The journey to being happily unnecessary

I realize that with each day that passes, I'm becoming less necessary to her, less essential for her survival, less asked for.

The journey to being happily unnecessary
Picking peaches earlier this month

The thought occurred to me a while ago that the basic goal of good parenting is to make sure your child grows to not need you. This is becoming abundantly clear these days as our daughter hops on a swing and starts it on her own; reads words and even books all by herself; goes potty on her own, proudly; adeptly picks peaches on her own; and more. I realize that with each day that passes, I'm becoming less necessary to her, less essential for her survival, less asked for.

A large part of me is proud and happy about all this, of course. Those examples of her newfound independence are evidence that in some ways, I'm succeeding as a father and she's thriving as a little human. I spent a lot of time telling her how to safely get onto a swing and how to kick her legs and contort her body to get the necessary momentum to enjoy it on her own, without my pushes. I spent a lot of time training her to use the potty. I spent a lot of time reading with her, telling her how words are spelled and pronounced, prodding her to finish sentences and sound out simple words. And so on.

But I'd be lying if I said this realization doesn't make me a bit somber. With every "No, Daddy. I can do it!" and unexpected release of my hand, I realize the trajectory we're on, that we should and need to be on. With that comes thoughts about the callous pace Time keeps and how the number of my days with my daughter dwindles with every bedtime routine and...

There's also a pragmatic part of me that halts the melancholy, tilts my chin up, points to the future and reminds me that the goal of good parenting doesn't stop when your child doesn't need you; that's just a signpost telling you you're on the right path. The larger objective is to make sure your child grows up to be someone who is loving, peace-making, patient, composed, joyful, confident, generous, forgiving and so much more...without you there to tell them to be or do so.

And you know what? I guess she still needs me for that leg of the journey.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you click one and make a purchase, at no cost to you.

Things I have thoughts about:

  • "The Bear" (Season 2): I read and heard from so many folks that season 2 of "The Bear" was better than season 1, and I found that hard to believe because the first season was so damn good. But, yeah, the second season was probably better than the first. While I'd love to gush about the things I loved most about it, I'll restrain myself and just say:

    "I wear suits now."

    If you haven't seen this show yet, don't hesitate. The buzz is justified and it's absolutely fantastic.
  • Bird feeder battle: I bought a bird feeder a while ago and hung it on a deck post so Brie could watch the birds from a window. But squirrels kept getting to it and eating most of the seeds. I won't tell you all the details about my raging animosity toward these furry-tailed demons, but I finally bought a bird feeder pole and squirrel baffle and recently found a location where the squirrels can't skirt the baffle. I'm embarrassed to admit how victorious I feel now, but...I do feel that way.
  • Maui: I've had the pleasure of visiting Maui four times in my life (so far): twice with just my wife and another two times with my wife and daughter. It's an absolute treasure of a place, one that I've come to love with all my heart (despite the fact that I'm not really into beaches). The people; the views; the food; the abiding, palpable spirit; the specific places we love to visit over and over again – it's all just so dear to me. And maybe most precious of all is that our daughter has come to adore the island too. She frequently says she can't wait to go back.

    So, yes, I was heartbroken to read and see the news of the wildfires on that island. On our last trip, we took a whale watching boat out of the harbor at Lahaina and spent an evening basking in the glow of the Christmas lights hanging from the historic banyan tree there...

    A few nights ago, we told Brie what had happened in Maui. We didn't really sugarcoat anything, and she asked keen follow-up questions about why the fire happened, if people had died, if animals were affected, etc. That night when I asked her to pray (I always ask her who she wants to pray for and what she's thankful for), she asked God to help Maui, make the deceased "undead," make the burned places "unfired" and help the animals there. And with all my heart, I said: "Amen."

    If you're looking for ways to donate and help, this resource has pretty much everything you need. Here are some organizations I've seen get mentions and endorsements:

    - Maui Food Bank
    - Hawai'i Community Foundation
    - Maui Humane Society
    - Maui United Way

Things Brie has enjoyed lately:

  • Reading on her own...for real: Yep, we have a reader. She hasn't fully mastered it yet, of course, but she's made a leap lately and surprises me every day with a word she identifies somewhere and reads aloud. It's remarkable to see, and I'm a bit moved when I remember all those nights I read to infant Brie in her crib at bedtime and think of how far she's come.
  • Eating Brie cheese: Every now and then, when someone meets Brie for the first time and learns her name, they excitedly ask: "Does she like Brie cheese?" And I used to say something like, "Sadly, no, she doesn't." But thanks to Supreme Brie Bites (I swear this isn't sponsored), now she does!
  • "Encanto": It's finally happened: Brie likes the movie "Encanto." (She even likes the live version at the Hollywood Bowl.) While she didn't seem interested in the movie after her first viewing, it seems to have caught her fancy the second time around. The album is frequently requested in the car. The cutest part is whenever she hears "Surface Pressure" (the best song on the album, IMO) or hears Luisa in another song, Brie will immediately kick into gear and start grunting and lifting big objects with dramatic flair.


I got a few responses to my call for newsletter mailbag questions, but I'll answer just one here:

Q: Do you have advice for an aspiring writer?

