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Archive for June, 2008

Heading off for a few days – spending some time on the Island with Megan’s folks. That is likely to mean nothing new up here til sometime next week. Likely, though, by then there will be stories to tell.

This morning, before we catch the boat, I’m off to day three of collaborative divorce. Since both previous sessions resulted in posts, I imagine this, too, will bring something in its wake. As, of course, will this first extended visit with Meg’s family.

For now, kids are off school, work slows down, sun shines and summer begins.

It’s gonna be a full one. Meg’s family now, my family later. A trip to Kingston and New York with Mica, a multi-day wedding, our second show at the Worker’s Cabaret, and a trip to Quebec City with Megan. On the home front, new living arrangements as my ex moves out, I move into the upstairs and search for renters for my suite. And though I should get lots of time off, I will be bargaining a first Collective Agreement at work, and seeing whether someone turns up to take my old job. And of course we’ll have lots of swimming, picnics, gelato and more as Meg and Mica get to know each other better.

Yes, lots planned this year, and I expect llife will look pretty different at the end of the season.

I’ll be back in a few days, but til then, if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the latest at Viaduct – skipping the restaurant reviews, as promised, and covering instead a little bit of East Van resistance history.

Happy sunshine!

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I had first read Marx in 1988, as I discovered a three volume collection in a Harare bookstore. For years I struggled to find it interesting as reading – I was fairly sure I grasped the basics, I was fairly sure I was a believer, but I felt distinctly inadequate when I tried to explain the politics to friends and classmates the way the books did – by recitation of the equations in Capital.

Then in 1995 I learned to read Capital in a different way, starting at the end. I don’t remember who recommended it but I’ll never forget the point – “It’s the only way it makes sense, and the only way to get through it”. I began to read, starting with the chapter on primitive accumulation, and moving to the economic theory only after thoroughly absorbing myself in the history. The result was a Marx I’d never read before, a Marx I’d never been taught before. And it was alive. Against the scholarly Marx, against the philosophical Marx, against the economic Marx, against the endless debates about Hegel – here was a text about theft and murder, about conquest and resistance, about relationships and struggles, about hope and possibility. Here was a text about the making of work, the making of workers, and an always-already communism which had nothing to do with statehood and economic policy, and everything to do with desire, with the process of organizing and the act of resistance, with defending and enlarging spaces of non-work. Here was a text with blood and dirt on its hands, a text not about mudslinging between Eurocommunists, Trotskyists and Stalinists, but which instead drew lines of relationship from conquest to slaving to enclosure to factory to surveillance and opening the door to Foucault and the panopticon. And always about something more, about relationships of resistance and desire.

And so I was hosting a reading-group on Capital one night, sipping wine and talking politics and Marx and post-structuralism, when one of the participants – she exploring the politics and desire of gender-play and queerdom – encouraged me to take a step along those paths of relationship and desire. And me, up to this moment prudish and puritanical and nodding my assent to the Catholic voices in my head screaming monogamy monogamy monogamy – I was terrified and excited, and I jumped into this other world of sex and drag and identity and play and smut and, yes, theory.

Fast forward awhile and I was reading Pat Califia on public sex, Shannon Bell on Bakhtin and whoring, Carol Queen on peepshows and pomosexuality. I was learning how to say fuck and mean it. I was learning that lives are strands of relationship, messy and broken and tangled, and that the living is in the negotiation of that maze. Every conversation, every touch, every moment of desire or jealousy – I was learning this is the stuff relationship is made of. And I was thinking it’s not so different whether fucking or working or organizing a Cuba-solidarity rally.

Marx and sex and revolution and partnership. At the end of the day, what we are doing is trying to build new kinds of relationships – relationships that are founded on greater freedom, greater desire, greater possibility.

But that doesn’t mean selfishness. It doesn’t mean an excuse to screw people over. It doesn’t mean carte blanche to do whatever the fuck you feel like without consequence. It doesn’t mean any of this, though sadly there are far too many self-professed radicals who use this ‘freedom’ language to do precisely that.

