BEN JACKSON Dad of the decade (no, really).

AGE   36

HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Manchester, NH, currently residing in Natick, MA.

@TWITTER   @dadofthedecade

ON THE WEB   Dad of the Decade.com

NUMBER OF CHILDREN   One

DAY JOB   Working in marketing for a publisher in Boston

RELATIONSHIP STATUS   Divorced

FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK   There are two books which stick with me more than others. One from my childhood: “The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein. This clever little story about self-discovery and self confidence has really fun and funny illustrations and a twinge of melancholy. From my kiddo’s generation, Mo Willems’ “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” is simply hilarious. Both the story and the artwork have kids in stitches.

HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?

I am a single dad, who has my kiddo half of the time. She has some serious medical needs, which certainly complicates the work-life balance, and have cost me more than one job. The reality is – like most every other single parent – I am “go go go” from waking up to bedtime. I usually take some time for myself to read, write, or watch a movie every day, but it’s often at odd hours: before six in the morning or after ten at night.

HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?

I can’t even begin to articulate this. Before I had my daughter, I was a typical 20-something dude, in that I wanted to play video games and sexytimes all day. Through my daughter, and her dire first year, I found an inner strength and perspective which I had never before suspected. Short of the death of a child, I have stared down the very worst life has to offer, and I came out the other side intact if not unscathed, with an amazing kiddo.

HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP(S)?

Parenting has made it difficult to maintain relationships – not as the fault of my kiddo, but in that it is difficult for a new person to come in and take on what a child with medical needs demands. Add to that the scheduling difficulties of a single parent, and there isn’t much to go on.

And no, that means there is not enough sex.

WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?

My daughter has nurses who accompany her to and from school, and stay with her after school until I get home from work. It can be challenging, but I am grateful for them.

DO ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS? AND IF SO, HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOUR PARENTING?

This; this is a big question.

Yes. My daughter has a permanent tracheotomy, is unable to speak as a result, and is a cancer survivor. She is fully intellectually intact, and my biggest challenge and the core of my parenting philosophy is to raise a child and not a patient.

I have to sometimes help her extend her comfort zone and realize she can be safe taking small risks. The difficulty is in finding the true limits, and making sure she knows to not cross those.

WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?

This stems from my daughter’s medical needs. She used to have a feeding tube—called a “g-tube” surgically implanted directly into her stomach. It generally sat flat onto her skin, and looked like the valve used to inflate a beach ball. When she was being fed, an extension would lock into the valve, extend about a foot, and allow a syringe to connect and inject formula.

One night, when taking three year old Emma out of her harness car seat, I had not realized that the extension was connected into her g-tube. The buckle ripped the tube right out of her stomach, and broke it. I couldn’t find the other half, and thought I had broken it off inside of her. We made the three minute drive to the hospital in about 1.4 seconds, where they put in a new tube and determined everything would be well. It was scary, and guilty-making.

WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?

This is much more difficult for me to define. Recently, my daughter began her transition into adulthood. I was able to have an intelligent, calm, and clear discussion with her about sex and puberty—which is hard for a lot of dads—and in which my kiddo asked a lot of questions, and seemed both engaged and not horrified to have this talk with her dad. I did not die, and it was a pretty good moment.

Lisa Duggan

Lisa Duggan is the Founder and CEO of The Modern Village, and publisher of TheParentduJour.com and TheMotherHoodBlog.com.

7 thoughts on “BEN JACKSON Dad of the decade (no, really).

  • May 8, 2012 at 9:47 am
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    Love your profile. And that you survived the puberty talk. One would think you’re a superhero after everything you have been through – sharing your day to day life makes it clear that you and Emma actually both are.

    Reply
  • May 8, 2012 at 11:39 am
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    Your candor is refreshing and your story inspiring. If I may, I must say that in addition to the puberty talk, one of your best moments as a parent is not a single occurrence; It is in the span of time you devote to writing the story you’ve been sharing within your blog. Though the impact of your writing is not able to be measured and is not quite tangible, I’m sure it changes you as it develops and is shared–Emma benefiting greatly from your personal growth…and…I’m sure it will change her in the future when you share it with her. Blessings to you. You are an inspiration.

    Reply
  • May 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm
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    so glad you survived the “talk”…

    i don’t like it when people say “you’re lucky to have eachother” because that implies that work did not bring you to your current place. you’ve both worked really hard, so instead, i’ll say, you deserve eachother, and the best life has to offer.

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  • May 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm
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    You are, indeed, an amazing guy & a great dad. And your writing? Always blows me away.

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  • May 13, 2012 at 11:14 pm
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    My oldest is 18 and going off to college in the fall. We had the “talk” long ago. Recently, I approached her about whether or not she wanted to take birth control pills or some other method with her to college. I thought that her eyes were going to come out of her head. 🙂 All in all, it was a fairly positive event, though it took a bit to get her to stop hyperventilating. I post regularly on a site for dads of kids with special health care needs called WhyNotFathers. http://www.whynotfathers.com.

    kudos to you on doing it as a single dad.

    Reply
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