The Other F Word

 

Drunk Smile

Late one morning, long before children, I sat on the edge of a New Orleans hotel bed and exhaled audibly. Inside my skull, a spicy Jazz Fest bisque of bourbon and psychotropics simmered from the night before.

I bent down and tied my first shoe, and it wasn’t until I’d finished tying my second that I realized I wasn’t wearing pants. Laissez bon temps rouler!

The Other F Word

In the brilliant documentary, The Other F Word, aging punk rockers like Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers “transition into parents and try to maintain the contrast between their anti-authoritarian lifestyle with the responsibilities of fatherhood.” Mosh pits and trashed tour buses give way to mashed peas and Wheels on the Bus. I’m no punk rocker, but since day one, I’ve partied hard. Growing up in Miami, I can’t tell you how many nights we’d exit a bar into broad daylight, wincing, withering vampires. The madness continued into my twenties and thirties, from countless New Years Grateful Dead Shows to midnight trance raves in Capetown forests. From surf camping deep into Baja in a full-on hurricane to sleeping on roofs in outlying Greek isles. The wilder, zanier and more off the grid, the better.

Go Big or Go Home!

Backcountry in Zion National Park
Backcountry Zion National Park 1992

A few months after our first son was born, I stood in my paint-splotched terrycloth robe watering the Meyer lemon tree in front of our houseboat. A friendly neighbor with a five-year-old walked past, his handsome face beaming through a dark Argentine beard. “Haven’t seen you lately,” he said. I smiled through bloodshot eyes and shrugged my shoulders. “We haven’t been out much,” I said.

“That’s because you’re going in,” he added. 

Going IN
Going IN

My kids are now six and eight, and we are definitely IN. And the further in we go, the more I recognize these moments of IN-ness to be as novel as scuba diving with manta-rays in Bora Bora or biking naked through Burning Man. In equal measure, all of the above stimulate a sense of wonder and play. Immediacy and revelation. Shock and surprise. The things I will always seek most.

Back in the day, had you invited me to something as institutional as Club Med or, god forbid, a Disney cruise, I would have politely refused.

Now, with kids’ activities baked in, all I want to do is take Disney cruises to Club Med. 

Recently, with our boys and a gaggle of young nieces and nephews, Jodi and I actually boarded our first Disney excursion. My kids are no longer big into Disney, though at one time my oldest was so absolutely mad about princesses that, at age 3, he insisted on being Cinderella for Halloween. I cannot express the depth of my love for this, then and now.

Cinderella Story
My cell phone cover photo for the past 5 yrs (notice my little princesses holding hands).

Our kids ran happily amok in a sea of Goofys, Minnies and Caribbean Pirates, most interested in the see-through water slide and video games. What interested me most was the parents. For, no matter where they were from, how old, young, rich or poor, each was going IN. And, in so doing, each exposed their raw humanity. The big tatted up dad smearing sunscreen on his little girl’s pale body, being ever so gentle around the neck and face, was poetry. As was the tall, sinewy black man on one knee listening with wide, engaged eyes, to his little boy bounce on tiptoes and recount an encounter with Buzz Lightyear. Ditto the manicured blonde finally getting a moment to relax on a chaise, grinning through Tom Ford sunnies ever so gratefully, as she observed her twins giggle and splash across the pool. 

Self Portrait With Blue Martini, Stuart Sheldon

As an older dad, I jammed in four decades worth of mischief and left few stones unturned before the children arrived. What now has me pumped is riding the wanderlust train with them.

More often than not, when I’m at an adults-only event, I secretly wish my kids were with me. Asking me random things like, “Is there any more “Brocamole,” as Bodhi did recently. Or singing the lyrics to the songs from the Hamilton soundtrack (Just You Wait!), which we’ve been listening to non-stop of late (in lieu of seeing the play for $1000). 

El Salvador
El Salvador

That’s not to say I’m not keeping the madcap missioning alive. I did just return from a week surfing El Salvador. But I’m equally, if not more, ecstatic to be journeying with my youngest son deep into Sonoma County this summer to an event that used to be just 100 cackling Burners eating and drinking like vikings and dancing maniacally till dawn beneath the redwoods. 

Training My Son Early On
Training My Son Early On

Now, most of those same veteran ragers have kids in tow, running in their own feral wolfpacks, whilst we so-called grownups make slightly-less-physically-damaging-than-before-yet-no-less-delightful amounts of merriment.

Beautiful renegades all!  

Party AnimalYou say you want to get crazy? 

Production on my Fall show is about to crank up, and I’m ready for spontaneous drop-ins in the new Little River studio – 6728 NE 4th Av, Miami FL 33138. Come on down! 

My New Little River Studio
The beer is cold!! 6728 NE 4th Av, Miami FL 33138. I’m going in!

25 thoughts on “The Other F Word

  1. So what’s wrong with tying your shoes with before you realize you have no pants on? I do it every day!

    Great piece and so real.

  2. Stuart, your boys are near the ages when I first met you and fell in love with the curly haired, precocious second grader who managed to have more parent conferences than anyone in my long, professional career. Love your posts. Keep them coming….Tell your Mom and brother I write this with a precocious smile too!!

    1. Nothing better than a proper comment from my favorite second grade teacher. You officially made my day!

  3. Ahhhh Stuart, You guys are in heaven! Right spot at the right time. Love reading your posts!
    Hugs to the boyz and Jodi.

    Malia of the desert realm…….

  4. Still having a good crack at having our cake and eating it. It’s just that these days our kids are the cream and icing on top (-: Lovely post Stu. Must call soon and talk cake. Hugs, R

    1. Yes indeed, my esteemed fellow baker. I do believe you are the person who has been by my side for more of the above-mentioned excursions than any other, a fact I hold sacrosanct.

  5. Stuart that article was inspiring and brought back quite a few memories from when my kids and I were younger. Compared to you I feel like a monk in the way I have lived my life, but we all make different choices and I guess mine was to be IN for a career in medicine. No regrets but I sure would have liked to do some of that cool stuff that you described in your blog, minus the naked biking at burning man and the psychotropics. I suppose a few days of marathon partying every year at Jazzfest is a good start. My take home message from this year’s festivities: “Every zoo is a petting zoo unless you’re a little bitch.” Keep the art flowing brother.

  6. Stuart-LOVE your raw writing style & love for the family unit. Made me laugh about your disdain for Disney Cruise & Clubmed. Your ?? in seeing your boy dress up as princess is refreshing. I adore little boys wanting a doll, barbie and being allowed to in that moment pretend, imagine, celebrate. Same as little girls who hate pink, bows, dresses, frilly skirts & feed gender rules. I see opportunity in teaching kids freedom to be whoever they want, no gender rules. Masculine feminine. Always love reading your blog.

  7. Another insightful post stuart! When I am out and about without my boy at an “adult” event or wherever, I too often find myself wishing I had my boy in tow asking me all the questions which inspire me to think, be curious and open to the possibilities…Love,

    Mark

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