My son turns one year old today. As my dear Midwestern wife might say, holy buckets: the year has blurred by. I can remember him folding up into a tiny lump of sleeping flesh I could hold in one hand — it feels like yesterday — and now he’s walking and talking (fitfully) and eating with his own hands and chewing with eight real teeth and pointing out his father’s and mother’s noses and growing a rather thick head of beautiful hair and a great many other things I can’t believe he can do. He has tripled in size, physically, but he’s a thousand times bigger emotionally, at least for his mother and I. And its only the beginning. So much has changed for me since he entered my life. My heart is bigger… and more fragile. I’m a great deal sleepier, but also a great deal happier. My routines have changed, my leisure time has diminished, and my mind is… well, it hardly feels like it’s entirely my own any more, so much has been given over to him.
And what of my writing? I can only say this: it feels both more AND less important than it ever has before. By contrast to the duties of fatherhood, writing is of no significance whatsoever; raising my son is so much more vital than the stories I tell. On the other hand, I have begun to be far more selective in my work as a playwright than I ever have before. My time is short, so I no longer willingly give over an entire afternoon to one extra bout of research or a frivolous ten-minute play that doesn’t really matter or to submitting to some random contest that probably won’t even acknowledge my submission anyway. Most of all, I think more than ever about my legacy as a writer: not to the world at large, but to my son, to whom I expect I will one day have to answer for everything I’ve written. Will he be proud of me? Will he care about the stories I’ve told? Will I have made the world (even fractionally) a better place for him? I used to care substantially more about what critics and my peers thought of my work. Now, the opinion a one year-old MIGHT have a decade or two down the road is what moves me. How’s that for a change?
I know there are playwrights out there who wonder whether they can manage to incorporate children into a genuine writing life. I’m here to say, as I’m sure others have said, that you certainly can, as long as you’re prepared for it to overhaul absolutely everything… in a good way, I promise.
Thank you, Porter, for year one. You mean everything to me, and you make everything mean more, too. I did not know I could love this way, or this much, and that my every moment, my every choice, could be infused with your presence. You are beautiful and good, and I am completely devoted to you, and I hope I’m always as good a father as you make me want to be.