No, it doesn’t mean selfishness. The opposite in fact. It means openness about desire, it means making decisions about one’s own actions based not on prescribed rules or limitations, but on how those actions impact loved ones and the community more broadly. It means play is good, and possibility is good, and leisure and desire are good. But not at any cost.

I have known far too many people who’ve slipped on that line, not because they’re weak, not because they’re assholes, but just because it’s really fucking hard to hold freedom and commitment, honesty and jealousy, desire and fear in balance. Indeed, I’ve spent most of my adult life around people who are trying to strike that balance, but I can count on one hand the number of these relationships that have what I’d call long-term success. Worth trying? Sure. But really really fucking hard.

I’m writing about this for two reasons. One, it seemed to flow pretty naturally from my post yesterday. But more importantly, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a loving relationship looks like, as I am finding with Meg both a greater commitment and a greater encouragement of desire than I have felt before. I’ve done open relationships where the boundaries shift and change depending on moods, where that “freedom” is more about self-absorption than about really re-defining love, where limitless desire is defined against one’s partner rather than with her or him. And those are not satisfying. They don’t strengthen love. They don’t foster safety and trust. They hurt. They break partnerships rather than building them. I’m not interested anymore in that game. Meg’s not interested anymore in that game.

So, where do we go, then, radicals committed to new relationships, relationships without rules or restrictions, but which also encourage closeness and intimacy? How do we negotiate the maze of fear and jealousy and desire and possibility? Well, I don’t know. But I think a good part of the answer is right in the question – we negotiate the maze. We talk, we share, we explore those various paths together.

And we make damn sure that we don’t each take off in separate directions fooling ourselves that somehow we’ll both get back to the middle together.

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In 1973 my parents returned to BC from a two-year CUSO stint in Nigeria, three young boys in tow. In one step up from the lumber mills of Vancouver Island, my dad found work in Kitimat, working a white collar job for a  major mining company. My mom jumped into political work on Africa, beginning with the community she knew best – the Catholic Church.

 

We didn’t last long in Kitimat. Mom wrangled an opportunity to speak at the church about our experiences in Africa, and closed off with a statement to the effect that the church was the whore of imperialism. In her view, this was just good Christianity; but the congregation, and the local church leadership, evidently took a different view. The Greens left town.

 

We didn’t, however, leave the church. For the next 15 years, mom and dad worked and organized through Catholic networks to foster what became widely known in the 80s as liberation theology. This was anti-capitalist, anti-racist, feminist work. This made common cause with revolutionaries in Latin America, Africa, southeast Asia. This was a church with close links to armed resistance movements. It was a church that took seriously the Christian command to be among the poor. But if it was revolutionary movement, it was one built on the Church, with a strict moral code, disdain for meaningless pleasure-seeking, and within which the greatest were those who articulated no desires, no needs, but submitted every moment and every day to service, and – ultimately – who died for their comrades.

 

But the church-based activists were not alone in their articulation of revolution as duty, as a dour activity of sacrifice and self-denial. A long-standing communist tradition articulated similar values, condemning the self-indulgence of drink, drugs, leisure, sex. No rest til the revolution was a motto equally shared by Catholics and Communists in this struggle.

 

I recall finding a copy of Jerry Rubin’s Do It! on my parents’ bookshelf sometime in the mid 1980s. I was appalled by the anarchy and depravity, by the idea that these white kids somehow thought they could make a revolution without hard work, somehow thought that sex and booze and sleep and music constitute some anti-capitalist potential. I scoffed, I dismissed, and I turned my disdain on every kid in my highschool who got stoned at lunch – quietly condemning them as petit-bourgeois party-makers whose indulgence was paid for by those in Guatemala, Salvador, the Phillipines and Angola who were too busy fighting to worry about when they’d next get laid.

 

But something stayed with me from Do It!, and if I never really bought the Yippies wholesale, I certainly retained some sense that that period of time – 1968–1973 – was important. Across continents, across sectors of populaton, across ideologies, this five-year period witnessed an incredible explosion of struggle, debate, experimentation, creativity, in which conservatism was as much a feature of left parties and trade unions as it was of the Nixons, Goldwaters and Kissingers.

