Steve Safran takes a break from whoring-his-talents-for-television to explore the heart breaking impossibility of perfect parenting. We can only hope that the bystander trauma of our (mid)-life dramas will make them more compassionate and resilient for having endured ours.
The Accidental New Yorker, by Steve Safran
It’s getting harder and harder for me to tie in my writing to Britt’s Boob Blog. If I am to be a columnist here, you may have to settle for the mundane details of my life without my stretching past credulity any metaphor to Britt’s. (“I had a sandwich today. Britt couldn’t have sandwiches during chemotherapy because they made her throw up. Mine was ham.”) Recently, however, I’ve landed on a legitimate theme for a site that often includes ways we unintentionally traumatize the children:
Change, uncertainty, absence, loss: the inevitable and difficult aspects of life we’d like to shield from the kids until they can afford their own therapist.
A month ago, I was your standard issue, work-from-the-home-office, nap-often kind of guy. I have six years of bedside coffee rings and navel-gazing Facebook status updates that prove my tenure of freelance-ability. But now I’m a New Yorker four days a week, producing a TV show, and suffering the whiplash of mid-life career reinvention. I don’t even have a place to live. I stuff boxers into a backpack, crash on couches and in cheap hotels, ride the rails, and eat meals out of bags.
At 45, I’m a 19-year-old with a Eurail pass.
This is plainly absurd. Yet it is a fine example of “Mixed Blessings Come to Those Who Wait and Wait and Give Up.” It’s great to have work. It’s fun to be back in TV. I’ve been out of the game since 2006 when I was last a news man. Now I’m firmly in entertainment, producing a reality show for Discovery. I’m at once at home in the environs and homeless in the city I’ve cursed all these years as a proper Bostonian. I have, by accident, become One Half New Yorker.
This week’s schedule: Sunday: Natick, Monday: New York, Wednesday morning: Natick (son’s birthday), Wednesday night: New York, Friday: Natick
At the time of this writing, it’s Thursday. Don’t tell anyone, but I just woke up in an empty NYC office, when I swear I’d dosed off watching Boston local news.
Did I mention I’m 45?
As taxing as this is on the middle-aged body, I’m more worried about what this is doing to the kids. They have a Dad who is unavailable during the week and is exhausted on the weekends. They’re doing OK. I know they’re OK. (I’m telling myself they’re OK… feel free to chime in and agree.) But it’s not fair. I told my son I had to go where the money is. He said, through tears, “I’d rather you were here and didn’t get the money.”
Me too, kid.
In the last year, these awesome little people have endured their parents’ separation, ongoing divorce, and now their dad is… gone. Here’s where writing for Britt’s Boob Blog becomes no stretch at all. If a child’s greatest fear is his parent’s divorce or death, then Britt and I are doing a bang up job scaring the crap out of them. It’s difficult enough just being a kid, without us getting diseased, and divorcing, and hobo-ing across three states to provide a steady income. Of course, Britt is better and her boys are relieved. But kids’ fears exist in the moment, and between us we have five kids who have had more than their share of scary moments. But we’re OK. (We’re telling ourselves we’re OK… feel free to chime in and agree.)