Five years ago today, sitting in a small one-bedroom apartment on a drizzly fall Sunday in Manhattan, I started a blog called “Our Reality Show.” It was designed to be the story of parenting four kids, all of whom were reality shows unto themselves in some way.
And that’s where the focus largely has stayed, with some side jaunts here and there. Looking back on the entries published since October 2009, I’ve managed to focus on parenting for the most part, whether it’s my parenting (or lack thereof) or the influence my parents and others have had on me.
Even though my blogging has been wildly inconsistent, the whole process has been a learning experience as a writer and communicator. I’d like to think that I’m a better parent, son, and spouse as a result of the hours that have gone into thinking about things to write, and actually writing these essays.
So in honor of the anniversary, let’s look at where our cast of characters is today:
• Jill: Now the assistant director for the American School Counselor Association, my spouse/partner/best friend/love also is an excellent juggler, balancing her increasingly busy and fruitful career with being a loving and kind mom to her children. Marriage is not perfect, but almost 20 years after we first got together, I could not imagine going through this life without her.
• Nicholas: Now 21 (unbelievable), he is a senior at Elon University and graduates next May. My oldest and I have had our share of bumps, no surprise given the acrimonious breakup between his mom and dad. But I could not be prouder of how he has handled himself, especially over the past year and a half. He is finding his way in terms of his career and in how he handles his relationships (the girlfriend, Katherine, helps a lot) with his siblings and the rest of his family. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
• Kate: A high school senior (!), our 17-year-old has struggled mightily at times over the past few years as she works to cope with ADHD/bipolar disorder. Jill, Kate, and I have tried to be forthcoming about the challenges that she faces and our family deals with as a result of this unfortunate genetic roll of the dice, and you’ll see several essays on this topic. Raising a teenager under these circumstances is no cakewalk for anyone involved, but Kate has made progress thanks to the support she has received both inside and outside the family. At her core, she is a kind, sweet person with a loving, generous soul. She is wonderful with younger children, has a job, and is on the path to graduate. That will be an accomplishment she and everyone involved in her life can take great pride in.
• Emma: The oldest twin (by a minute), I’ve long referred to Miss Em as “the normal one,” the Marilyn to our Herman, Lily, Grandpa and Eddie. But, more accurately, she should be characterized as the family’s old soul, the one who in many respects is far more mature and grounded than she has a right to be. Like any teenager, our 16-year-old has her struggles trying to manage life’s juggle of school, activities, peer relationships, and — for the past several months — boyfriend (!). But she is such a hard worker, so intrinsically motivated to do her best in almost everything, that I can’t help but sit back and say, “Wow.”
• Ben: Without question, Ben has had the most interesting trajectory over these past five years. When I started this blog, we were splitting our time between Northern Virginia and Manhattan because he was starting to work on the Broadway revival of “Ragtime.” Since then, he’s performed in “Billy Elliot” on Broadway and on tour, a show (“Golden Age”) at the Kennedy Center, been on episodes of three Emmy-winning TV series, and now is on the “Newsies” national tour. The path he has been on, and the journey we have taken in the process, has made for much of the fodder on this blog. What I’m most pleased to say, however, is that through all of this he remains a good kid with a good head on his shoulders, and he genuinely loves what he does.
This is our core cast, although you can also add Jeremiah, Ginno, and others with equally significant parts in our extended family. We have been blessed with a fascinating group of friends and extended family members who have added greatly to our lives.
Throughout all this, I’ve tried to chronicle the ups, downs and in-betweens of this journey. Sometimes it’s been joyous, funny, or nostalgic. At others, it’s been questioning, sad, angry, or melancholy. I hope, however, that it has been truthful and entertaining for you as the reader.
After all, it’s our reality. Or better yet, our reality show.