The Biscayne Times

Feb 22nd
The Other F Word PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stuart Sheldon, BT Contributor   
February 2018

Fatherhood is going in, and finding home

LPix_FamilyMatters_2-18_1ate one morning, long before children, I sat on the edge of a New Orleans hotel bed and exhaled audibly. Soft light filtered through the magnolia outside my window, while inside my skull, a spicy Jazz Fest bisque of bourbon and psychotropics simmered from the night before.

I bent down and tied my first shoe, and it wasn’t until I’d finished tying my second that I realized I wasn’t wearing pants. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

In the brilliant documentary The Other F Word, aging punk rockers like Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “transition into parents and try to maintain the contrast between their anti-authoritarian lifestyle with the responsibilities of fatherhood.” Mosh pits and trashed tour buses give way to mashed peas and “Wheels on the Bus.”

I’m no punk rocker, but since Day One, growing up in Miami, I partied hard. With last call at 5:00 a.m., I can’t tell you how many nights we’d exit a bar into daylight, wincing, withering vampires. This unfettered madness continued into my 20s and 30s, from countless New Year’s Grateful Dead shows to midnight trance raves in Cape Town forests. From surf camping deep into Baja in a full-on hurricane to sleeping on roofs in outlying Greek isles. The wilder and more off the grid, the better.

Go big or go home!

A few months after our first son was born, I stood in my terrycloth robe watering the Meyer lemon tree in front of our Sausalito houseboat. A friendly neighbor with a five-year-old walked past, his handsome face beaming through a dark Argentine beard. “Haven’t seen you lately,” he said. I smiled through bloodshot eyes and shrugged my shoulders. “We haven’t been out much,” I said. Without missing a beat, he added, “That’s because you’re going in.”

My kids are now eight and ten, and we’ve definitely gone in. Our lives revolve around them, and I cherish every soccer practice, every game of Marco Polo. And the further in we go, the more I recognize these countless and random moments of in-ness to be as potent as scuba diving in Bora Bora or biking naked through Burning Man.

Back in the day, had you invited me to something as institutional as Club Med or, God forbid, a Disney cruise, I’d have politely refused. Now, with kids camp and all-day activities baked in, I dream about Disney cruises to Club Med.

A few years back, with our boys and a gaggle of young nieces and nephews, my wife and I boarded our first Disney excursion. As expected, our kids darted happily through a sea of Goofys, Minnies, and Caribbean pirates, finding their greatest joy in the see-through water slide and massive room full of video games (though, at age three, my oldest was so absolutely mad about princesses that he insisted on being Cinderella for Halloween, something which, to this day, brings me untold joy).

As we got our sea legs and cased the ship, what interested me most were the other parents. For no matter what they were doing, where they were from, how old, young, rich or poor, each was going in. And in so doing, they all exposed their raw humanity.

The big tatted-up dad was poetry, smearing sunscreen on his little girl’s pale body, being ever so gentle around the neck and face. As was the tall, sinewy black man on one knee, listening with wide, engaged eyes, to his little boy bounce on tiptoes and recount an actual encounter with Buzz Lightyear. Ditto the manicured blonde finally getting a moment to relax on a chaise, grinning through Tom Ford sunnies ever so gratefully, as she observed her twins giggle and splash across the pool.

Often, when I’m at an adults-only event, fancy cocktail in hand, I secretly wish my kids were with me, belting out the lyrics to the Hamilton soundtrack, which we’ve been listening to nonstop of late.

Or inventing games like soccer-tennis in the street outside our home. Or making up dumb jokes: Which car can fly? A Honda Pilot! (compliments of my youngest). It’s not that I’ve lost my taste for madcap missioning. I just returned from a surf trip to Costa Rica with surf buddies. I’m just equally, if not more, ecstatic to be adventuring with my pint-size wingmen.

As an older dad, I jammed in four decades’ worth of mischief and left few stones unturned before the children arrived. Now I want to ride the wanderlust train with them. See the madness through their eyes. Offer just enough guidance to keep them from going off the cliff. So that after we go big, we can go home.


Stuart Sheldon is an artist, author, and Miami native. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram at @stuart_sheldon and subscribe to his Fancy Nasty blog at

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