actors that people have told me I remind them of. Coincidentally, my doppledangers all happen to be Jewish and right around the same frame and height (5′ 9″) as me: Paul Rudd, David Arquette, Don Adams/Inspector Gadget, Bronson Pinchot (played Balki on “Perfect Strangers,”) Shia LaBeouf, and brothers Fred and Ben Savage. But I would ultimately cast the role to Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the best overall and most relevant fit.
Whereas I evidently resemble a plethora of 5’9″ Jewish actors, I can’t say that my wife has an obvious look-alike. But in the likeness of how Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, as well as, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, have co-starred in multiple movies, I would cast Zooey Deschanel as my wife; reuniting the main characters of (500) Days of Summer. (Pictured below.)
Think of how every recent comic book-turned-movie starts out; as the opening credits are super-imposed over pages of the actual comic book. For The Dadabase movie, “Sheep Go to Heaven” by Cake would play as the opening song, as you would see just my hands typing on a MacBook; overshadowed by actual shots of older blogs I have written.
This opening scene would span from April 2009 (when I first decided that I officially wanted to “become a writer”) until a year later (when we found out we were going to have a baby). It was during that time that I was trying to find my niche, as a writer. I tried specializing in health blogs (I found the cure for eczema, being healed of my own); writing a series on manhood and marriage, recaps of The Bachelor, and even a series which questioned why marijuana is an illegal drug, from the perspective of a guy who has never himself used it, but believes it should be legalized.
But it wasn’t until I decided to become the first guy in history to regularly and publicly document my thoughts as a dad, starting from the moment my wife and I went public with the pregnancy, that my writings gained a broad and consistent following.
That idea itself would be the whole “point” of the movie: that I found my purpose and my niche, simply by becoming a dad.
All the hundreds of blog posts I had written (nearly 500) before fatherhood had simply prepared me to find my voice as a writer and as a dude.
The Dadabase movie would include several subplots, like the move to Alabama, but ultimately, it would sort of be like The Social Network meets Marley and Me meets Mr. Belvedere.
Oh, and here’s one of my favorite parts about planning this imaginary movie: the movie poster. A story I never shared before on The Dadabase is that when my son Jack was a newborn and my wife and I were unemployed, at the house all day with him, when my wife was asleep I often found myself in the predicament of a full bladder but little time or opportunity to relieve myself because my arms were literally full as I held my son.
So I learned that I was able to carefully hold him in one arm while taking care of business with the other. Therefore, the movie poster would simply show Joseph Gordon-Levitt from the back, in front of a toilet, holding a baby who is watching the water splash down below.
Parenting is one of the few institutions where brainwashing is not only allowed, and a given, but it’s also sort of the whole point. Like a duo-dictatorship, two people (the parents) have so much influence over another human being (the child) on so many levels. Freedom of religion? Nope. Freedom of speech? Not so much. The rules that matter are enforced by the parents and accordingly, the child learns his or her moral code and adopts his human culture largely from how the parents choose to raise him or her.
Will I be a strict parent? “Strict” has such a negative connotation these days. It evokes thoughts of having rules for the sake of having rules, yielding a teenage kid that is either so nerdy that he thinks getting to stay up until 11:00 at night to watch Battlestar Gallactica is an idea of a good time, or he’s so rebellious he gets a DUI and a huge tattoo by the time he graduates high school. So I’d rather not use the word “strict”, but instead “consistent and practical”. Like my parents were to me.
I have always been very close to my parents; I knew I could talk to them about anything and they would listen, without being judgmental or condescending, yet still guiding me in the right direction. They gave me a little responsibility at a time, and when I proved I could handle it, they gave me more. I never had a curfew, nor did I need one. But had I responded differently to the responsibility I was given, I know for a fact the rules would have been stricter, as they would have needed to be.
I think it’s funny when I hear parents of young kids say, “Well my Brayden won’t eat what I cook him. He only eats chicken nuggets and pizza, and he only drinks Coke from his sippy cup.” I smile and laugh with them, shaking my head like I know how it is, when really I’m thinking, “It’s not up to your kid! It’s up to YOU! YOU’RE the parent!”
Just like I’ve heard other parents say, “I’m not going to force any religious beliefs on my kids. They need to figure out what they believe on their own.” (Which is always a clear indication that parent has no solid religious beliefs, otherwise they would pass them on to their children.) It will not be the case for my kid. He will know who Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Peter and the Apostle Paul are. He will know the importance and relevance of John 3:16. Just like my dad read to me from my kid’s Bible every night, so will I do for my son.
