A Picture Tells a Thousand Hashtags

My son, affectionately and respectfully known as Young Master Oliver, (said with an accent similar to Alfred, young Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler and mentor) was born almost four years ago.

In the years and months leading up to his birth I was one of those people who swore he would never plaster my Facebook account with photos of my kids.

Then, no sooner than he was born I was, yep, plastering my Facebook with photos of my gorgeous child. At first it was as simple as sharing the images with friends and family who were too far away to see him in person. It was efficient. I was also jubilant in my pride.

My son beats my heart.

on one of our many trips to the Houston Zoo

As time went on posting about our day became a sort of public document of our adventures as father and son. I loved the idea of letting friends and family members come along as we played with our Lincoln Logs and in our sandbox and on our trips to the zoo, museum, and anywhere else life took us.

So too did I want to share my experiences as a father.

I began using my Instagram less for my music and songwriting endeavors and more for sharing these father and son moments. I began using hashtags like “FaceOfFatherhood,” “DadLife,” and “FatherandSon.”

In doing so things took on a slightly different tone.

It was no longer just about sharing life with immediate friends and family. Rather, it became a very public display of parenthood.

It became important for me to show anyone who cared to notice what fatherhood looked like for me. In a world where mothers are viewed as the primary parent shuttling kids to and from grocery stores, museums, pharmacies, doctors’ visits, and everything in between, I felt it essential to show that there is more to being a dad than lawn care, lazy Sundays drinking beer on the sofa, and bumbling around the house waiting for mom to save the day. This image that permeates sitcoms, animated shows, and film, I believe, is a huge disservice and an affront to engaged, competent fathers and the very notion of gender equality.

In my family I was the one with the BabyBjörn doing the groceries, vacuuming, laundry, getting my steps in at the zoo, and juggling a career while getting a master’ss degree, and running a household all with a toddler on my hip or top of head.


In taking such a public approach to parenting I found myself interacting with an entire community of likeminded dads and supportive moms who were also using social media to model healthy and enthusiastic parenting. Sometimes we shared smiles and laughter and other times frustration and tears because as most engaged parents know, for every one of the former there is at least one of the latter.

But as time has moved forward things have changed a bit. My phone stays in my pocket (or even in the next room) more than it used to. I find myself more dialed into what’s happening and enjoying my life and family from the inside rather than observing it all from than from the outside. I feel more inclined to fully experience and enjoy every moment than I am in documenting them.

I’ve also been writing less frequently in my personal journal and I’ve been wondering why this has been happening but I think I know why. I’m not spending as much time documenting my life. I’m not spending as much time writing about what kind of life I want. I’m actually living that life.

Don’t get me wrong, I still snap photos and quick videos when the moment calls, I still pull out my journal but it’s most definitely not as big a part of my day-to-day. It’s hard to take time out of my life when I’m enjoying every moment of it.

I certainly don’t begrudge anyone for filling my feed with their family photos because I truly enjoy it. I love seeing my friends share their kids’ graduation, prom, birthday, and anything else moments.

And rest assured, once the summer gets into full swing and we get back from the First Annual Benninghoff-Becerra Family Vacation: Cruise Edition there will be more than enough photos to go around.  

These days though, I’ve been so truly content to just live in the moment and enjoy our adventures as a family. I’m hardly living a life of isolation but there has certainly been less emphasis on sharing for the sake of any larger motivation.

Documenting every single giggle and groan just doesn’t seem as essential these days.

Enjoying them in the most intimate way possible does.

Be Well and Kind,
JRBB

What’s in a Name?

They were questions from a script, boxes to check as a matter of procedure, and asked with about as much zeal as an automated attendant alerting me that my phone call may be recorded for quality assurance.

The judge asked why I wanted to change my name.
I told him I had recently married.

He asked me if it was in the best interests of the community.
I said yes it was.

He asked if I was a sex offender.
Um, that would be a hard “NO.”

He asked if I was attempting to escape debt.
No…but wait, is that a thing?!

He asked if I was otherwise attempting to hide my identity for any other nefarious purpose.
Negative.
And with that and a court order signed with more than a dash of elegant bravado, I had a newly changed (I prefer “enhanced”) last name…with a hyphen and everything.



Neither my wife or I can recall asking or being asked “the big question.”

Being that over 10 years of our conversations, from the most mundane to the most intimate, took place via text and messenger we were able to review every exchange. We relived every thumbs up and emoji, every tear of laughter and pain, every virtual high five and warm embrace, every frustration, success, sniffle, smile, grumble, and giggle.

No such question was ever asked.

There was however a gradual shift in tone as this conversation, as this life, unfolded.

As we read through our messages spanning nearly as many years as this technology has existed, we came to understand that these were words not spoken between friends who at some point “fell in love.”

Somewhere along the way we simply came to understand what I am now certain has always been the case: I am hers. She is mine. We are Us.

There was no planning, no “ifs” and very few mentions of “when.”

There was no need to propose the idea of spending our lives together. Such an obvious concept required as much acknowledgement or debate as gravity or our need for oxygen.

