Novelist and satirist Neal Pollack became a poster-dad for Generation X parenting when his memoir of first-time fatherhood, "Alternadad," hit stands in January. Now, a film adaptation is in the works and parents of all ages are stopping by his Web site, nealpollack.com, for his unconventional take on family life.—Heather Corcoran
In a way, Alternadad has become an emblem of a generation of younger parents.
NP: I think to some extent it has. It’s not an advice book by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it’s a fairly accurate description of a certain kind of person who’s becoming a parent nowadays.
How do you feel about the “hipster parent” and “alternaparent” monikers?
NP: I chose Alternadad as the title of the book because it’s the kind of title that the media would have given this kind of parent. I just beat them to the punch. I’m not really alternative to anything in particular; I just sort of have kept myself going. I don’t think it has anything to do with aesthetics; this is a generational reaction to both the struggles and joys of being a parent.
Why did you decide to tell the story as a memoir instead of taking a more fictional look at this point in your life?
NP: I don’t think I really had the perspective on the situation in order to write it as fiction. A memoir seemed like the best format because the book’s about the immediate shock of becoming a first-time parent.
Elijah, your son, is four now; what’s he up to?
NP: He’s in preschool right now, he’s starting kindergarten next year and he spends most of his time asking us which animals are predators and where they live. He wants to know, for instance, if tigers eat pandas in China. I don’t exactly know the answer to this. I suspect the answer is no. In general, things eating other things are appealing to him at the moment.
The blog is a very personal look into your life, is it difficult to share so much?
NP: I really don’t find it that difficult. It’s a personal look at my life, but it’s also a comic look at my life. For the most part, it’s not like I have anything dark to relate to people. It’s like having a newspaper column about being a dad, except that it’s on the Internet.
Will you let Elijah read the stories when he’s old enough? How do you think he’ll react?
NP: Of course he’s allowed to read them. I don’t know how he’s going to feel in the future, but I hope he sees it as a love letter to him, as opposed to a critique of him. It’s a critique of me, if anything. In the long run isn’t everybody kind of curious to know what their parents were like when they were kids? And he’s gonna know. He’s really gonna know.
What about the more sensitive stuff? You talk about smoking pot.
NP: Yeah. I do. I’m not setting myself up as some sort of shining example, what I do with my life and what he is permitted to do with his when he’s under my jurisdiction, they don’t have anything to do with each other really. A lot of dads have a couple of scotches when they get home from work and no one ever asks, “Well what are you going to tell your kids about having a couple of scotches?”
How would you respond to critics who say these parents are just trying to create clones of themselves?
NP: These are very involved, active parents. Sure they’re interested in sharing what they love with their kids. The kids will make their choices later on, but exposing your kid to a variety of music and food and TV and movies and people and travel experiences, that can only create a more interesting, well-rounded person. I don’t care if my kid likes the same bands that I do. I don’t care if he’s cool or not. None of that matters to me.
Do you think the relationship between parents and children is changing?
NP: It’s hard to say how it’s going to play out. I don’t think that it’s going to be a bad generation of kids though; I think these are good parents. We’re also learning on the job. Not only that, these aren’t laissez-faire parents, they are parents who take an active role in trying to get their kids in line and disciplined and try to make sure that they’re polite.
I think one thing that gets overlooked is the fact that the world has changed too.
NP: My generation grew up as the first generation to be completely soaked in constant stimuli and information, and I think one of the things that a good contemporary parent has to do is be a filter for some of these stimuli and try to be a tastemaker in some ways.
What advice would you give to someone about to start a family?
NP: If you don’t want to you don’t have to lose who you were before you became a parent. You should plan to make compromises and sacrifices, and there are all kinds of variables that get thrown your way once you have a kid and it’s going to be an increased set of responsibilities, but don’t give up. Don’t give up yourself to have a kid.