Okay, I admit it. I’ve been a negligent blogger. Between finishing The Dream Palace (yay!), looking for an agent for The Dream Palace (meh!), pre-production work on The Book of Paul trailer (dyed Paul’s wig yesterday!), trying to get funding for the set design (help!), sending off rewards to donors (yay to you!) and being a husband and DAD, well, blogging has had to take a backseat. However, I’m going to make an effort to be more consistent in the future, and what better way to begin than by honoring the best thing that has ever happened to me…fatherhood.

Arm in arm

When my wife Ariane was first pregnant, we didn’t get an amnio, or check the sex. We said we’d “take what we got.” We got a beautiful boy, Nic. Eighteen months later, we got a beautiful girl, Emma. One of each, as they say. We got “one of each” in another way, too. One autistic, one not.

Yes, having children is the best thing that ever happened to me. So is having an autistic child. Our journey with autism has made me a better man than I ever thought I could be. It has changed everything in our lives, mostly for the better. If you want to know why, the best place to see is on Ariane’s blog Emma’s Hope Book. My chronicle of our family’s journey is The Dream Palace, a YA fantasy I just completed.

Nic is an incredible 13-year-old. Smart, funny, popular, talented in so many ways: as an artist, writer, world-creator. This summer he’ll have his first sleep-away camp, making video games! Emma is 11 now and she’s probably the happiest, most blissed-out person I’ve ever met. She’s an amazing singer, dancer, performer, with a mind-blowing memory. Emma doesn’t have many friends her own age, and that’s probably the saddest part of being autistic. My greatest hope is that more people, particularly other children, begin having more interactions with autistic people so they aren’t so isolated and ostracized. That’s ultimately what The Dream Palace is about–acceptance. Reaching out. Connecting. Emma’s Hope Book does a much better job than I will. Ariane is helping to change people’s perceptions and changing lives every day.

Ariane is my hero. I couldn’t imagine this family life without her.  Today I woke up to wrapped presents (Liberty jigsaw puzzles, my favorite!), musical greeting cards (Kung Fu Fighting!), and the most amazing breakfast ever. Pumpkin-raisin scones, ice coffee, my favorite omelette (swiss cheese, blue cheese, spinach and mushrooms) and of course BACON! How lucky am I???

richard-em-me

I never wanted to be a dad until I met Ariane. I once told her that I wanted to have children together because she was the only person I could imagine growing old with. Fourteen years and two AWESOME children later, I have, in fact, grown much older with her, much to my chagrin, and hopefully not too much that I can’t be rescued by the anti-aging scientists before everything goes to hell.

Older. And wiser.

Thank god. Because I was one of those smart people who was actually quite stupid in most ways that matter Example: I recently realized that my career ambitions are unquenchable. No matter what success I ever attain, it won’t be enough. It’s the addict mentality. What do you want? More. However, I found that realization liberating, because I can laugh at my ridiculousness a little more easily instead of believing the story my mind keeps telling me–that more, more, more story.

Here’s the fatherhood punchline: before I became a father, that relentless drive kept me in a state of constant dissatisfaction with my life, because I was only living for myself. Now I don’t matter most. My kids do. My wife does. My family comes first. It sounds simple, but it makes all the difference in how I perceive life, the world around me, my priorities. My definition of a good dad is striving to put the family first. I’m not always as successful as I’d like to be. I’ll dally on some stupid Facebook stuff instead of watching Mary Poppins with my daughter. I’ll tell my son to wait until I finish what I’m writing before I sign a Paypal for a Minecraft add-on. I’ll leave the dishes in the sink even though it drives Ariane nuts.

Still, I try. That’s the point. Progress, not perfection. Parenting isn’t easy. Marriage isn’t easy. You have to work at it. Anyone who thinks this stuff should come easily is probably arguing about visitation rights. What makes it easier? Love. Willingness. Perseverence. Love. Compassion. Empathy. Love. Gratitude.

A year ago, I wrote my first blog entry, which was also entitled Father’s Day. If you check it out, it’s quite gloomy, because I was dwelling on my childhood rather than my own dadhood. I had also just published The Book of Paul, which in many ways deals with the dark side of my childhood. A year later, here I go again, talking about dadness and what makes it so wonderful.

I like this post a lot more. To all the dads who love being dads, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! To all our children, thanks for making our lives matter!

 

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