Ah, there’s something oh-so-endearing about a doting, proud, and slightly-neurotic new dad. Last we heard, Alex Barnett, comedian and natural-hair blogger for The Coil Review, welcomed Ivan the Terribly Cute into the world, with some help from his lovely wife, Camille. Ten weeks later, I wanted to make sure Alex was still alive. I’ve been seeing his hilarious Facebook updates, but the reporter in me wanted to make sure it really was him, because who has time to write funny stuff, work and have kids???
Take a read at what’s been going on in the Barnett household since Ivan. Find out what Alex thinks of fatherhood, assigning (or not) a race to his son, and what the heck a Pigamoose is.
Q: I’ve been covering some heavy stuff lately and I think a story about how you and the family are adjusting to Ivan would be a delight. I love the diaries and updates you do on Facebook. Tell me, what inspired you to do this?
A: Initially, my goal in posting about Ivan stemmed from my desire as a comic to reach out and engage with my audience and fans by providing material that was personal to me (and my wife) and that also resonated with them. Over time, though, as more and more people have responded to the posts and have shared their own stories (sometimes very personal ones), the posts have far transcended the world of comedy. The people who have written in and who continue to write in have become friends in the truest sense of the word. Their love, support and encouragement is amazing, and it is humbling to know that so many people I’ve never met in person could have so much love and affection and regard for my family and me. And, I very much feel the same way in return. Thus, as I post each day, I do not feel like a comic engaging with fans or audience. Rather, at this point, it very much has become that I’m just a new dad posting very personal (although funny) diary entries, which I am sharing with friends. It is an amazingly warm and cathartic experience. And, the more people write in and share their own stories, the more encouraged I am to continue.
Q: You are a newlywed AND a new father? How’s that for pressure?
A: Being a newlywed is not that much pressure for Camille and me, as we dated for a number of years and were already living together when we got married. So, unlike at least some newlyweds, we don’t have to first learn the basics about one another. We already know most of the story (though there are always new things to learn). In addition, while we are young at heart, we’re not kids, so we’ve each had the experience of being in a long-term relationship before. As a result, I think we both, perhaps, have a more realistic understanding of the give-and-take of relationships than young newlyweds.
As for being a new father, there definitely is more pressure to that. I’d say the biggest pressures are: (1) wanting to be home with Ivan more than I am able (and figuring out how to maximize my time at home) versus needing and wanting to be out of the house making money and building my career; and (2) wanting to make sure that I’m setting a good example for Ivan all the time, even in the small moments. For example, I’m very mindful of how I react in moments when I get frustrated or irritated. I try to be careful of my language and my body language. I also am very aware of subliminal energy I may have. It’s one thing to say you’re not upset about something, but if you really are, it will come through. Thus, I really try to think positively so that Ivan is picking up positive energy from me and not negativity or mixed-messages. Camille is very good at this. She has an amazing resiliency and ability to stay positive.
Q: Is fatherhood all you’d ever imagined, just with more poop?
I’m not sure what I imagined fatherhood would be. I wasn’t much of a kid guy when I was single. And the few nephews and nieces I do have live far away, so I didn’t really have much experience with kids and kid-related stuff. But, now that I am a dad, I can’t believe how awesome it is. I wish I could be more articulate than that to describe it and how I feel, but that’s the best way I can think of to explain fatherhood. It’s just awesome! I can’t be with Ivan enough, and I enjoy every single thing about him. I hate when he cries, as it feels like my heart is being ripped in two, but even then, I’m so glad to be around him and so glad when I can do something to make him feel better and stop crying. The feelings of being a parent must come from deep within our DNA and our instinctive brains because I know I’m not consciously thinking about any of this, it just happens. Whatever the explanation, though, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to become a dad, and Ivan’s dad specifically. It is the greatest gift I’ve ever received.
Q: You’re Jewish, and Camille converted, so I’m assuming you’ll be raising Ivan in the faith and culture. Why was this so important to you?
A: This is an excellent question. I’m not sure I can give a simple answer. For me, being Jewish is part of who I am. It’s in my fibers. It is as much a part of my identity as my name, my hair color and how I look. My level of adherence to religious ritual evolves constantly, but from a cultural, ethnic, sociological and tribal aspect, I am very Jewish. And, I believe many Jews feel similarly. For me (and, I believe, for other Jews) being Jewish is not just about going to synagogue. It is a cultural/ethnic/tribal identity similar to being Irish or Italian or, I imagine, being African-American. Thus, while I respect all other religions very much, I very much wanted to share this ethno-cultural birthright with Ivan.
Q: What’s the single cutest thing about the baby that you just can’t get enough of?
A: Very tough question. He has a lot of “moves” that are pretty darn cute. But, I have to say, now, at 10 weeks, when he’s looking up at his elephant mobile and making noises that sound like the baby version of a conversation — that’s pretty fantastic!
Q: How do you and Camille divvy the care of Ivan?
A: Camille takes on the lion’s share of the work. She’s off on maternity leave, so she’s with Ivan all day long. And, he’s breastfeeding, so that’s her department (although at some point, we’re going to probably check out pumping and letting me feed him with the bottle). When I’m home, though, I do as much as possible to make up for lost time. I hold him, carry him around the apartment (especially if he’s having a gas attack and needs to be held upright till he burps or lets one out the other end), and I’m becoming an ace with diapers. And, Camille and I are both big readers, so we read to him all the time.
Q:Now this is a doozy: What color/race do you identify Ivan? Have you and Camille discussed it? What will you tell him about his lineage when he’s older?
A: Another great question. I don’t know that we identify Ivan as one race or another. Honestly, it doesn’t really come up, except in my comedy, where it serves as a way for me to explore difficult racial issues in a humorous context. Camille and I have discussed it from time to time, and I guess where we come out is that there’s no need to categorize Ivan. He is an individual. We will not hide this issue from him. And, in fact, I’m sure we will talk about race with him in a very frank, open and honest way. But, I wouldn’t want to categorize him as one thing or another. If, down the road, when he is old enough to make decisions for himself about himself, he wants to start affiliating as one thing more than the other, that will be for him to decide, though, if that were to occur, I would encourage him to embrace all aspects of his heritage and background.
A: As you know, Camille and I launched a new stuffed animal business called Pigamoose. It’s modeled on a stuffed animal called Pigamoose that my mother created for me when I was a baby. So we’re really proud of the company because it’s a way of passing on a family heirloom, and, too, a way of honoring moms and all that they do. Also, because Pigamoose is a hybrid/mixed being of its own (part pig, part moose), in a very real way, Pigamoose is a great way to honor interracial love and mixed race couples like Camille and me (and you and your husband). We’re really proud of the company and how we’re growing. And, we’re very excited that Ivan and other babies who’ve had the pleasure of meeting Pigamoose have enjoyed the doll so much. I attach a picture of Ivan surrounded by a herd of Pigamooses!