The New Fatherhood explores the existential questions facing modern fathers. Here's a bit more information if you're new here. You are one of the 2,715 dads (and curious non-dads) who have already signed up. If you've been forwarded this by someone else, get your own.
"I like when daddy drops us off, and when mummy picks us up."
This was new news. The first time I'd heard there was a school run preference.
"Daddy is more fun in the morning. But mummy brings better snacks in the afternoon."
It hurts to be told you're bad—at anything, by anyone. But to be told—by your own child—that you're falling short on their nourishment? YOU HAD ONE JOB. My lunchbox game was terrible , and I was oblivious to the fact that my snacks were wack.
For a hot minute in the 1990s Ready Steady Cook was a daytime TV phenomenon. Two members of the public would arrive at a studio with a plastic bag full of ingredients—completely random, less than £5 in value—and would be paired up with Paul Rankin, Anthony Worrall Thompson, James Martin, or another chef du jour who would concoct something spectacular out of almost nothing, all under the watchful eye of Ainsley Harriot.
I'm reminded of their culinary ingenuity at 3:35pm on my school run afternoons. Rushing to get out of the door on time, I furiously rummage through the snack drawer like a frenzied squirrel hoarding whatever they can lay their tiny paws on as winter approaches. I'm slowly getting better. I'm planning in advance, stocking up early in the week so I can be sure to find something appetising when the drawer slides open. But these children never stop eating. If it’s in the house, it’s already gone. I've taken to hiding snacks during the week so I'll have a steady supply when the time comes.
I'm zeroing in on what makes a good snack box. I ask Padme to rank her daily snack box, marks out of 10, and push her for justification on the score. Apparently variation is more important than quantity, and a mix of textures is to be encouraged. I'm relieved to see my weekly average steadily increasing as I step my snack game up—changing things up, a Discover Weekly of daily nibbles, always learning from their preferences.
The after-school snack debate lead to us onto the merienda—a small sandwich that we prepare in the morning for her to eat between lunch and pickup time. They made brunch to fill the gap between breakfast and lunch. The merienda fills the next gap for these insatiable children, making sure they never spend a minute remotely approaching hunger. The snack comment had me rattled, so I was afraid to even broach la merienda.
"How are my meriendas?" I enquire, hesitation obvious to anyone within earshot.
"OK, I guess. Not as good as Elena's. Her parents give her a chocolate donut, everyday."
Snack Wars—you give everything you have, only to get beaten by a parent with no time and sweet tooth.
3 things to read this week
Yesterday I sent out a subscriber-only email about a big career decision, and the trade-offs we all make between the personal and the professional. The article contained a piece of personal news: I've been invited to become a Substack Fellow, and will spend the next 2 months working with 10 other writers and a group of mentors to push The New Fatherhood forward. The fellowship also comes with a cash grant that I'll be using to commission new essays from under-represented voices in 2022. Watch this space!
Instagram is causing eating disorders. Not just for girls, but young boys too. "Dr. Voss said access to social media also has caused eating disorders to take longer to diagnose and treat, because teens can easily find information on how to fool their parents and doctors. Patients have used social media to learn how to hide food and to vomit without being noticed, she said."
We're used to hearing about biological clocks, the pressure to have children while you still can. Again, it’s not just women, as men are sharing their anxieties around having children: "Just because men are biologically capable of having children later in life, it doesn’t mean they are immune from the wider social pressures around parenthood and ageing. Many men hit their late 30s and 40s and struggle with the realisation that they may never become fathers, whether due to financial or work constraints, fertility issues related to them or their partner, or because they never found the right person to settle down with."
Bonus round: I wrote a short piece on why I love voice messages for Why Is This Interesting: "Rather than many-to-many audio, it's incredibly targeted, private, a one-to-one experience. You’re free to wander the streets with the voice of your friend in your ear, like listening to a short podcast, recorded for an audience of one."
Giving the gift of The New Fatherhood
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6 Months Sub: "The New Fatherhood: Year One" eBook featuring 22 essays on fatherhood, a 6 month subscription to The New Fatherhood, and access to the online community.
1 Year Sub: "The New Fatherhood: Year One eBook", a 12 month subscription to The New Fatherhood, access to the online community, and a goodie bag including stickers and an enamel pin badge (which will be shipped out in January, due to all kinds of delays that I won't get into here.)
Interested? Click one of the links below, make sure to enter your email (not the recipients), and I'll be in touch within 48 hours with a link to download the eBook and a nice postcard you can print to stick in a card.
Last week on The New Fatherhood
Last week I wrote about Nick Cave, LCD Soundsystem, and the power of music to bring us together. Someone dropped a comment in the anonymous feedback bit at the end of the newsletter that was too good not to share:
"This hit home for me as a new father w/ a 6 week old. My son was born the Wedsesday before Outside Lands, a festival my wife and I have attended countless times over the past decade. We had a crew of friends who were thoroughly enjoying themselves there and providing a bit of play-by-play back as we huddled together in our post-delivery room. Was there a tinge of jealousy? No doubt. But our emotions were dominated by the love for our little bundle of joy, mixed with a sampling of memories of past times had. Something tells me "All My Friends" will continue to grow in significance for us—my favorite LCD song, possibly any song, of all time.
"You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan. And the next five years trying to be with your friends again."
And that's totally cool with us. Wouldn't trade fatherhood for anything."
Thank you, kind stranger 🥰
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