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

So Now What?

The Facebook is a strange place indeed.

I check my “memories” every morning. Sometimes random, sometimes laughable, there’s always something that brings a chuckle or raises an eyebrow in some way or another.

Yesterday’s was quite interesting indeed. Among the photos of Young Master Oliver playing in his sandbox and general musings on music there was a post describing how exhausted I was at the time in 2017.

I was drowning in work, school, parenting, household chores, some physical ailments etc. It was one of “those” posts. The phrase that resonated most was “To what end? An early grave?” I was so tired and desperate for a break.

“To what end? An early grave?”

It had been an incredibly taxing five years.

I had a second back surgery, finished my undergraduate degree, learned how to build websites, launched three of them, I had been gigging almost nonstop, built upon my professional career, had a child and who had basically spent his first two years “on top of head,” began and was about to finish my master’s degree, bought a house, was struggling with migraines, and, and, and, and…


Bottom line I was tired and didn’t know why I was putting myself through everything. Was I trying to further my career? Why? Was I trying to build a better life for myself and my son? What did that look like? Would even I survive to see it?

Here’s a screen cap of the post…

Among the comments expressing compassion and encouragement there was on in particular that looking back I find to be quite impactful.

“Our power comes within our ability to make choices”

And there it was. Wise words indeed.

It took another year but in August 2018 I began making a series of choices that would forever change my life, and the lives of many around me.

I asked for a divorce.

It was not a decision taken lightly. It was one that had been explored for nearly the entirety of that marriage, one I had tried to avoid answering until I no longer could.

The ensuing months found me in the midst of an unfortunate, stressful, and what I continue to believe could have been an avoidable process to ensure my son had equal access to both his parents and that his life would be disrupted as little as possible. I feel like I achieved close to everything I hoped.

As I’ve joyfully written before, the end of that story was quite different than anticipated. Rather than being a divorced single dad living in an apartment or with his parents, I found myself married to my best friend and living back in the old neighborhood.

Everything has changed. My clothes, my car, my address, even my name and signature are different (enhanced!).

And there my friends, is the answer to the question about why I was doing everything I was doing for so many years.

I didn’t know it then but everything I was doing then and everything I was doing before, was leading me to that “better life” that seemed so nebulous and unattainable. I was recreating my life…from the ground up.

In talking to my wife and best friend about Our Life we always come back to the fact that we didn’t “fall in love.” We didn’t meet and realize we wanted to be together.

We were living our lives parallel, working towards goals, pushing through obstacles, until those straight lines started to merge. We didn’t realize it then but This Right Here, Us, was the only way this story was going to end.

And now there’s a new question…

All the battles seem to have ended…or at least ceasefires have been achieved. Everyone has found a bit of a rhythm. We’ve settled into Our home. There are no more boxes left unpacked, no fires left to extinguish. The old house sold last week. We paid off a mountain of debt. We got our transportation needs worked out. Our budget is set. My guitars are restrung and tuned. We have our routine.

So now what? Enjoy the hell out of life, that’s what!

At some point we must lay down our arms. At some point we have to stop living for the struggle. At some point not only do we get to let out a sign of relief but we simply must allow ourselves to breathe and relax and enjoy what we’ve worked to achieve. Smell those flowers and all that jazz.

That’s where I find myself. For the first time in the last 10 years I’m not looking for the next big challenge. I’m not desperately seeking out a great struggle to overcome because at least for now, I’ve achieved everything I’ve set out to accomplish.

For the first time I can look around my home, I can look at my life and the people in it and feel comfortable, content, and happy. I’ve never known that feeling.

Life isn’t perfect. I won’t sit here and say that my best friend and I don’t get aggravated with one another. I can’t say that building a modern blended family is not without challenges but I’m not looking to fill gaping holes in my soul with massive projects and to-do lists.

Right now I want to enjoy every moment with my family. Right now I want to enjoy baseball season! I want to play guitar for the sheer joy of it. I want to binge watch HGTV, cook, and just live the life I’ve been trying to build because without even realizing it, I was building This Life…and it’s incredible.

It won’t always be. There will always be challenges and problems but I know that my best friend is at my side…not behind me, not leading the way, but shoulder-to-shoulder and together we can do anything. We have done so much and we’ll do so much more.

But right now? I just want to breathe all this in. Right now I want to rest up because life will throw new challenges at me and at Us…but right now? Right now I’m going to enjoy every second because This Right Here is glorious.

Us

Be Well and Kind,
JRBB