I arrived late to books. As a kid, I liked Dr. Seuss and Where the Wild Things Are, but I preferred math and science. In middle school, when Pizza Hut's Book It! program enticed kids to read in exchange for pizza, I found ways around the system. In high school, I spent hours digging through my stepfather's LPs or perched in front of a Gateway, learning DOS and BBS. I liked writing code more than writing term papers.
During my senior year, though, The Catcher in the Rye caught me, as it does a lot of young guys in small towns. Suddenly, I loved books, evidenced in part by the forty-eight different versions of Catcher I now own. In college, I devoured ten-pound volumes about the history of modern architecture, material studies, and design theory. Later, in London, during daily ninety-minute bus commutes, I sped through Marshall McLuhan media theory, J.G. Ballard novels, and Dutch design monographs.
Eventually, I began wondering if I could write a book of my own. My children would be so proud, I told myself; I could be the cool dad with his name on the family shelves. These lofty thoughts paralleled the time my first Front Porch article appeared in the INDY in 2009. I was writing about being a stay-at-home-dad. I fell into the rhythm of writing an almost-monthly dispatch for five years. I found inspiration all around—in my city, my kids, my family, and in dads with similar roles.
Did these belong in some single volume, I wondered? I wrote Neal Pollack—author of Alternadad, one of my favorite books about being a dad—for advice. "Treat it like the epic story that it is," he said, "a narrative with a beginning, middle, and at least a stopping point, if not an actual end."
He was right: These pieces announce the birth of my son, Oliver, and the birth of my daughter, Eleanor, three years later. They dig into the emotional woes of having a child diagnosed with cancer and expose the joys of watching World Cup matches, starting grad school, and teaching children to ride bikes and bowl.
I pulled the articles together, named them Dad, Inc., and gave the book—my name on the spine and all—to my wife, Stacy, for Christmas. The ending, turns out, is a new beginning: My son is in first grade, my daughter in day care. I have a new job and am no longer a stay-at-home dad. Even Front Porch has a new name.
No, the book won't be sold in stores, but it means more to me than any code I could ever write.