39 things you need to know about being a dad in the city.
22. Other places in Toronto that take on a new prominence in your life when you’re a dad: the public library, the beach, those chain restaurants at the edges of big-box-store parking lots where the food is expensive and crappy but no one cares (or even notices) if your kids act like kids while you’re eating.
23. Ikea is a dinner destination.
24. Talk to any parent and they will tell you that nothing in the world makes them happier than their children. But various researchers have shown that parents are more miserable than non-parents, and their children are the source of that misery. (“The only symptom of empty-nest syndrome is increased smiling,” psychologist Daniel Gilbert once told The Atlantic.) Neither of them is wrong. Nothing in my life is as great a source of joy as my children, and nothing in my life induces feelings of rage, guilt, sadness, and self-pity more often than my kids. When you become a dad, you discover whole new canyons of feeling within yourself that you never knew existed. They inspire, or provoke, every emotion in extreme quantities.
25. It’s important to say “I love you” often to your kids. And it is impossible not to mean it.
26. Three simple steps to dad and kids both being content for hours and hours: 1. Go to Sunnyside Beach. 2. Skip stones. 3. Repeat.
27. When you examine your experience and emotions as a parent, you’ll realize that a lot of what you say about it is a cliché. That’s okay. That parenting is among the most common occurrences in the world does nothing to dull the intensity of the personal experience.
28. Centre Island highlights: the ferry ride, the open expanses of green, the gardens, playgrounds, and beaches. Skip the rides.
29. No matter where you are with your kids—Centre Island, the CNE, the mall—you can never actually skip the rides.
30. One of the other paradoxes of being a father is that the stuff you do out in the working world seems inherently more interesting and sophisticated than the stuff you do at home—career advancement versus changing diapers, political debate versus singing lullabies. And yet the stakes—the direct personal stakes—are much higher at home than anywhere else. Fitting these contrasting elements into your own sense of identity can be a challenge.
31. When you become a parent, every discussion about real estate and neighbourhoods is accompanied by a discussion about the quality of various public schools. This is a part of Toronto life that was invisible to me before.
32. Kids under seven are just as impressed by the very affordable small screens at the Rainbow Cinemas as they are by the big, expensive movie theatres.
33. After you’ve become a dad, it’s easy to resent the depressingly narrow range of pop-culture representations of fatherhood: buffoonish sitcom clowns, emotionally distant workaholics, and Hollywood antiheroes escaping domestic drudgery. Those caricatures—and the vein of truth about many fathers they tap into—are an example of what you should try to transcend. They aren’t role models—they are cautionary tales.
34. After being asked to think of a celebrity in a guessing game, the first name my six-year-old son came up with was “Rob Ford.” Perhaps Dad needs to leave his work at the office.
35. Live professional sports are amazing to attend with kids—the spectacle once again seems spectacular when seen through their eyes. The Leafs are out of our financial reach, but we have never had less than a blast watching Blue Jays, Marlies, or Toronto Rock games.
36. We went to see the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League play once, and now my three-year-old daughter, Irene, has an imaginary friend who’s a professional hockey player. (But, according to Irene, her friend plays for the Leafs, not the Furies.) Imaginary friends are part of the deal.
37. My kids’ involvement in sports leagues—hockey at George Bell Arena and t-ball at High Park—has made me realize that there’s an invisible army of volunteers behind much of the city’s social infrastructure.
38. In my experience, there is a lot of singing involved in parenting. Lullabies…hours and hours of lullabies. Every song you can recall the words to gets pressed into service. Whenever Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” comes on the radio, my kids will say, “Hey, that’s a lullaby!”
39. Corn dogs at the Ex. Every time.