In this Youtube-recorded Socrates Cafe with my daughter Cali, she wanted to know “what Daddies are all about,” and told me before we began this extemporaneous give and take that the question had just popped into her head (thank goodness I had my computer at the ready to record it).
It’s a pretty silly dialogue — Cali had just gotten over flu at long last, and had received a lot of TLC from her Daddy over the preceding days — and on the face of it, we don’t cover a lot of ground. But there may be more to it than meets the eye.
Cali stresses that Daddies — are at least this Daddy — are “fun.” But not necessarily fun as in “ha ha, whoopee” (though as you can see in the video, she does like to bounce her head, when in a playful mood, on Daddy’s “jello pillow”). Interestingly, when it comes to fun, Cali wasn’t just talking about, or even primarily about, having a Daddy who plays with her, but rather, having a Daddy who opens up his world to her.
“It’s fun watching you write,” she says to me at one point.
I don’t lock my office door, even when I’m at my most earnest and immersed in my work. My open door policy, which Cali takes ready advantage of, does sidetrack me from time to time. But in almost every instance, it leads to something rich to be mined.
Cali likes to watch me write, and sometimes will write something herself, sitting side by side with me. But if she enters my office and has a question on her mind, especially a timely and timeless one that is Socrates Cafe pay dirt, how can I resist? I set my work aside and get ready to engage in some Socratic playfulness with her.
I note in The Philosophy of Childing that it is
often overlooked how playful Socrates was in his dialogues, not just in his persona, but in the way he examined—imaginatively yet rationally, methodically yet open-ended—questions and answers from a variety of vantage points, showing that one can accomplish important things, gain profound insights, without being deadly earnest.
As I think more after our brief exchange on what Daddies are all about, I am brought back to this memory: that I had been content as a childless hubby, that the notion of becoming a Daddy had first been planted in my noggin, and then my heart, by Ceci.
Here’s a brief part of what I say about that in The Philosophy of Childing:
one day in early 2005, over dinner at a restaurant near in our home in Chiapas, Mexico, Ceci took me off guard when she said, “I want to have a child.” One look at her was sufficient to know there was no room for debate. I stumbled for a way to convey that I wasn’t sure that parenthood was the right path for me, for us. Don’t get me wrong, I was no extreme cynic about parenthood like the great twentieth century Romanian philosopher-pessimist E.M. Cioran, who in The Trouble with Being Born declared himself “to have committed every crime but that of being a father.” But it wasn’t on the top of my “to be” list.
Still, parenthood intrigued me. Friends with kids made it an unsolicited point to share that they’ve gained so many fresh insights, from the theoretical to the practical, the ethical to the metaphysical, since becoming parents. True, many philosophers across the ages with the most penetrating understanding of things human were sometimes lousy parents, or were never parents, or had miserable upbringings, or couldn’t stand one of their own parents (John Dewey, for instance, who had seven children, two of them adopted, didn’t much care for his mother, a strict Calvinist). Some childless philosophers, like Immanuel Kant (who was also celibate), are considered among the sagest thinkers ever about human being. Even so, the long and short of it was that I started daydreaming about what it would be like to be a dad, carrying a little one on my shoulders, going to the playground, having great conversations like the ones Cali and I now have.
Cali and I by no means confine our give-and-takes to the purely philosophical sort, or even the wholly Socratic sort. Later that evening, for instance, as I was making dinner for her, she wanted to talk to me about boys, one in particular. Cali usually keeps her feelings close to the vest, so it’s a high honor that she feels so comfortable talking with me about such matters.
And she wanted to know about my experiences with romance at her age. I shared with her a bit about my trials and tribulations about overcoming shyness when I was her age, and she in turn shared how she grappled with this.
And then, her eyes glistening, and outward show of her inward heart all aflutter, she told me about the young man she loves — and asked me, implored me almost, to invite him over to the house for a play date.
She said she was “in a hurry” to spend some informal quality time with him outside of school bounds.
Which reminds me, I need to make those arrangements, right now. Hopefully I’ll have good news on that front before my precious 10-year-old gets home from school. As harrowing as daddyhood can be, it also sure is fun being the daddy of Cali and her three-year-old joyfilled extroverted soulmate Cybele (who at last report has about ten beaus vying for her attention).