Wednesday, April 17, 2013

5 Years of Saying So

In the spring of 2008, at a time when I was pulling my hair out over the willfulness of a 2-year-old and with running my own business, I was asked by Stacey Greenberg if I'd like to alternate Thursdays with her writing a column for The Commercial Appeal about what it's like to raise kids in Memphis. I had been writing about my kids on this very blog for two years already so I said, "Sure, why not."

The truth is I might have used an exclamation point or two in my answer. The truth is I never expected "Because I Said So" to last six months, such is the volatile nature of the newspaper industry and the tenuous grasp of any freelancer on any project. Yet here we are, five years later and I'm still given the opportunity to write it, still pulling my hair out over the willfulness of a now-6-year-old. Stacey has moved on so the opposite Thursdays are filled with . . . something, I don't really look at the paper on those days.

It's been a dream job, more than you can imagine. To be able to document the awesome responsibility of raising four children, the fun, the heartache, the fear. Those noises and smells. It's fun when we're stopped out at the grocery store or the bookstore by readers who ask, "Are these the children you write about?" And I answer, "Children? These aren't mine, I don't really have any kids." Oh, my children laugh at this every single time. It's the most minor celebrity anyone could ask for and the kids are always there to bring me back down to my proper level, and then some.

A lot has changed over these five years and hopefully some of it has produced interesting fodder for such a column. A lot more will happen over the next five and I hope I'm here tell you so in this column. We'll see. Thank you to everyone who helped make it possible, to my family for putting up with their foibles, faults and flatulence being spotlighted in the newspaper twice a month, and especially thanks to all of you who read regularly. Thank you for the comments, the letters and e-mails, the remarks in public. It means more to me than you will ever know.

On this fifth anniversary, here is the very first "Because I Said So" column that ran in The Commercial Appeal on April 17, 2008.

Real kids shrink notions of big family 
My grandparents, Bob and Shirley Fachini, raised seven children, a respectable number by anyone's standards. 
It was the 1950s and '60s, a much simpler era, I'm told. Families were larger then because this country needed as many citizens as possible to fight communism, go to Saturday movie matinees for a nickel and colonize the moon. 
They would later come to call these babies "boomers," because of how much noise that many children, at one time, in one place, will make. 
Their house was warm and loving and, sure, it was cramped, but they made do. Bob built a table large enough for everyone to eat around, and Shirley sewed dresses for the girls. 
It sounds like an idyllic time, and the stories of the antics of my aunts and uncles as kids have engaged me since I was a child. 
It was those stories that had me wanting a large family of my own. 
My wife, Kristy, and I have four children between the ages of 21 months and 10 years. And, as it turns out, we're done. 
That's right. I don't know what got into my grandparents' brains to make them think seven kids was a good idea, but I'm afraid something had to be a little off for two intelligent people to willingly welcome that many little people to live with them. 
By stopping now, we're not squashing my dream of raising a big family, because four is the new seven. 
When Kristy and I tell people, especially new parents with only one child, that we have four, the look we get is generally awe and amazement. 
Never envy. 
Maybe just a hint of pity. Yes, mostly pity, now that I think of it. 
The truth is, we weren't exactly sure at the beginning what we were doing. 
Kristy researched parenting styles, while I was content, and over my head, just keeping the kid alive and somewhat happy. Ten years, and three babies later, it's still all I can do. 
But our home now is full of love. Just as much with love, in fact, as it is with discarded Pop-Tart wrappers, broken and mismatched toys, half-emptied cups of milk and diapers, both clean and dirty. 
Parenthood is an easy enough club to enter, though staying in the good graces of the club's membership board -- your kids -- is tricky. 
Nothing was easy for my grandparents either, yet they signed on for seven kids and dealt with them as they showed up. And if they could handle seven, then four should be cake, right? Or at least a chocolate icing-smeared face smiling up at us. 
We're doing our best with our quartet, in the spirit and with the tenacity of my grandparents. 
We'll send them to the best schools we can, we will communicate openly with them and we'll raise them to be caring and informed citizens, who will one day, hopefully, grow up to colonize the moon.