I Had No Idea Fatherhood Would Involve So Much Drawing
When I was a child I day dreamed a lot about what I’d be when I grew up. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a writer, but otherwise I was a fickle young man whose future dream jobs changed regularly, and included such preposterous-seeming fantasy professions as police officer, politician, baseball player and cartoonist.
My weird phase of wanting to be a professional cartoonist was born of course of a deep love of comic strips. I immersed myself in the classics as a kid, devouring Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes and Bloom County and The Far Side. I wrote to cartoonists seeking professional advice and kept the letters they sent me in a scrapbook I bought at Walgreen’s. I remember the man who writes Luanne sent me a whole bunch of crap. It was almost as if I had sent him his very first fan letter. But that’s impossible! The man draws Luanne for the love of God!
Looking back I had about as good of a shot of being a nationally syndicated cartoonist as I did of serving Illinois as a five term Senator, playing center field for the White Sox and moonlighting as a wide receiver for the Bears or joining the FBI. I loved comic strips but I couldn't construct a satisfying strip to save my life. Even more devastating for my job prospects, I could not draw at all. My drawings were crude and artless, childish and primitive, and not in an outsider art kind of way. To put it bluntly, I sucked at drawing. I always admired people who could draw well, either professionally or as a hobby because I most assuredly lacked that gene and skill set.
I abandoned my dreams of being a cartoonist well before I hit my teens. I became a writer and, being an adult, never had to draw anything. That ended when my son started talking and drawing and developed an early, intense interest in having me draw things for him.
I hoped that because I am so very bad at drawing his interest in commissioning work from me several dozen times a day would evaporate instantly once he saw just how comically inept I was at the task at hand.
What a fool I was! Instead of being rewarded for my incompetence at drawing pretty much anything my son requested, from a tree to Santa Claus with a future free from drawing requests/demands, my son decided that he loved my art so much that when we’re hanging out after school it’s not unusual for him to request 15 new pieces an hour.
It doesn’t seem to matter to Declan that no matter what he asks me to draw, it almost invariably looks like a modified stick man with googly eyes or that everything thing I draw resembles blobs with limbs.
I went about thirty years without drawing anything. In that time my already nonexistent skills as an artist seem somehow to have atrophied substantially.
If you were to look at my drawings today you would say, “What small child drew this and what is wrong with them?”
No, even though my drawings suck, Declan seems to like them anyway. He certainly doesn't seem likely to stop commissioning artwork from me any time soon. As someone who does not enjoy drawing and also is terrible at it, I can’t say that fills me with excitement and anticipation but it does mean that I’ll be spending quality time with my son, and even when that consists of doing something I suck at, and also hate doing, I still treasure those moments.
Because there will come a time in the perhaps not too distant future when my boy will be so grown up that the idea of asking his dad to draw Santa Claus for him will seem ridiculous, and when that happens I will not be at all surprised if I’m occasionally overcome with gooey nostalgia for the good old days of drawing with Dex.
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