Reflecting on Brian and Jeremy

Season 1, Episode 6

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We're 4 dads into season 1 of The Dad Bod! Brian, Coach Girl Dad. Jeremy, Ph.D-as-in-Dad. Andrew, Dim Sum Dad. Carlton, Daddys' Boy Dad. Sitting down with these guys to go deep into the hidden drama of fatherhood has been a very rewarding experience. And so, I want to give back some of what I've personally reaped from this experience by starting a series of reflection episodes to go with the interviews, where I share my own reflections on each of the dads that are interviewed for the Dad Bod, beginning with Brian and Jeremy.

First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude to Brian and Jeremy for their immediate willingness to be the first dads on The Dad Bod. Not just willing, but candid to the point of being vulnerable. With their own unique stories, they both delivered on what the Dad Bod is all about.

Starting with Brian, our conversation was 6 months ago and I've thought about it almost every day since. In a way, that's always been part of my dynamic with him. Brian is 6 months older, more athletic, and taller - as a kid, those were the silly things that mattered when you compare yourself to your best friend, so I've always looked up to him and given his words their due consideration and then some. (Note that I did not say he is smarter, funnier, or better looking.)

From our interview specifically, I took a lot from what he shared about coaching his daughters. Even though I've known Brian for basically my entire life, I never realized how serious he was about basketball because he always made it look so easy when we were kids. And because I grew up watching Brian excel at basketball, it was eye opening to see him describe defeat, struggle, and waiting when it came to his daughter’s basketball journey. Thanks to his openness, I've become much more aware of the hidden timelines that I have subconsciously drawn up for my own kids, and like Brian, I'm trying my best to be patient, focusing less on how quickly they're making progress and more on just being really committed to them through support, guidance, and vision.

Another thing that I want to mention about my interview with Brian is how grateful I am for my friendship with him. Friendship is one of those things at our stage in life that is both really important and hard to do. It's really important because we all have a lot going on, which comes with a good deal of stress and pressure, and so a lot of times, we end up getting stuck in our own heads. Also due to the fact that we have a lot going on, friendship is hard to pull off. It's hard to make time and, like anything else, when you don't do it for a while, you get rusty, so trying to find a friend or grow a friendship can be awkward. Adding to this is the fact that we're all focused on our own families (as we should be), operating in our own lane, where our role is to answer, fix, and solve - as if we aren't disinclined enough already to being vulnerable. To all of this, a good friendship is the goal and the antidote. Although I just described a bunch of things about fatherhood that make friendship inherently challenging, my hope for friendship within fatherhood is that, rather than isolating us, it could be a shared experience - with all its ups and downs - that brings us closer together.

I've also thought a ton about what Jeremy shared in his interview. Right off the bat in our conversation, Jeremy opened up, going into his childhood and discussing his parents. For me, the thing that stood out the most in this part of our conversation was the full range of consideration that he gives to his parents. He's critical of their flaws and yet recognizes the challenges they were facing. He wishes they did more and better but also sees how he too struggles to do more and better.

Jeremy also shared about a recent development in his life, his pursuit of a Math Ph.D. This part of Jeremy's story exhibits a couple really interesting things about fatherhood. First, that we have been made better as men by our experience as dads. We are much better managers of our time because we have a lot more to manage than before we had kids, and we are better learners because we are actively teaching our kids how to learn. Second, yes, we are dads first and foremost, but we're also still grown-up boys who want the thrills of discovery and growth. Easier said than done, but I’m rooting for my fellow dad Jeremy: that the pursuit of a Math Ph.D will prove to be a new variable that creates a greater, more complete balance in his equation of life as a dad and as a man.

Last but not least, I want to reflect on the wisdom and perspective that Jeremy shared from his experience with the piano. Although I, too, played the piano for the better part of my childhood and adolescence, I would not put myself anywhere near the level of someone like Jeremy, who has dedicated himself to and reached a level of mastery with the piano to identify himself and be identified by others as a pianist. Titles like "pianist" are interesting because they convey a literal merging of oneself with a practice. Once upon a time, there was a piano and there was Jeremy, and then at some point, Jeremy the Pianist was born. A key marker of this having happened to a person is that the practice with which they have merged becomes a powerful metaphor for life. Such is the case with the piano for Jeremy. I highly recommend listening to this third act of the Jeremy episode and pondering his experience for yourself, but here's what I took away, boiled down to two simple lessons: Lesson number 1: slow down, as slow you need in order to have full awareness of what you're doing and to make sure you're doing it the right way. Lesson number 2: trust yourself to put it all together. Simple and profound, these lessons are challenging to follow because the grown up boy in all of us wants very badly to fly as far and as fast as he can. So how did Jeremy manage to learn these lessons from the piano, at a point when he was years removed from his most serious piano playing days? Again, you should listen to Jeremy's story and draw your own conclusions, but to me, the key thing that happened to Jeremy the Pianist was that he became Jeremy the Dad. The proof? Life, having benefited from piano's powerful metaphors, is starting to return the favor, with fatherhood serving as a powerful metaphor for the piano. In the interview, when I ask Jeremy how he puts the technical, soulful, and musical together to create something ineffable at the piano, he explains beautifully how the pressing of a key can be soulful, and how a strong connection with his body enables him to transition smoothly between playing technically and playing musically. It's a wonderful explanation rooted in musicianship, but his final, conclusive point that brings it all together comes straight from fatherhood. "It's just about caring," he says. "Caring about different things, but it's no different than caring about Oliver, and then caring about Simon, and then caring about Michelle. They're all people I care about and they all need different things." Jeremy the Pianist finally learned to put it all together at the piano because Jeremy the Dad showed him what it means to care about everything.