Family Matters

Family Matters

Sweet Surrender: Ice Cream, Fatherhood, and the Meaning of Life

By Jere Chapman

September/October 2010

We pulled out of a Dairy Queen on our way home from biking the Red Cedar Trail near Menomonee, Wisconsin. The sun roof was open. Santana was cranked. My daughters, 3 and 6, were licking ice cream and bobbing their heads to the Latin fusion. When we reached home, their sticky faces looked solemn in the gravity of slumber.

I carried their limp bodies from the truck and breathed in the sweetness of their sleep. I held them close and kissed each cheek, smiling as I remembered the scratchiness of my father's beard when he'd carried me to bed after long trips. Reason enough to live for another day, I mused. Reason enough to have been dragged kicking and pouting into fatherhood.

Before children, weekends were luxuriously self-indulgent. I did what I pleased, and felt smug in my freedom to play tennis, bike, hike, fish, go to concerts and movies, and enjoy the thrill of a new restaurant anytime and anywhere I pleased. Meals were a source of unhurried pleasures—jazz on the stereo and candlelight and conversation that lingered long after the last coffee was served. I conducted a private practice out of my home at all hours of the day or night—even on weekends, if I wished. I flaunted my freedom and was bored by descriptions of my friends' and family's children.

Then eight years ago, upon returning from a fishing trip to Colorado, my Sicilian mate, Madonna, informed me that things needed to change. I was 45. Did I really want to continue on this path of empty…

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