Fatherview: Todd Babiak
Fatherview is a conversation about or with a notable dad about fatherhood. What makes a dad notable? The willingness to do this interview. If you know of someone, or are that someone, or would like to talk about a someone, let me know. This is about fathers, but the person talking doesn’t have to be male or female. Hell, even if you want to be interviewed about a made up father, or the father you want to be, I don’t give a shit. Insight is priceless. I hope these to be insightful. 1
Todd Babiak grew up in a small house in an oil town, with a mother who read horror novels and a father who cut the lawn with his shirt off. He pursued politics and literature in university. He spent a good part of the 1990s in Montreal. These were almost-separation times. It was bracing.
Today he lives in Edmonton, a northern city of mystery and enterprise, with long writing trips to France. Sometimes a month, sometimes a year.
He wakes up ridiculously early to work on novels or screenplays or journalism or essays, when his beautiful wife and children are still sleeping. Then he puts on a suit and works for Story Engine. Sometimes he does all of this in a hotel room far from his home. Your city, even. Say hello when you see him.
Trent Wilkie: For as long as you can remember, did you always want to be a father?
Todd Babiak: I remember lying in bed, shortly after marriage, trying to convince my wife that we should travel the world and invent things and have ridiculous adventures instead of having children. This idea went nowhere. But I remember having it.
Has it changed how you see the world?
My dad died in 2003 and my first daughter was born in 2005, all in the same hospital. They’re eerily linked in “how I see the world” because both events made me feel fragile, and scared, and overwhelmed, and adoring. I was a pretty selfish person until these things happened. I guess I now see the world through my daughters’ eyes a bit, which is both terrifying and terrific.
What is one of the biggest surprises you’ve come across?
I suppose I thought I would have some control over my daughters’ personalities. I don’t. I’ve been surprised by their force, which seems to have almost nothing to do with me. They’re eight and seven as I write this, and I think they see me as a comic figure. Also I didn’t throw up every time they pooped.
Do you have an anecdote that (sort of) sums up your dad experience thus far?
I’m starting to collect them. I have endless anecdotes of parental failure. I want to put them up on my blog at toddbabiak.com.
What advice would you give other dads?
Calm down. People try to scare the shit out of you and give you anxiety attacks about parenting, about getting it wrong. If you’re the sort of person who reads Trent Wilkie’s blog about being a dad you don’t have to worry about a thing. Your kids will be fine. Also: they don’t need iPhones. Jesus. They’re just little!
1 I give a shit. You will be a dad, or a single mom, or someone who knows an amazing parental figure. This working mom worries enough about her husband and little boy being at home together, alone. Do you understand the trouble they could get into? Do you understand? Do not lead my husband astray. Do not fake great parenting advice. He’s going to make mistakes, but he’s going to make them because he was trying to do something phenomenal with our son. Not because you suggested it’s a great activity to try and shoot fireworks out of your kids bum.