Guest Post

Guest Post- “They Didn’t Stay Kids” by Peter Neal

July 16, 2015

“They didn’t fight, they stayed kids”

-Tommy Shelby


My beautiful wife and I watch a lot of TV together. We just finished Honorable Woman; before that, Catastrophe; before that, Luther and Sherlock Holmes (with my man Benny Cumberbatch!). Breaking Bad was in there. Basically all the fancy TV made for fancy people like us.

Peaky Blinders

At some point it was Peaky Blinders. Which is a wonderful show. It contains the line “They didn’t fight, they stayed kids.” Out of context, it’s a beautifully written moment about how the easiest way to fight growing up is to never throw a punch. It’s not what you do. It’s how you see what you do. In context, Tommy Shelby is talking about young British men coming home from World War 1. Those who went to war came home at 21, 22, 23, but they weren’t kids anymore.


For me it felt easy to stay young. I drank beer and vodka and yelled unrequested opinions about Sufjan Stevens Illinoise and the 2004 election. It was a state of being. Perhaps a state of being that I understood and maybe was good at. I was a kid from Eastern Oregon who moved to a big East Coast city and reveled in the contrast of those things.


I am not a kid any more. I am 36, married, with a mortgage, a retreating hairline and a soft dad bod. I don’t understand my kid. I get frustrated and overwhelmed. I also have 2 very consuming full-time jobs. One as an account manager at a middling paper company in Northeast Pennsylvania. And the other as a father. Waking up with a hangover is no longer a badge of honor. It’s a goddamn curse that might last 36 hours. No matter how many delicious beers I drink, my DS is going to wake up and wonder if he can have waffles with whipped cream.


People tell you about how you will love your child like you have never loved anything. Which is true. People tell you won’t sleep. Which is true. Although our son now sleeps 11 hours most nights and wakes up at 8am. (I still wake up feeling tired.)


What people seem to forget to mention is how hard and consuming it can be. On Monday our little 3 year-old ball of energy ran full speed into the refrigerator. And my first thought was, “We are going to miss the bus.”


Meanwhile, while picking up take out last weekend, I listened to 2 bartenders drink whiskey and debate True Detective. It looked like a fantasy camp I wanted to sign up for. Who has the time to sit around Bunk Bar, drink Old Fashioneds and debate the new Yellow King?


In my darkest moments, I think I am awful at both of my jobs. It is in those moments of darkness that I feel my least prepared. Like if I would have read more daddy books or discovered the Good Dad podcast earlier then I would be better at this. That simply isn’t the reality. Kids are hard.


Kids are also wonderful and amazing. My son recently described his affection for his Uncle by saying “I love Uncle Kimmy from here to here.” He was stretching his tiny arms as wide as they could go. It was the biggest gesture he could make and it described his love for a man who is not technically his Uncle.


In those moments my nostalgia for my own youth washes away.


Peter is a great guy, and I feel lucky to know him and his lovely family. For more random musings from this man who is married, with a mortgage, a retreating hairline and a soft dad bod, read his blog Bird Under Rocks.

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  • Reply RJ Licata July 17, 2015 at 7:07 am

    I always say “it doesn’t matter what time I go to bed, the kids wake up at the same time — one hour before dawn.” I think most of us feel the same way you do…overwhelmed at times, concerned we’re screwing our kids up and generally like we can’t get our feet underneath us long enough to plan anything further out than the next meal. I also believe (because I’ve seen it in my own life) that the kids will continue to grow and mature and independence will take over their neediness. They will insist on doing it on their own, and though they may spill some milk in the process, they will eventually take that task off your plate. One day we’ll all want to help them more than they’ll let us, because you’re right — they won’t stay kids. Great piece of writing here. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply David July 17, 2015 at 8:22 am

      Thanks for your comments! I’ll make sure Peter sees them. And I agree- we need to savor these moments because they won’t stay kids.

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