The sum of 5 dads
Featuring Roy Kent, MDMA, and a polar bear overloaded with caffeine.
The New Fatherhood is an open and honest conversation about modern fatherhood, with a bunch of dads figuring it out along the way. Here's a bit more information if you're new here. You are one of the 3,062 dads (and curious non-dads) signed up. If you've been forwarded this by someone else, why not get your own?
“You are the sum of the 5 people you spend your time with.”
You’ve no doubt heard this line before, from motivational speaker and self-help guru Jim Rohn. It’s a little reductive, sure. It’s obviously more than five people. And the things you watch, the books you read, and the places you visit can influence you just as much, and provide a higher chance of driving the type of second-order change that creates a lasting effect.
But there’s still a lot of truth there. It’s simplicity gives it weight. And it lends itself to your experience as a parent too: what if, as a father, you’re the sum of the five dads you spend the most time with?
Who’d be in your handful of padres? And what type of a father are you becoming alongside them? Are they a positive influence on your parenting perspective? Do they lead by example, rejoicing in the role a father can play? Are they raising the bar, as you help each other uncover the opportunities for joy, contemplation and purpose that can come through having kids?
Or are they doing the opposite? Does an evening spent with them leave you more exhausted than when you started? Are they constantly complaining about their job, their partner, their kids, how terrible life is? Are their visions of fatherhood, and the actions they take as dads, in conflict with the type of parent you want to be?
Huge caveat: there’s a lot of heavy shit going around at the moment. It’s been a rough two years. And I’m not saying that you should cut out those dads in your life having a hard time. This essay is in no way intended as permission to tell friends “Sorry to hear your dog got run over, you lost your job, your football team is getting relegated, and Better Things got cancelled, but I’m not feeling this negative energy right now” and hang the phone up. At some point we all need help. You too, one day, if not right now. But it’s important to take steps to protect your mental energy with these friends and support them whilst ensuring you don’t get pulled under.
My group is a little more than five, but not far off. They’re my fatherhood advisory board, my dad support group. It’s like the Council of Elrond, only with fewer seats, more rings, and better beards. Most of what you read here starts with them: we’re all winging it, but working it our together; figuring out the types of dads we want to be whilst grappling with the model we inherited; kicking the tyres on different approaches to raising kids; trying to figure out the right way forward in our careers and level of importance (or not) that work contributes to the feeling of a life well lived.
We need to get into the habit of thinking about fatherhood the way we think about our careers—finding ways to get better at what is the most important job we’ll ever do, to partake in meaningful “training” to help us identify and improve on our weaknesses, to seek out mentors that have been through it all before and can offer the right advice, at the right time.
This will all be made easier by having a group of dads who you can talk to about these things, who give you permission to move beyond the banter—that surface level yakking about football, beers, meme stocks, Netflix shows—to a place where you can dig towards the bigger issues we’re all wrestling with, all too often on our own.
Don’t have those five dads in your life? Time to get looking.
3 things to read this week
“Can MDMA Save A Marriage?” by Christina Caron in The New York Times. Can you hear that noise? It’s the barrage of research, long-form articles, and personal essays finally breaking down the dam, washing away long-held stigmas around drug use, and getting the wider world to realise how much these misaligned medicines can help people. The latest contribution comes from the gray lady herself, exploring couples who have been experimenting with therapeutic use of MDMA to “produce feelings of empathy, trust and compassion [...] in an effort to help them reconnect, improve communication and have better sex.” Expect to see much more on this topic in 2022.
“The Valentines Day Sex Issue” from Romper + Fatherly. Coming two days late, this bumper issue of articles for parents who are exhausted but “also, apparently quite horny” celebrates “your horniness as a beacon of hope, your dedication to getting off a daily reminder that no matter how tired, touched out, frustrated, and stretched thin you are, you haven’t given up or shut down.”
“The Inevitable” is a freshly launched publication about death, “offering unexpected perspectives on it, useful tactics for dealing with it, and new ways of thinking about everything that leads up to it.” A very good friend who helped midwife TNF into the world is part of the crew behind this. Instant sign-up to their newsletter, can’t wait to hear more from them.
Meanwhile, in TNF community ...
This month we had our first book club, reading Oliver Burkeman’s “Four Thousand Weeks.” The conversation went far and wide, touching on importance of keeping the “potential” out of hobbies, how “The Overstory” helped someone view the Wonder Weeks app in a whole new light, and trying to work out a formula for how long it takes to get out of the house depending on the number of kids and pets you have.
We’re going to be doing a a tick-tock of books and movies, so next month we’ll be getting together to discuss ”Another Round” AKA “Druk” with Mads Mikelsen. It’s one of the most fascinating portrayals of fatherhood I’ve seen in years, and was my favourite film of 2020. We’ll be talking about the powerful portrayal of father who, approaching middle age, is worried that he hasn’t lived up to his potential, and looks for a joyous way out. Why not join us?
One thing to watch with the kids—or maybe not—this week
We’re huge lovers of We Bare Bears here at TNF HQ. It’s a smart, snappy and short show about 3 brothers—Grizzly, Panda and Ice—who live on the outskirts of SF. It’s packed full of interesting observations on how we live our lives—I think about their pastiche of performative sustainability everytime I think about buying a new tote bag ... #totelife forever—and it’s heaving with pop cultural references: The Drive / Robot Wars mashup episode is a delight, and the episode that’s playing in the background while I write this had a Game of Thrones parody and a Seinfeld joke in the last 3 minutes.
Yesterday evening’s viewing was “Coffee Cave”, a 9 minute episode (I told you they were short) centred around the brothers turning their home into a coffee shop. The opening 5 minutes (up above) is about as good an explainer video on “how coffee works” that your kids will ever see. But the second half, when one character imbibes more than they can handle might be a bit too much for younger kids … and even some adults of a milder disposition. I spotted references to Trainspotting, The Exorcist and The Shining. I’m sure I missed many more.
Maybe watch it on your own first?!
Be kind to your ears. Listen to this.
The best thing I listened to this week, probably this month, was Tim Ferris’ discussion with Cal Newport—a wide ranging chat that touched on finding the space to focus on more meaningful work, the benefits of digital minimalism, and introduced me to the idea of “slow productivity” which helping me better understand an issue I’ve been wrestling with for a while now. I don’t recommend a 2 hour discussion lightly, but it was excellent brain food and, at the very least, helped me crack the structure of an essay that should be in your inbox later this week.
And, Finally, The Most Ambitious Crossover Event In History
Ted Lasso’s Brett Goldenstein—better known as the thinly-veiled Roy Keane-a-like Roy Kent—will soon star in an episode of Sesame Street. Will he tell Oscar the Grouch to “FUCK THE FUCK OFF” and start a fight with Big Bird? Only time will tell.
How did you like this week’s issue? Always trying to keep things fresh. Your feedback helps me make this great.
This week’s newsletter was brought to you by the letters B and C, Roy Kent, three cartoon bears, the support of some very close friends, and the number 2. Thanks to Selman Design for the branding and Tony Johnson for the illustration, and for their continued input that makes TNF so much better every time they’re near it.
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