A: I consider myself the aspiring kind as well, so I don't know how helpful I can be here! But here goes...

  • Read!: I've said this many times to many people, but I'm convinced the best way to level up the caliber of your writing is to read as much as you can – news, fiction, nonfiction, short stories, etc. I want to qualify this by saying you should read only high-quality stuff written for reputable outlets, penned by worthy authors and so on...but I honestly don't think that's necessary. It depends on who you are, but there's a balance between quantity and quality to be had here. If you're a fast reader, maybe tune your reading toward quality; if you're a slow reader, maybe focus primarily on quantity, for instance. I also think it's totally fine to lean into your interests. If you follow a sport, find respected beat writers or columnists and consume their stuff. If you like a certain author, read all their stuff, even (or especially) their lesser-known work.! As you do, you may find your writing voice influenced by what or who you've read, and that's fine.

    I think the ultimate goal here is to expose your brain to a rich, diverse diet of writing to help it find your own distinct voice and style and learn the sometimes mysterious ins and outs of what makes a certain piece of writing good. Oh, and you'll pick up ideas for your own writing and improve your vocabulary (so long as you look up words you don't know) and grammar.

    For me, C.S. Lewis was a keystone to my writing maturation. I've read most of what he's written, some works many times over. And for a while, I think my writing voice was a faint echo of his. (Someone who knew me only through our email correspondences once asked if I was British.) I've lost that a bit, for better and worse. But while Lewis was often the main course, I had many different side dishes: basketball writers, books about theology, popular contemporary works (like "The Hunger Games," unfortunately), newspapers, etc. They've all helped me to get a better grasp of what makes good or bad writing, and it's helped me to be an aspiring writer with a tad more understanding.

    You may not understand how or why reading helps your writing, but trust me: it does.
  • Write: I speak from personal experience when I say sometimes the hardest part of pursuing writing is putting pen to paper – or in today's world, putting finger to keyboard. But if you're aspiring to be an actual writer, you have to try. Here's where the kind of writing you want to do may inform your pursuit. For instance, if you're passionate about consumer technology and dream of writing for a reputable tech news outlet, apply for a weekend role, submit a pitch or work your way up by freelancing for smaller outlets first. If you're hoping to write a book, the path can take a variety of forms, and maybe it includes freelancing as well. But the bottom line is that you have to break the seal that you think holds all your worst fears of rejection and failure at bay and dive into it. Find a starting point, look for a foothold and keep climbing.

    I should also add: While writing on a blog (does anyone have one of those anymore?) or in a journal no one sees is fine, I think it's important to find writing opportunities that give you a wider audience. It's important to see how your output is received by a target audience, whether it's by looking at basic website traffic metrics, social media engagement, comments, etc. This kind of feedback is key and will offer affirmations, challenges and clarity.

    The last thing I'll say here is don't stop until you fully, truly understand this quote: "I don’t like to write, but I love having written."
  • Figure out your financial expectations: Be honest with yourself about the money part of this because in most cases, writing is not lucrative. If you're hoping writing can be something you do on the side while you collect another source of stable income, that's straightforward: just find the time to do it. But if you're hoping to write full-time for a living, it can get a little trickier. In general most desirable full-time writing careers won't pay very well, at least to start. And the ones that actually pay decent money will almost always be about topics or contexts that will probably spark very little excitement in you. I've found that it's almost always an inverse relationship: The less interesting the topic, the better it pays, and vice versa. (One quick example: Business and financial reporting doesn't interest doe-eyed, "I'm going to change the world for the better" journalism students...until they see how much more it pays than many other types of reporting.)
  • Commit to it, hard (if you can): My last bit of advice is to commit to your pursuit of writing. I'm going to be frank here: If you're young, single, without children and unencumbered by financial strain, it's going to be fairly easy to do this. But if even one of those things doesn't apply to you, it gets exponentially more difficult. Regardless of where you stand, try not to sit on the fence. Pick a side, a level of commitment, and lean all the way into it for as long as you can.

    One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't do this when I was younger, especially after I finished journalism school. I was always half in, half out, so to speak. And it was purely because I couldn't fully reconcile the guilt I thought I'd have if I couldn't have a certain financial stability for my family (before marriage). I also had a healthy fear of my monthly student loan payments. So I never went full-bore in pursuit of a reporting job (though I got a few offers, which all paid very little) and settled for freelancing on the side; I also never fully "sold out" and squashed my creative side to pursue purely lucrative career stops. That's how I ended up where I am today: Using my writing and editing skills in a corporate context because it's more stable than most alternatives, scratching my creative itch mostly with @briesbookshelf, always hoping to one day make good on a bona fide writing project. I sat on the fence for so many years, and it's left me with what-if scenarios and a salary that's probably lower than what it could've been if I had just committed to stability earlier.

    (All that said: I'm happy and grateful to be where I am today. Truly. Very much so.)

    It's hard, but don't sit on the fence, at least for very long. Leave little room for regrets.

I hope there's something of value in that wall of text. (Conciseness isn't one of my strong suits.) Enjoy the pursuit!

In case you missed it...

Thanks for reading. Feedback is welcome! Please subscribe and share as you see fit.