And when he grows up, I will have influenced who he is. Yet still, he will have his own personality and make his own decisions. Truly though, that’s how it was for all of us. Even if one or both of our parents were out of the picture, they still influenced us- negatively or positively. So I am choosing to make a conscious, solid, positive influence in his life. And I will be very deliberate in doing so.
Here’s what The Bump says about Baby Jack this week:
Baby’s energy is surging, thanks to the formation of white fat deposits beneath the skin. (Have those kicks and jabs to the ribs tipped you off yet?) Baby is also settling into sleep and waking cycles, though — as you’ve also probably noticed — they don’t necessarily coincide with your own. Also this month, all five senses are finally functional, and the brain and nervous system are going through major developments.
Ironically, while waiting for my first child to be born I am accompanied by thoughts of the finality of my own life. Having a baby is such a huge milestone, such a life-changing event, that my mind skips decades ahead to when my kid will graduate high school, to when I will be a grandparent, and ultimately, to my inevitable passing into eternity. In my mind, all those big events are strung together like bubbly Christmas lights from 1988.
My wife and I have this agreement that concerning our own inevitable deaths, we will die healthy but of “natural causes” in our sleep, both at age 92, holding hands. And I would assume that most happily married people would wish for the same thing- to be able to raise their children with their spouse, to grow old with their family, and to pass this life in our right minds – not lonely and suffering in a nursing home. I don’t consider a sudden brain aneurism, a car accident, or being mauled by a bear while hiking through the woods. No, you see, I have carefully planned out my own “natural causes” death in a romantic and perfect way.
And that’s the only way I can think about the end of my life- with optimism. Assuming I will live a long, happy life, giving all I can to my family. It’s the only way I can think, because even now, two months before Baby Jack is scheduled to arrive, I am responsible for another life. I have to be here to take care of him. And my wife.
I truly am incapable of trying to fathom how so many people in the world don’t have a solid understanding (or at least some kind of basic perspective) of what happens after this life, and that they don’t think about it on a daily basis like I do. How the afterlife is completely something to be considered, how beyond heaven and hell issues, this dream of life is the prequel to eternity. And now, already, a new soul has been created, and I had something to do with that. I have changed the course of eternity.
This baby is not just a body; he’s got a soul. A soul that will need guidance for this life and the eternal one. And I have to be here for that. Even if these thoughts may seem dark and depressing to some, I refuse to ignore the reality that life and death are intertwined. As much as I “try not to take life too seriously” like all those stupid bumper stickers and annoying e-mail forwards tell me, I still take life seriously enough to think about this stuff.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
It took me 12 straight days to teach myself to solve the Rubik’s Cube; it was during this time that my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby. Of course, we didn’t tell anyone until over a month later, but during my “learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube” phase, I had several people crack themselves up with this joke: “If you’ve got the time and patience to solve that thing, it’s time for you to have a kid!” And they were right. My instincts were making it obvious that like so many actors, the time eventually arrives when it’s time to dabble with directing.
(Cue the song “In My Life” by The Beatles as the proper soundtrack as you read the rest of this post. It’s officially my favorite song ever.)
I can look back on my life with satisfaction, knowing that my accomplishments have outweighed my failures and regrets. I have met all kinds of interesting people from all over the world (most of whom are facebook friends). I understand the meaning of life. I am solid in my beliefs on the afterlife. I have married the woman I am meant to be with. I can now solve the Rubik’s Cube in two minutes and twenty-five seconds. And though this paragraph may resemble a goodbye letter to the world as I prepare for my life to come to an end like I’m 90 years old, I recognize that in some ways life as I know it will end, as it transforms into a new one. A more meaningful one. From “me” to “dad”.
On top of all this, I’m about a half a year away from turning 30, so yeah, I’d say it’s time for things to stop being about me so much and more about someone else. I have been the protagonist, but soon I will become a full-time director. All of life has prepared me to this new role. The cynic could see it as circular reasoning- that you spend your youth learning how to become a responsible adult, and then once you do, you just do it all over again with modified little reruns of yourself running around.
But I would say the cynic is still under the assumption that life is all about him- that life either simply ends when he dies or that hopefully when he dies, he’s been “good enough to get to Heaven” or that at least Hell won’t be that bad, but instead just a big party where the temperature is slightly hotter than desired while Jimmy Buffett plays an eternal concert and the margaritas are never-ending.
If anything, I could see how raising a kid will be a redeeming and cleansing process, helping me to see how little I truly know, helping me to appreciate my family and childhood teachers more, helping me to straighten out my priorities even more, helping me to ultimately give more than I take. I could see how this baby will ironically make me a better adult. And how the humility of changing diapers is only a small part of this evolution of my life.
And yes, Baby Jack will probably already know how to solve a Rubik’s Cube before he gets to Kindergarten.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: