Our 255th Dad in the Limelight is Children’s Author and Illustrator David Ezra Stein. I want to thank David for being a part of this series. It has been great getting connected with him and now sharing him with all of you.
1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)
I am a children’s book author and illustrator. Probably my best-known book is the bestseller Interrupting Chicken, which won a Caldecott Honor in 2011 for being one of the best illustrated children’s books of the year. My ninth book, Because Amelia Smiled, is due out this September. In addition to writing and illustrating, I visit schools, fairs, festivals, and conferences around the country and talk to kids and adults about writing and making art.
I’ve been writing and making art all my life.
2) Tell me about your family
I am married to a wonderful, creative woman, and we have a two-and-a-half-year-old son named Sam.
We have extended family nearby, including our son’s grandparents, great grandparent, aunts and uncles. They’re involved in Sammy’s life on a regular basis. They’ve been very helpful to us in a lot of cases, helping with his care. And he loves them all so much. I think it’s very important that he has people of all ages to interact with. That said, it’s sometimes challenging as a self-employed person to manage all the visitors and to make sure the help we get is the help we need. It’s a learning process for all involved.
We live in an urban setting—Queens, NY—that’s very diverse. We have park friends from Australia, Poland, Ukraine, Colombia, and on and on. Our world has expanded a lot since Sam was born, and we’ve really put down roots in our neighborhood.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
Making sure I am living the best life I can live as an example to Sam. I know he’s watching me closely and I want to show him that it’s possible to have a happy life, talk about feelings when they come up, have good relationships with others, and go through life with a sense of justice and fairness.
My own father was not around as much as I would have liked, emotionally. So I want to be open with my son.
It can be a lot of pressure on me. There are some moments when I wish he weren’t watching, when I’m upset about something or going on very little sleep and not at my best. But I try to remember that it’s all good, it’s all part of life—the good and the bad. He needs to see me get upset and see how I handle it. And after all, he is his own person when all is said and done. Ultimately he has to find his own way.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
Be there as much as you can. Pay attention as much as you can. Take time for your kid, even if it’s ten minutes at a time. Children need a father. We’re essential.
5) Seeing that you (or your position) are in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life? If you are currently not in the limelight per se, please still answer this in regards to how you balance parenthood and outside life.
It’s always a challenge getting work done, since I have a home office and Sam is home every day. His mother watches him most of the time. I try to spend some time with him a few times a day, and eat meals with him. Often I just have to turn him away when he wants to play and I have to do work. And that’s hard. But I am lucky that I make my own schedule. It leaves more room for flexibility. Soon he will be attending preschool, so there will be a firmer schedule some days of the week.
I travel at least once a month, and it’s very hard to be away from him, even for a few nights. I’m still working on that one. We talk on the phone. I have considered taking my family with me when I can.
As a children’s book creator, I am both inspired and distracted by being a father. But all in all it’s great. I get to live with one of my “subjects” and go along with him on the wild ride of childhood. It connects me more closely with my own childhood, my family history, and the people and kids around me.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
I’ve learned that we all go through similar things. The sense of camaraderie is a valuable thing. When I go sleep on the couch because Sam is in our bed, I know other dads are out there doing the same thing.
Also, I’ve seen how different dads (and moms) react to things their children do, and I’ve been able to mirror certain attitudes or strategies that I like. For example there is one dad friend of mine who is very calm and grounded, and I like to let that attitude rub off, since I can be more high-strung.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
It’s a life-changing experience. I am interested to see how he will continue to grow and how we will, too, along with him. I think an essential thing about being a parent is the reality check it gives you. It reminds you what’s important, what’s serious and what’s not; and demonstrates your own strengths and weakness to you. You are usually stronger than you think.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
The milestones: His birth; the first time he smiled; the first time he walked, and talked. When he recited a poem he made up, one night. Seeing him grow to love things, and people. Watching him observe and try to understand the world.
The tribulations: When he had surgery as a baby and we stayed up all night holding him so he could sleep. When he broke his arm on the night before Labor Day weekend. Even in the painful situations, there is love and hope. That’s the honor of sharing someone’s life with them, from the very beginning.
If you have any questions for David, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!