HOMETOWN Born in Orange NJ
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Three: Caitlin, 43; Miles, 41; and Flynn, 13. Caitlin is a great painter and singer; Miles a terrific bass player and all around musician; Flynn plays the drums at the moment, and loves to skateboard. Caitlin and Miles live with their families in Western Massachusetts. Caitlin has a daughter, Elizabeth, 8, and Miles a son, Donovan, 12.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS It’s complicated.
ON THE WEB Lally’s Alley
DAY JOB Michael Lally is an American-born poet and the author of twenty-seven books of poetry. He is considered part of the New York School of poetry, which began in the early 1950s and is acknowledged as one of the most influential movements of American poetry. Michael also had a career in movies and television, as a screenwriter (Fogbound, Drugstore Cowboy, Pump Up The Volume), an actor and a voice-over artist. Long before the term “stay-at-home-dad” was invented Michael was the sole parent and provider to his two oldest children. He became a father for the third time at 56 and has two young grandchildren. We spoke to Michael about his experience as a single father in the ’70′s and how his parenting has evolved over the years.
You became a single father in 1975? How did that happen?
After being radicalized in the 1960s as a married student (on the G.I. Bill) at the University of Iowa, where Caitlin was born, my first wife Lee and I ended up living in a collective in Washington DC in the early ‘70’s, where Miles was born. It evolved into a mostly feminist commune. She and I parted ways in 1974 and I moved to New York City. I thought ‘Better a happy dad than a miserable husband.’ I got an apartment on Sullivan Street and Miles and Caitlin joined me there for the summer. I wanted them to live with me permanently from the start and I was convinced Miles would be better off with his dad. I was less confident about raising a daughter. Lee agreed and Caitlin stayed with her full-time. But she came to stay with me and Miles in New York regularly.
Did you consider yourself a trailblazer?
I didn’t think of myself in those terms, but sure, I was the only Dad picking Miles up at school everyday. The mothers just looked at me. They didn’t know what to make of me, I guess.
I kept it simple. I had no rules except one: no being mean to himself or anyone else. It felt easy [to be his only parent.] I let him dress himself. At one point, to make him comfortable with his choices, I bought the same style eyeglass frames and boots for myself that he had picked for himself.
What support did you find, or create for yourself?
In the beginning I would call all my female friends and my sisters for advice. But eventually I realized I didn’t need it. I knew what to do. I had always wanted to raise a child the way I wished I’d been raised. I wanted to treat my children the way I had wanted to be treated.
When did Caitlin come to join you?
She wanted to join Miles and me. My confidence as a parent grew over the years, and I wanted her with me too, full-time. About 1980, she was 11 or 12, we were making plans for her to move in permanently when her mother got sick.
Lee had surgery and the anesthesiologist fucked up. She went into a coma and died six years later. So Caitlin wound up coming a little sooner than planned.
Any major adjustments to having two children full time?
A little more work but the same rules: dig yourself, trust yourself, treat yourself right.
Were there women in your and your children’s lives?
A succession of them, but none that tried to play the step-mother. Until I married Penny Milford, an actress, Valentine’s Day 1982. I had started acting myself, so we moved to Los Angeles for the work opportunities. We lived in Santa Monica, where Miles and Caitlin graduated from Santa Monica High School, but Penny and I separated after less than two years together.
When was Flynn born?
Flynn was born in Santa Monica in the Fall of 1997, only hours after my third wife, Jaina, and I married, so she would get the insurance benefits if the home birth didn’t work out. We moved to New Jersey in the Spring of 1999.
So, after all these years you again have a young son and also two young grandchildren. Do you see any major changes in yourself as a father?
Absolutely. I’m not as self-indulgent. I put Flynn’s welfare first, something I wasn’t always able to do the first time around. Being with my children and grandchildren makes me so happy. My greatest pleasure is in being of service to my kids.
What’s your worst parenting moment?
Ever doubting my capacity to be as good a parent to my daughter as I could to my son.
Best parenting moment?
When Miles had the chicken pox. I climbed into bed with him until he felt better.
Are you planning on having any more children?
No, ma’am. But if I had the money, I would have liked to have had twelve children. I would have liked to have had a child with every woman I loved.
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