Dads in the Limelight
Our 356th Dad in the Limelight is George Estreich. I want to thank George for being a part of the Dads in the Limelight 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’m an at-home dad to two daughters, ages twelve and seventeen. I’ve written a book called The Shape of the Eye. It’s about raising my younger daughter, Laura, who has Down syndrome, but it’s also about the way we think and talk about Down syndrome and disability. Recently the book has been reissued in paperback and ebook by Penguin, and it was featured in People Magazine, so I’m certainly more in the limelight than I’ve ever been before.
2) Tell me about your family
My wife, Theresa, is a professor at Oregon State, teaching and doing research in the College of Pharmacy. Ellie, my older daughter, is a junior in high school; she loves soccer and music, and is beginning to look ahead to college. Laura is in middle school now, mainstreamed for the most part. She enjoys dance, seeing friends, eating out, and playing Halo.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
It’s not what you’d think. Down syndrome, as I write, was very difficult; but the difficulty was less in Down syndrome itself, than in my assumptions about it. I had to learn how to imagine my daughter, and to come to grips with the way the disabled are seen in this society.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
I don’t feel qualified to give advice, but I would say that if you have a new child with Down syndrome, be very careful about your sources of information, particularly on the Internet: so much is outdated or false, and even the accurate information tends to emphasize features that are grim, and are likely irrelevant.
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.
As a practical matter, when I travel to readings and book events, my wife has to cover. Since I’m an at-home dad, it’s usually the other way around. But we’ve always juggled and improvised so although it’s a stretch, it’s not a huge problem—though it is very odd for Laura, who is used to her mom traveling to conferences, not her dad.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
The best parents I’ve seen, whether dads or moms, take time with their kids, are patient with them, and are able to say no without agonizing about it too much. That’s all pretty basic stuff, but parenting is an applied art, not a theoretical one, and what matters is how (and whether) those lessons are applied in the moment.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
From pretty much the first day my first daughter was born, older parents were telling me to enjoy it, because it goes by so fast. It’s the kind of thing you dismiss when you’re knee-deep in diapers, but like some clichés it turns out to be true. So, to younger parents: enjoy it, because it goes by so fast.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
Well, that would take a book…Some of the things in The Shape of the Eye, like the days after Laura’s heart surgery, were inherently dramatic. But to me, the most memorable experiences are almost too ordinary to recount. Going out for dinner with the family, moments on vacation, things like that. In the book, I tried to capture some of that ordinariness—what it’s like to walk around a Wal-Mart with Laura at midnight, for example. In a book, those moments are preserved, but they stand for many others that are remembered but unwritten.
If you have any questions for George, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!