A Chat about Fatherhood

Fatherhood Q & A

It’s Men’s Health Month and we wanted to chat with one of Birmingham’s best dads, Todd Keith.

When not fathering and husbanding, Todd is playing soccer and coaching. His most recent book, Inside Guide to Birmingham, was published by Globe Pequot Press in 2011. His previous book, Birmingham Then and Now, a look at the architectural history of his hometown, was published in 2009 by Thunder Bay Press. He is currently a content strategist for Regions Bank.

Q: Being a dad, a husband… what gets you out of bed in the morning?

The thought of my espresso machine?  No, seriously, I love seeing our two boys, 7 and 12, stumble into the kitchen sleepy-eyed. Their defenses are down and it’s easier to kiss and love on them. Better still, waking them up while balancing said double espresso in one hand, softly patting them with the other while sitting on their bed. That is the best part of the morn.

Q: What do you love about your wife, Julie?

Her fierce intellect. Her fierce attentiveness to both boys, Fletcher and Collins. Her success in her career as editor of Birmingham Magazine and the deserved reputation it brings her. Her enormous empathy for others, especially those who are in need of her help. Her red hair. Her nose. Oh, and watching her share her latest Zumba dance with the family after a workout… she’s really an excellent dancer.

Q: What about you – if anything – drives your wife crazy?

Ohh… where to start? Nah, that’s easy: my tendency to not always do a bang up job of notifying her of what I’m planning for the evening or weekend — until the very last minute. Or that instead of just listening to her vent about her day, I tend to offer solutions. It’s a guy thing. We want to solve problems – though you’d think I’d learn to just shut up and listen. Have you seen the “It’s not about the nail” video? Oh my goodness, it’s such a perfect example of this!

Q: What’s something no one told you about being a dad, you just had to figure it out?

That there is a wonderful, frightening finality about it. Fatherhood is not a stage: it is for life. I know, that should be obvious, right? But I think very few soon-to-become dads really, really grasp what this means. How can they, really? Read a book or watch a movie before you have kids and then go back again after you’re a father. If there’s a scene where something terrible happens to a child in the movie, you will experience the event radically different after you have kids. It’s no longer theoretical. In fact, you may not be able to read/watch it.

Q: Why is being a dad a game changer?

You have created a legacy. It’s like the “leave the trail better off than you found it” mantra of responsible backpackers and hikers. You are at least partially responsible for creating good human beings that will make the world a better place. That’s a heavy thing.

Q: How do you guys balance your career, with Julie’s career, with two growing boys?

Via email, text and brief instructional phone calls during the day? I don’t know if we do balance it. We just do the best we can. I vividly remember a graduate school professor telling me, “I just don’t get how couples today are all about sharing the responsibility of raising kids and earning an income. How is that supposed to work?” He also didn’t know how to use a computer.

Q: How you find time for yourself?

I carve out my weekly soccer practice and Sunday match. Whenever Julie says, “Can I do Zumba tonight?” or “Can I get a walk in?” I do my best to always give an emphatic “Yes.”

Q: Advice you’d give to other dad’s on how to find balance and time for yourself?

Keep your “thing,” what ever it might be. Don’t give it up after the children enter your life, whether it’s book club, trail running, soccer, having a beer with your pals, couples-only vacations, or dinner parties with adult conversation. And make sure your spouse can do the same.

Q: What are some products you can’t live without/food you can’t live without?

iPad, my Gaggia espresso machine, my favorite cleats, Primavera coffee, La Sportiva trail running shoes, kalamata olives, Jones Valley Farm’s arugula, Guinness Stout, Esquire and The Atlantic, Good People Brown ale, smoked trout or mackerel, any bread from Continental Bakery, a good book.

Q: What’s the best unexpected surprise you ever gave to Julie?

Hmmm . . . tough one. Maybe the antique jade ring and a surprise 40th birthday at Highland’s Bar and Grill? I had all her friends, sister, cousin, etc. stagger their arrival time at 10 minute or so apart. For such an incredibly smart woman as Julie, it took her longer than I expected to figure out it was all one big setup and not some amazing cosmic events where everything was lining up. It was a fun night and fun to see her so happy surrounded by her friends.

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