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Like many kids, I was obsessed with telling people exactly how old I was. I was never simply 7, I was 7 and a half, 8 and a quarter, or 9 and five sixths.
I don't say these things out loud anymore, but they're still there, rattling around.
I turned 38 and a half during a period of imposed self-isolation and inevitable self-reflection. It’s safe to say I’m nearly 40, this arbitrary demarcation between the old and the new. Or the old and older, depending on your perspective. My kids are growing up, somehow seeming to catch up to me, even while my brain screams how logically impossible this would be.
It’s Sunday afternoon. The house is quiet. Bodhi is napping, and Padme is keeping herself busy drawing. I’m in the kitchen, making dinner, the radio playing in the background. Listening to my good friend Danny and his show on 1BTN. We’ve known each other for a while now. We met when I was fresh into my twenties, working as a barman in Centro, a before-we-used-to-call-them-hipsters hipster bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. I did a few days a week there to help pay my way through university, whilst supporting an expensive addiction to imported Underground Resistance records.
Danny was a DJ, and worked in Piccadilly Records—a mecca for music lovers, drawing pilgrims from across England and beyond. He'd come in for lunch with the Tim (the manager), Darryl and Laura (two of the owners), as they'd regularly get through 2 pints each in a one hour lunch. At the time this seemed accomplishable, but now—almost twenty years later, and settled into the cadence of the caña—I'm not so sure.
Across a year of Friday and Saturday lunches, I convinced them to take me on part-time in the shop. When I finished the last year of a Computer Science degree they offered me a full time-gig, and I jumped at the chance. My parents scratched their heads, but my love for music was no secret, so they went with it.
Danny and I hung out more. I ended up moving nearby, a stones throw from Heaton Park. Sundays were spent in his kitchen: bottles of Pinot Noir, something slow-cooked, and an ever-flowing selection of sublime music. Dave Godin's Deep Soul compilations were on regular rotation then—and still are now, with Spotify's slim pickings having to suffice.
It was always Danny's show—first in his kitchen, then in his shed, and now in the 1BTN studio. Listening to him whilst cooking is a portal through time, bringing me back to the Sundays we spent in Manchester 15 years ago. It’s a long time since those carefree days, as we worked our way through multiple bottles and The Guardian supplements. We’re both dads now. His son just turned 12, two days after my daughter turned 7. I sent him a message to tell him I was listening in. That it somehow felt, for a moment, like we were back in his kitchen. This time I was cooking, but he was still curating the vibe. History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes, or so they say. And, as I've gotten older, I've become more attuned to these patterns—luxuriating in their depth when the opportunity arises.
The Greeks had two words for time. Chronos is the concept we're familiar with: chronological progress, time as duration, as one moment follows another. But they used another word, Kairos, to indicate the "right time"—a brief moment of opportunity for "the uniquely timely or the radically particular." Kairos was non-linear, and the Greeks believed it to be a key piece in unlocking the mysteries of the universe.
Richard Rohr, touched on the concept in a recent episode of On Being:
Kairos is when you have those moments where you say, “Oh my God, this is it. I get it.” Or, “This is as perfect as it can be.” Or, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Or, “This moment is summing up the last five years of my life” — things like that, where time comes to a fullness, and the dots connect, when we can learn how to more easily go back to those kind of moments or to live in that kind of space.
Perhaps that's what it was, listening to Danny that Sunday. A moment of deep time. An island amidst choppy waters. They're few and far between at first. But as you start getting closer to shore, you come upon them more often. Indications that you're heading the right way. Solid ground beneath your feet.
Those moments stand out in the chronology of my fatherhood experience like streetlights on a country road: irregular in their arrival, but always welcome; illuminating what's right in front, but not further ahead. In October 2017, at a team offsite in New York, I stood on a rooftop watching the sun come up, knowing I was finally going to leave the job I'd been chasing most of my adult life. That it was the right time. That, without knowing what the next thing would be, it was time to close the door on that chapter, on my first mountain.
I felt deep time right there. I told myself to "Remember this feeling. Bottle it up. Remember it when your VP tries to convince you to stay. Remember it when you wake up at 2am, second-guessing your decision. Remember it when you finally hand in your laptop and walk away from the job you always wanted."
These moments have become more regular since then. I had another this weekend, standing on a beach with a Spanish friend, watching out daughters frolic in the waves of the Mediterranean Sea. I told him how a childhood trip to the beach was something I did only a few times a year, to North Wales as we prayed for good—or at least dry—weather; or on holiday, with a minibar packed full of aloe vera gel, a balm for someone's inevitably sunburnt shoulders.
My friend looked around, and—noticing an orchestra of languages, and the lack of Spanish voices on the beach—told me "sometimes I remember that people come from all around the world for a holiday here. In the city where I live. And when I stop and think about it, this always makes me smile."
Chronos is like a road trip. There's a destination. You're heading there. There are bumps in the road, but they're not really going to stop you, just make things a little more difficult.
Kairos is the beautiful vista on the way, a short stop in a lay-by, and a chance to witness something spectacular.
Sure, you can drive on past. But where's the fun in that?
3 things to read this week
Excerpted from an upcoming book "How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes", the NYT shared an essay on How to Raise Kids Who Won't Be Racist: "Some people, especially white people like me, may shy away from talking to their children about race, either because they’ve been socialized to treat the subject as taboo or because they fear that instilling an awareness of race is itself problematic. That’s a privilege that nonwhite families often don’t have — racism is a fact of life that many can’t ignore." (Thanks Carlos!)
Slightly lighter reading from the New Yorker, Advice My Parents Gave Me Versus Advice I Will Give My Kids: "My Parents: Don’t talk to strangers on the Internet. Me: Talk to every stranger on the Internet, because meeting new friends in your thirties is really fucking hard. In fact, I met your dad on Twitter when we realized that we both replied “THIS” to the same sponsored tweet from La Quinta Inn."
Going on holiday this Summer? Here's Harvard Business Review with 6 things you should do to make the most of your vacation: "Taking at least a week’s vacation matters, because it often takes a day or two to stop thinking about your email, projects, teammates, etc. Being away for a week or more also gives you several days where you know that you’re still on vacation the next day. That allows you to relax, knowing that the end of the vacation isn’t imminent."
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One thing to watch with the kids this week
Here's a very simple and neat little project to do with older children this week. Looking forward to doing this one myself …
Previously on The New Fatherhood
Last week I wanted to know "What's the most fun you ever had with your kids?", and wanted to call out this lovely story from Matt:
"It's difficult to choose a single instance but with my 21 month-year-old daughter, I would say the most fun I've had with her recently was watching her learn how to use the garden hose. Almost every day, she sits on the front porch as I water the front yard and recently, she yanked the hose from me and with her tiny little hands, was able to squeeze the nozzle: she calls this "mist time". So now, her and I take turns in the morning when we water the lawn and the potted plants. A task that used to be so mundane is one of the moments I look forward to every day. Here's a photo of the two of us "misting" our German Shepherd:"
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Branding by Selman Design. Illustrations by Tony Johnson. Tony and I are off on holiday next week. Not together, although I'm sure that would be fun! I'm a firm believer in practicing what I preach, so I'll be going offline, and the next proper newsletter will be on August 3rd. See you then.