Chris Hunt reflects on how, thanks to fatherhood, he has put his days of reckless behaviour behind him – and learned to buckle up.
When I was first hired to write for Ottawa Parenting Times five years ago, I almost told my publisher he was making a mistake.
I was young, barely out of college. I wasn’t a parent and bore no intention of becoming one. Inherent to that mindset, I held a sincere concern I wouldn’t be able to connect with the subject material or the people I was likely to deal with.
That said, a job’s a job, so I agreed to write for Parenting Times, come what may.
It took as long as my first interview to prove my fears well warranted. I’d been tasked with interviewing journalist Christopher Shulgan about his memoir, Superdad: a Memoir of Rebellion, Drugs and Fatherhood, a gripping narrative detailing his dark decent into drug addiction while becoming a father for the first time.
It was a telephone interview and after the customary pleasantries, I was about to ask my first question when he sliced through it with his own.
Are you a father?
The dreaded question was the very first question asked in my very first interview by my very first source. When I answered no, he responded with a thick and heavy sigh. That sigh screamed at me. How could I relate to him in any way?
And the truth is, I couldn’t possibly comprehend the visceral fears, the intoxicating joys, the rush of extreme emotions a parent experiences.
In spite of that, the interview went very well. Shulgan is an intelligent, charismatic man who can take a complex thought and make it as easily understandable as possible.
Shulgan viewed fatherhood as a shackle bred of conformity, as something lame to rebel against. That I understood, but it turns out I was missing something that a parent would quickly have seen.
Fast forward a couple of years, and my girlfriend is unexpectedly pregnant. I feared I was going to self-destruct. And the truth is fatherhood compelled me to do something I never thought I’d do in my life: I got a full-time job.
I also started working out. I changed my eating habits. Heck, I even thought about giving up beer. Luckily, I didn’t lose my head.
And I certainly didn’t do anything reckless. At least not consciously.
One morning we were driving, and I was in the back with my son. “Dadda,” he said with a sense of urgency. “You not have your seat belt on! Mama! Dadda not have his seatbelt on!” And then he wrinkled his nose and smirked. Nothing better than getting daddy in trouble.
I called him a “little narc” and tickled him. He stuck his tongue out at me while his mother glared icily at me from the rear view mirror.
The truth is, I hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt since he was a baby. Why? I honestly can’t say.
A defiant but empty attempt to rebel against conformity? Meh. Was I symbolically raging against the perceived loss of freedom that comes with great responsibility? Most likely.
Was I being an idiot? Sure.
It took a car accident to realize how foolish I was being. We were driving behind a woman who suddenly lost control of her car and slammed into a parked van.
Steam gushed from a shattered radiator, and fluid from both cars bled together and seeped onto the road. Luckily the driver didn’t sustain any serious injuries, but I couldn’t help wondering what would’ve happened had we been going faster.
What if we didn’t see her swerve? That seatbelt could have determined whether my son would grow up with or without a father.
And that’s what I missed in the Shulgan interview. I was so preoccupied with the addiction angle, I completely dismissed the most important thing his book imparted: his family was worth beating his addiction. His children deserved the best dad possible.
So now I wear a seatbelt. Usually. And if I don’t, my kid sells me out.
Photo: Angela Jacques