 

The turning-point for me was ‘work’ vs ‘zerowork’. In the post-cold-war world, as I was determined to hold the line against class-neutral post-modernisms, I found that few of the old left publishing-houses still had anything to say, and the bulk of academic work on marxism consisted of confessionals from former believers and left versions of Thatcher’s ‘there is no alternative’. Stunned at the ease with which old Marxists jumped ship, I joined up with an eclectic reading group of SFU faculty and graduate students who were exploring a post-socialist class theory. Mike was the most orthodox of the bunch, but willing to read and debate marginal traditions so long as they didn’t cross the bounds into anarchism. Julian, Dorothy and Bob had more libertarian communist backgrounds, and brought forward literature from the Situationists and certain critical post-structuralists – Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault. And Conrad, who offered the meeting space and coffee for these gatherings, fed us on old mimeographed broadsheets poorly-translated from the Italian, CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaya.

 

For two years we read and debated and discussed. I re-read my Marx, and thought about the centrality of labour rather than specific forms of property. I followed the critique of development as a concept, and the anti-growth, anti-economy writings of radical ecologists. I explored the repressive history of socialism, from Krondstadt sailors to North Korean schools. i examined the Sino-Soviet split, the Stalin-Trotsky war, the fracturing of the European communist parties after 1968. And I began my MA research on Cuba, attempting to make sense of that county’s socialism from two distinct perspectives – a pragmatic, distribution-based analysis, and another more deconstructive approach, which looked at strategies for social order and technologies for labour discipline.

 

And it suddenly made sense to me what I’d heard from my friend Athene when we studied together in Cuba – how that revolution makes socialists of anarchists, and anarchists of socialists. And as I returned to that island to conduct interviews for my thesis, I left my University of Havana guest housing for a bed with a cleaning woman and sometime black-marketeer. And instead of speaking of western imperialism to Communist Party representatives, I spoke about the contradiction between equality and tourist-only zones with heavy-metal kids in Havana suburbs. And instead of going to the official film festival, I drank rum and danced with drag-queens and practitioners of african magic in loud, cramped dance-halls.

 

And piece by piece, as Cubans taught me that the work of socialism requires that on occasion one gets a little lit up and flirts or fucks; and as trannies taught me that crossing the boundaries is important and a new generation of revolutionary and playful feminists advised I get out of the books and dance, I began to see the relationship between Jerry Rubin and the disintegration of the left – cause even if those Yippies were just spoiled white kids looking for thrills, could I honestly say I was any different? And who wants a revolution just to work more? Isn’t the whole point to dismantle this imposed labour, this growth-economy? And whose interest does restraint really serve, anyway?

 

Celebration and play were starting to look real revolutionary. And if the 1868-1973 rebellions didn’t leave us books and books on a new revolutionary theory, they did leave us something even more important – a lesson in play, which carried within it a complete re-thinking of social analysis, of organization, of resistance, of revolution, and of power.

 

Don’t know exactly why I’m thinking of all this today. Most likely it has something to do with Chris, a dear dear friend of mine who lives on the other side of the country, but who just dropped me an email about a radical gathering in the US where he finally met the Conrad I have so often spoken about. Likely it’s also cause as I’ve been singing with Megan I’ve been thinking alot about Phil Ochs – post on him one day soon – who together with Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman tried to run a pig for president and was arrested at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Then again, maybe it’s just cause things pop up every now and then. Really, doesn’t matter why. I’m just thinking – thinking of history, thinking of the left, thinking of struggle, thinking of what freedom means.

