Published on May 6th, 2014 | by Tomas Moniz0
TOMAS MONIZ on RAD DAD MAGAZINE
As a twenty-one-year-old father, I was served papers by the county of Santa Barbara to officially notify me that I must “provide” for my child. Ironically, I was served those papers while I was rocking that child in my arms, cleaning up the house I shared with my girlfriend. The cop stood there, scolding me that I should be out getting a job. I nodded in agreement, saying nothing back to him, afraid of his power and authority.
But I was fucking angry.
I was a full-time student. So was my girlfriend. We both had part-time jobs. We took turns doing what needed to get done; we switched it up when one of us got tired of, say, balancing the checkbook (or more likely making too many mistakes). We argued and fought, but also loved and spent a lot of time focusing on what was important – our son. We sacrificed our autonomy and ability to participate in things other twenty year olds were doing.
We were a tight, angry fist of domesticity.
We struggled with the decision to send our six-week-old child to an illegal childcare center that clearly had way too many children for one woman.
But we had no other choice; she’s what we could afford.
Even then, when I would drop my son off, the sitter would tell me I was carrying him wrong. Time went on and things got a little easier, but the attitudes towards men as parents never seemed to change.
On weekends, I would bike around Santa Barbara with him, letting his mother sleep because she’d been out till two in the morning, selling roses to drinking partiers at the bars along State Street.
Of course, I will admit that balancing a child on the handlebars sans helmet may not have been the smartest move a father could make (but, hey, it was the early 90s; somehow I feel like that is a justifiable excuse.). Yet the number of times I was told I couldn’t parent was infuriating. I was told I hadn’t dressed him properly, having left the house without socks and shoes. People assumed I knew nothing about his well-being, despite being the one to take him to many doctor’s appointments, or that I would hurt or drop him – which I sometimes did, but not because I was a man.
I was determined to show them all wrong.
Fast forward ten years and two daughters and see how quickly determination becomes desperation. Let me explain: parenting a baby is difficult, but when they become autonomous, independent, strong-willed young people, parenting enters a whole new phase.
My teenage son was getting into drugs like many other teenagers; I discovered he was viewing some intense pornography, and school was becoming a battle between us. Desperate, I started to look for guidance out in the world, but there wasn’t much coming from any kind of radical perspective, nor was there anything about fathering that really felt comfortable to me.
Generally, most mainstream parenting (and especially mainstream fathering) material was about control or discipline or based on manipulation, and I didn’t want any of that stuff. Then I discovered The Future Generation by China Martens, a zine about parenting and anarchism. It changed everything. I wrote a letter, she answered, and then I put a call out for fathers to send in essays about fathering from a feminist, anarchist, and anti-racist perspective
The response was…sadly, completely underwhelming.
I got two submissions.
I realized getting fathers to talk about fathering in vulnerable, honest ways was almost as difficult as telling a determined teenager ‘no.’ Getting fathers to brag or boast was easy. But I wanted the struggle, the fears, the mistakes; I wanted powerful examples of men reflecting on how they wished to parent.
Also, a number of the fathers I knew and respected felt uncomfortable getting attention for doing something that just seemed so natural: caring for your child, something women have done for centuries with absolutely no fanfare. When you think about it, there should be nothing radical in that act.
But slowly, people began to write about their choices, their mistakes, and their victories.
Rad Dad the zine was born.
Fast forward another ten years. Today Rad Dad is going through a significant change. We are transitioning to a full-fledged magazine, partly as a way to become more sustainable, welcoming more voices and perspectives. The process of working on Rad Dad has been so inspirational. I have had the opportunity to collect and publish stories from trans fathers, fathers of color, single moms, parent allies who work with kids or families. It’s crazy how one-dimensional fathering and parenting is represented in the media still, after all these years, when in fact there are so many powerful examples of how we create family. I want Rad Dad to continue forever but for now we have committed to doing three issues in 2014. The first one came out in January. June and September will follow.
What we need now are advocates, writers, artist, subscribers; hell, we’ll take sugar mamas and papas to support our printing costs. I’m looking for people to get involved.
The easiest thing would be to subscribe, but there are lots of ways: ask your bookstore or local food co-op to carry it. Buy copies for the rad parents in your life. Perhaps more important, buy it for the not-so-rad parents in your life.
If this incarnation of Rad Dad ends at three issues, they will be the best, most amazing issues ever. You’ll want to hold on to them. Trust me.
In the end though, the magazine is about all of us: everyday people sharing stories of the ways they have created or are creating their families. If there is anything I have learned, it is that families are resilient, malleable, often times chosen rather than inherited, and never perfect. They take work.
But the work is made easier by finding others engaged in similar struggles.
Here we are.
You are not alone.
Welcome to Rad Dad.