No dowry was requested.
No honeymoon plans were made.
Dresses and tuxedos? Not even in an incognito browser tab.

No consideration was ever given to seating arrangements or even guests for that matter.

Instead, as things progressed, our discussions involved practical matters like zip codes and health insurance, meal planning and schedules.

Of course, one of the biggest changes was kissing. (Man, why didn’t we think of that in high school?!)

The reality is we were already sharing our lives, side by side, intimately bound. We always had been and as such we found little in the way of either of us making the decision to marry. It was just a given. Everything else is just details.

And so, we got married. 

From Here on Out….

Kristin Benninghoff is a name that has been locked in my mind and heart for over 25 years. Never once has Kristin ever been just “Kristin.”

“Well, well…if it isn’t Kristin Benninghoff.”

“Hey! Kristin Benninghoff! Come here for a second.”

“I love you Kristin Benninghoff.”

One name could never be enough.

Rhythmic and unique with just the right combination of soft and hard sounds, it can carry a bite or a smirk depending on the inflection…just like her.


”KRRIIIstiin BENNNinnnggghoff!”

Of German roots, Kristin is daughter of a strong, proud, witty, and decent father who loved her with an immeasurable force. A force that is rivaled only by her love for him.

His influence, his blessings and teachings, his humor, and his love comfort and guide her and by proxy do the same for Jakob, Olivia, myself, and Oliver.

She carries her dad in that name as she does with every beat of heart and in every breath conjured by her lungs.

Like her, for whatever reason, people have always combined my first and last name. To this day there are moments in a grocery store or pub when I hear “Jaasson Becehhhrra.” It’s always an old schoolmate or teacher.

For the entirety of our relationship, despite a period of time where she supposedly had a different last name, I have only known her as Kristin Benninghoff. I have no concept of her by any other name. 

I do it too. I don’t recall any time where I’ve introduced myself simply as “Jason.”

My name is Jason Becerra.

Jason R. Becerra to be perfectly clear.

The “R” is a big deal.

Perhaps Kristin is the only other person I know who is as proud to be their father’s child.

My father is known to many people as a celebrity, a broadcaster, a writer, and singer (and more than a few other names I’ll leave out haha).

He’s a kind, decent, compassionate man who has spent a lifetime trying to help his family feel and find love, success, and joy in our own lives.

In his professional life he would work 20-hour days at 5 different places if that’s what it took. He has accomplished “success” by any metric in the broadcasting industry. He has sung to empty bars and sold-out arenas sharing the stage with legendary artists and humble anonymous musicians with equal passion. He has given voice and served as an advocate for members of our community who would otherwise have neither.

So too did he coach my pee-wee baseball team and hold court regaling my friends and I with tales of Pahokee, Florida. He bought me books, inspired me to write, bought me my first guitar, gave me my first copy of Pet Sounds, and has guided me through life one step and hug at a time. Everything I know about being a man and a father comes from my dad.

Kristin and I are who we are because of our families, because of our fathers.


Us

So, there we were: Ms. Kristin Benninghoff and Mr. Jason R. Becerra.

It works ok I suppose.

We could leave them as is but it just felt…off.

Kristin is a Benninghoff. She is no more a Becerra than she is a Peterson, Xu, Abboud, or Alperstein.

The thought of her replacing “Benninghoff” with “Becerra” seemed unfathomable. It seemed crude and sacrilege.

It was a non-starter for me.

Similarly, I cannot separate myself from my name. I share it name with my father, my mother, and my son. It’s who I am. It’s part of what binds me to my family and what helps illuminate each step I take into my own future.

So, then what?

For a moment she considered hyphenating but that didn’t feel right to me either.

Why don’t we BOTH hyphenate? Afterall, John Lennon took on Yoko’s name.

Just like that, Kristin and I had another of our many “well, duh” moments.

It makes all the sense in the world.

She was not joining the Becerra family.
I was not becoming a Benninghoff.

Our whole relationship going back to the beginning has been a blending of our lives into something new. Getting married was simply natural and obvious…like gravity and air.

We have made the choice to bring together everything our fathers and families gave us, everything that had defined us as individuals.

We are taking everything and everyone we have in our lives and sewing them together into something new (whether they like it or not ha-ha).

We give to one another every memory and moment, every good time and bad, every smile and scar, all the laughter and loss that we have ever had, shared or yet to be experienced.

All these things make us who we are…and who we are is Us.

How could we NOT have the same last name?

It became such a simple and obvious choice…. like gravity and air, and Us.

And so, we changed (enhanced) our names.

There are many layers to this notion of spouses changing or hyphenating (enhancing) their names after marriage.

Some may see my decision as a statement of sorts and discuss the idea within the political or philosophical realms. There are legal and practical aspects and certainly gender roles within society could and are being debated every day but I am not going to do any of that because none of it had anything to do with why I went to Harris County Court #310.

My name is my statement and my name is Jason R. Benninghoff-Becerra.

Be Well and Kind,
JRBB