 

I’ll end with this image of that time in struggle, from Len Bracken’s Guy Debord, Revolutionary:

 

One truly amazing aspect of May ’68 was the way the protest encircled the globe: Saturday May 11, 50,000 students and workers marched on Bonn, and 3,000 protesters in Rome; on May 14, students occupied the University of Milan; a sit-in at the University of Miami on May 15; scuffles at a college in Florence on May 16; a red flag flew for three hours at the University of Madrid on the 17th; and the same day, 200 black students occupied the administration buildings of Dower University; on May 18 protests flared up in Rome, and more in Madrid where barricades and clashes with the police occurred; on May 19, students in Berkeley were arrested; a student protest in New York; an attack on an ROTC center in Baltimore – the old world seemed to be on the ropes.
On May 20, Brooklyn College was occupied by blacks, and occupations took place the next day at the University of West Berlin. On May 22, police broke through barricades at Columbia University. The University of Frankfurt and the University of Santiago were occupied on May 24. Protests in Vancouver and London in front of the French Embassy on May 25. On Monday May 27, university and high school students went on strike in Dakar. Protests by peasants in Belgium on May 28. On May 30, students in Munich protested, as did students in Vienna the next day. On June 1, protests spread to Denmark and Buenos Aires. The next day the Yugoslav insurrection began. In Brasil, 16,000 students went on strike on June 6, followed by a large protest march in Geneva for democratization of the university. Even in Turkey, 20,000 students occupied the universities in Ankara and other cities. The chronology just keeps going as occupations, protests, scandals and barricades continued throughout the summer in Tokyo, Osaka, Zurich, Rio, Rome, Montevideo, Bangkok, Dusseldorf, Mexico City, Saigon, Cochabamba, La Paz, South Africa, Indonesia, Chicago, Venice, Montreal, Auckland.

Yeah. That’s worth thinking about every now and then.

 

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Well it’s finally feeling like summer.

Yesterday I went swimming with Mica, and had a blast playing in the pool, then a just plain lovely afternoon and evening.

Megan came down and met Mica and I at a bike rental place, and we rode around the seawall together, enjoying the air and sun despite the regular dodging of other bikers and roller-bladers. A picnic on the beach with some sourdough, tapenade, camembert and fruit, and card-games in the grass alongside Lost Lagoon.

By 6:30 Mica was beat. I was beat. Meg was beat. None of us, however, too tired for a gelato before calling it a night.  It was a great start to the summer, and left me very aware of how much I love my two girls.

Megan and I generally try to touch base after these family-type outings, to check in on how things are working for all of us. And one of the things we chatted about last night was how much pressure this whole process involves, not because our interactions are difficult, not because there are any problems to speak of, but simply because these are outings with expectation. Simply because we are all very aware that these family dates are an introduction to something much bigger and much longer-lasting.

Last night, Meg used the term courtship to describe her relationship-building with Mica, and I’ve been thinking about how apt that really is. We are not just hanging out, two people one of whom happens to have a kid to be included. We are looking forward to our life as a couple, and knowing that that means our life as a family with a child. And that means that these times together are already, from the beginning, the start of family. And that means that these times, already, have an added stress to them.

Courtship captures that time of feeling one another out, finding places of commonality, building comfort and safety, and deciding what kind of relationship one wants. It’s a time of putting your best foot forward, of flirtation to enourage attraction and build interest. All of that is going on here, with all the same kinds of attentiveness one brings to romantic courtship. But it’s not the same as dating.

Megan and I are together, and we are building something. So Mica and Meg don’t have the luxury in this of deciding they don’t want a relationship together. In that regard, this is a courtship with some serious push behind it – a getting-to-know-you because we’re making a life rather than a getting-to-know-you in order to decide whether we want to make a life. And that really is a huge fucking difference.

As we talked through courtship last night, we ended somewhere else – at the notion of the arranged marriage as the closest analogy we could find. That is, this is a courtship in which the end is already pre-determined. How we come to know one another as family, how we live together, how each person loves the other, how we balance competing needs — these are all unknowns, and will come with the building. But the framework for family is always-already there, and we all know it somehow. It’s not about “ifs”, but about “hows”.

Megan and I have some language for it, Mica doesn’t. But it’s clear that she, too, knows there is something bigger here than just a day with one of dad’s friends. And it’s clear that she’s courting, too, from her efforts to keep a smile on exhaustion, to keep Megan up to date on happenings in her life, to sometimes walk next to her rather than next to me. I can’t imagine what it’s like for this ten-year-old kid, and I can’t imagine the pressures she must be feeling. But there is no question that she’s aware, too, that this is a process we are all in togerher, and something that takes effort.

