My daughter Georgia recently had her bat mitzvah, and she wanted me to make her video for the party. I picked out music, slogged through literally thousands of photos – and most fortunately I had the luxury of about 100 hours of home movie footage. I was excited to find the cutest and funniest moments of Georgia’s childhood, moments that had long ago receded into the back of my usually cluttered mind.
I did find several such moments – Georgia tinkering around on the piano, Georgia dressed up in a tutu screaming at me to get out of whatever room she was in – but: what I found most of was footage of her brother Jaron, which made sense because he is three years older. Jaron was a beautiful, bright, curious, and incredibly hyperactive toddler. I definitely remember this being the case before I immersed myself in the home movies, but what I didn’t remember is that I, as a father, was impatient, sarcastic, condescending and often generally an asshole. Don’t get me wrong: I loved Jaron with all of my heart, and I didn’t yell at him or get in his face or anything like that. I just wasn’t very nurturing of his desire to explore or tolerant of his need to explain things to me in very long detail.
For instance, when I would videotape him doing something, he naturally wanted to take control of the video camera himself, repeating the words “Can I try it, can I try it” over and over and over again. Rather than just letting him take the camera and run with it, I would give it to him, tell him he could have it for a minute, and then micromanage what he shot, like some egotistical Hollywood director. Other times, he would latch himself onto his sister’s crib, gyrating back and forth and singing some crazy, made up tune, along the lines of “Don’t belieb (believe) me but / I got bwain (brain) in my heart!” You kind of had to be there – and I was there, and I would tell him to calm down. And he would. For a little bit. And then he would do it again, and I would tell him to calm down again.
As the years went on, I would become a full time stay at home dad, and Jaron’s curiosity and sophistication somehow continued to flourish – despite my early missteps. Still, my foray back in time to put together Georgia’s bat mitzvah video gave me a much needed opportunity to examine my flaws as a parent to her brother – which has greatly informed the much more tolerant and less rigid parent that I think I am today.