Everyone is stepping forward here into an unknown world, aware as well that it’s a world we can’t really come back from. Not a random dating, but a courtship with a family already waiting to be made. Not a travelling, but an emigration. And at least for Megan and for Mica, it’s a paraphrase of Marx: “We make our own family, but not out of conditions of our own choosing.”

As we rode our bikes through Stanley Park’s trails yesterday, I found myself singing that old ditty:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.

I’m half-crazy over the love of you.

It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage.

But you’d look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.

At the time, I thought I was singing it just because we were riding. It was only later that evening – when Meg referred to her and Mica’s relationship as a courtship, and we talked about the analogies with dating and with arranged marriages – that I realized I’d been aware of something much more. I was singing a courting song. I was singing a family song.

Courtship. Not a playing of the field but a focused and active intent to build something lasting. Arranged marriage. Which doesn’t mean loveless or cold or imposed, but does mean something built around pre-existing conditions, expectations and plans, in which the love grows out from the family. I am finding today that these are good analogies.

And I’m finding today that I’m still singing that same little song.

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Meg had a crazy day yesterday, with several speaking engagements for her union, and then our little song-fest as part of the monthly Workers’ Cabaret held at the The End.

Didn’t get to see all of Meg’s talks, but I was around for some, playing the political wife role – look pretty, be charming, make small talk and generally adore her. Really, not a bad role. In fact, I quite enjoy it, as the circles she travels in are circles that I am conversant with and can engage with myself. Ends up being more fun for me, probably, than for her – I just have to eat, drink beer, talk work and weather and news and whatever else, and bask in her glory. No, not a bad role at all!

We were talking about this yesterday – the whole political wife thing. And in particular how that can be a dreadful place to be when one is really out of one’s element, or has to live that position all day every day. In our case, however, we share the role, alternating between my events and hers, taking turns being the introduced and the introducer, the supporter and the supported. And that’s good all around, cause as much as it would suck to always be the tag-along, it sucks equally to always be performing. Shared background, shared spotlight. It’s working for us.

Shared spotlight. That’s where the evening ends, as we wander into The End with guitar, violin and song-sheets to get up on our first stage together. Now, Meg’s done alot of this public performance thing, and for crowds a whole lots bigger than this one. Me, I mostly play and sing at home alone or with one or two friends. So while we’re both nervous, Meg at least has some sense of what to expect, and how to handle those nerves on the stage. Me not so much. What’s more, I’ve never sung into a microphone before, and have no idea what is the appropriate distance to place myself from the mic. So I just guess. Wrong.

Really, it was OK. We played pretty well, we got through all our stuff, we were more or less in tune and actually did some quite nice harmonizing in places. But my performance aspect needs some work – gottta get closer to the mic, as my voice was not consistently well-enough projected. And I need to get used to the stage thing, and get comfortable there. Afraid I’d just be making moony-eyes at Megan, I didn’t look at her at all, instead just standing, looking above the audience and trying my best to block everyone out. The result? Those nerves of mine were well on-display for all to see. So, comfort needs some work. But that, I understand, is something that can only come with time.

So, I sing kinda quiet and need to get to know the microphone. I feel nervous and look nervous, and need some strategies to deal with that. We need to swtich spots on the stage so we are better-positioned to see and hear one another, interact a bit up there and show people that we’re having fun. But other than those, which seem to me to be all completely-manageable weaknesses, and ones that are bound to get better with subsequent shows, it was a good first outing, and we’re planning to be back next month with some new songs.

Our set-list and song details for anyone interested:

Behind the Barricades by David Rovics – Meg singing a capella.  Gorgeously, I might add; I fucking love listening to her do this song.

Little Buffalo by Fred Eaglesmith – me on guitar and vocals, Megan on violin. I am told I was a bit fast on the tempo with this, so we’ll watch that in the future.

Oregon Landslide by Jim Page – me on guitar, Meg on vocals. A nice piece, and one that’s hard to get evenly-paced, but Meg pulled it off.

Between the Wars by Billy Bragg – me on guitar and vocals, Meg on violin. Can be a great one when we are on, but I think my unfamiliarity with the microphone really was noticeable on this.

Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash – me on guitar, both singing alternating verses. This is so much fun to do together – just need to show that energy to the audience.

I Ain’t Got No Home by Woody Guthrie – me on guitar, singing together and harmonizing a bit. We do this quite nicely, and I think it worked fairly well for us.

Steve’s Hammer by Steve Earle – me on guitar, singing together and harmonizing a bit. A great song, and one that really deserves to be a labour standard. Went OK, aside from a brief screw-up on my guitar chords toward the end. We’ll keep this one in the mix, doing our bit to get it out and known as it should be.

A good set, actually. A mix of fast and slow, explicit and implicit politics, old and new. Great songs, all of them, and we manage to bring in enough variation in the hows of our performance to keep it all interesting.

I’m already excited about July’s show, and can’t wait to sit down and put together set-list number two.

 

 

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Little People

A few months ago, as I walked home from school with my daughter, Mica, she told me that her class had spent part of the day on strike. They made signs, they walked out, they petitioned the teacher. Well, as we got into the substance of the issues, my sympathies vanished pretty quickly – essentially the teacher interfered in a play the kids were doing because there were a few children pretty much excluded, and she insisted it be re-written so the roles could be shared.

Still, the kids struck, and that was cool. It was cool, for one, because they had a sense that collective action is a strategy for addressing grievances. And it was cool, two, that this group of ten-years olds would use the word “strike” to define their stand – after a couple fo decades of pretty persistent and widespread union-bashing, it’s good to know the concept is resonating with a new generation.

So today, as I sit nursing a head busted-open in the shower, I see two stories on the rights of kids.

Here, I find a story on corporal punishment, as a bill to criminalize spanking makes its way through the Senate.

And then, immediately following, is this, news out of Quebec that the courts have over-turned a father’s grounding of a child as excessive discipline.

Wow. This is big stuff. I’m totally behind the ban on spanking – whatever my general feelings towards state-imposed solutions to social problems, it seems reasonable to me that the law is consistent when it comes to violence. It just ain’t accepted, period. The grounding ruling? I’m more intrigued than anything else. I mean, on the one hand this just seems a silly thing to be in the courts, and it really seems that the divorced-parents are using the kid as a battle-ground here. Be that as it may, though, the fact that the courts are willing to extend the concept of excessive discipline to parents’ treatment of kids is really quite interesting.

Kids are in a strage legal place. In my own divorce proceedings, we’ve been going over notions of guardianship and custody, and I’m struck by how explciitly the law treats children as property of their legal guardians. Whatever the politically-correct language we use, kids are owned, legally, like pets or homes or furniture. Lay that against this ruling, which suggests that the courts might treat kids as persons, with rights to basic fairness, and we see the potential for a major legal question – can the concept of guardianship as ownership stand as is? Or does guardianship become re-defined as a stewardship, with a right to exert authority only where that authority is exercised reasonably?

It’s not unlike the situation with workers. Technically, the law still begins from one place – something called – yes, this is real – the master-slave relationship. The master has rights, the slave does not. If the master doesn’t explicitly give up a right, it remains. Now, certainly over time we’ve developed a legal regime to moderate that somewhat – through unions, of course, and more generally through the principle of reasonableness. The boss can make decisions, the boss can dictate the terms of work, but there is always at least the possibility of appeal to a third party to determine if that authority is exercised unreasonably.

Should that same principle apply to children? Are we treating kids as belonging to their parents, or as independent beings in their own right? If the latter, at what age does that kick in, or do we say it is inherent? And who has the right to raise a reasonableness complaint on the behalf of a child? Only a legal guardian? Anyone? Where’s the line here?

Questions, questions. I’m certainly inclined to think that kids should be persons under the law. But the propsect does raise issues that are not easy to grapple with. And in my own parenting, I am very aware, there are times that I exercise authority while being sure my daughter thinks I do so unreasonably.

But interesting news, nonetheless. Me, I’ll continue pondering, and perhaps as my headwound heals my thinking will get a bit clearer.

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I try to be a good dad most of the time. And sometimes I think I do a pretty decent job by comparison, until I remember how low a standard that is, given the only-slowly-changing expectations of fathers in this society. But I always know that I can do better.

Mica and I were very very close when she was little, and while that changes over time for pretty natural reasons, I am very aware these days that the parent-child relationship needs daily work like any other. Father’s Day this year brought that to the fore of my consciousness in a very real way – not simply as an abstract thought, but as a real challenge and as a priority for me.

Here’s the short synopsis:

Morning-time, we have brunch, Mica gives me a beautiful painting she’s done on a ceramic sheet – a paino, her instrument, and a guitar, which is mine. It’s gorgeous and warm outside, and she wants an afternoon at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, where she can go off the high diving boards. But it’s also Car-Free Day, so there’s a bit of a festival-thing happening on the Drive. Meg’s working her union booth there, and some other friends are doing an anti-Olympics thing, so I think that before the pool we might stop down, take a poke around, hear some music and check out the community.

I should know better than to expect much from these kinds of things. There’s music and costumes, for sure, and we have some fun making an anti-Olympics banner together. But the whole thing is dominated by commercial stalls, so there’s really not much to engage with that’s just fun, especially for a kid who at ten is too old for most of the kids-oriented stuff and too young for the people-watching and chatting that entertains adults. So, Mica’s kinda not into it, and we go to say hi to Meg.

A short visit – twenty minutes or so, and both Meg and I can tell there’s something off. Maybe it’s the crowds, the heat or boredom. Maybe Mica really just wanted the whole day alone with me, and is feeling a little disappointed that I’m talking to Megan for a while. Most likely a combination of all this. But something is clearly not right, cause usually she’s really engaged and vibrant, and today she’s just sitting in the grass, staying a few feet away from us, and saying very little at all.

So, Mica and I take off pretty quick, and make our way down to swimming. Wow, what a difference. As soon as we’re in the pool, tossing a ball and chasing each other about, she comes alive in a way that I haven’t seen for awhile, giving us several hours of fun, laughing, playing time in which I think both of us felt this was the best place in the world we could be. It’s hard to explain what that’s like, those times that are just so perfect, in which parent and child are just so so in love with each other.

I miss them, though. I realize that as Mica has gotten older, there have been less of those – not because we don’t still have that between us. But because as kids become more self-sufficient, parents have a tendency to step back a bit. Because kids themselves are doing some self-actualizing, and coming to understand themselves as autonomous individuals. Because school and lessons and play-dates and birthday parties consume more and more of family life.

Father’s Day, then, was an interesting mix of some real joy with twinges of sadness. And it’s brought in its wake alot of reflection:

– my own reflection on Mica and my relationship with her;

– talks with Meg about the hows and whens of our time together with Mica, and how we both reacted to noticing Mica’s real disinclination to engage with us as a couple on Father’s Day, even for a few minutes;

– thoughts about Mica’s mom moving out, and the separation agreement we’re writing up, and how the next year of change will be for all of us;

– and imaginings about family and community into the future, and what that looks like as Meg and I move forward and Mica and I move forward, and Meg and Mica develop their own relationship.

It’s lots to consider, and lots to deal with sometimes. Scary. Overwhelming. But y’know, that pool time together, that laughter and closeness and play we had, that really can and does serve to re-focus attention, to shake off the work of life and remember all the very best things about being a dad. I miss that alot. Work and school and cooking and shopping and cleaning house and lessons and so on — it’s so fucking easy to let that become life, and to think, “ah well, she’s entertained so I can get X Y or Z done.” But really, those moments of real engagement and just one on one parent-child love time, those really do, in the end, nurture and sustain and energize. Those really do, in the end, make all the slogging-through seem more do-able and more worth it. Those really are the moments that matter.

More play. More straight-ahead, one on one, just hanging out time. If I can do one thing this summer, it’ll be make space and energy for that. I love this kid so fucking much. We both deserve time to remember that, and to feel absolutely nothing else.

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