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We who are about to breed: Mykle Hansen.

August 26, 2011 \am\31 8:00 am

[In which WWAATD asks writers and other artist types about life as breeders/parents/kid-keepers.]

Name: Mykle Hansen.

1. What are your kids’ ages, names?

I have one daughter: Phina, age eleven.  She’s a smart-ass like her father.

2. How do you balance your time between parenting and writing?

In the beginning, I didn’t at all.  When our daughter was born, all our other priorities, schedules and ambitions went away for a while, along with normal patterns of sleep, anything optional enough to be called a “hobby”, and in fact almost all of the structure of my life.  I still wrote in my journal a bit — the entries are all crazed and frantic, interspersed with lots of crayon — but processing the excitement and the stress and the joy and the amazement that came with this new person, learning what parenting is and how to do it, filled up my whole head for the first year.  Also I had a day job, working at home but still keeping me busy, paying the diaper bill and all that.

That first year gave me a greater appreciation than ever before of the value of an hour.  It’s a kind of Boot Camp: your baby drill sergeant will tear you apart and rebuild you better.  As Phina grew older and I gradually retreived my lost spare time — as you will — I put those hours to use in better ways. I rebuilt a new structure around the important things: my family and my work.

These days I’m a writer from dawn until school gets out, and a stay-at-home-dad the rest of the day.  I have more discipline now, more focus, clearer values.  I’m all about getting stuff done.  I think I didn’t really grow up until I had this child who needed me to be a man.

3. What is the best piece of advice about being a parent and a writer?

It’s the same advice you get everywhere else, but: read to your kid every night, and don’t ever let them watch television.  Reading “A Series Of Unfortunate Events” out loud to Phina was a huge formative experience for both of us.  Watching a story enter a kid’s mind shows you the effect of each little element, all the mechanisms and tricks in a good piece of writing.  And telling a story out loud is a skill every writer should hone, so make it your practice.  Meanwhile, I was adamant about protecting her from TV: the vapidity, the messages of dissatisfaction, the easy way out of boredom.  The results of this brainwashing have been pretty awesome.  My daughter is a literate super-genius who knows how to create her own fun.

4. How has your writing changed since becoming a parent?

Oddly enough, I can see in retrospect that my daughter’s birth marked the point when I began writing all this immature, profane, disgusting stuff: oceans of poop, bears eating people, giant penises wrestling, all that.  I guess I developed an appreciation of infantile humor.  Poop is always funny!  And yet, I’m also more concerned with justice, ethics, right and wrong, all the stuff you’re supposed to impart to children.  Whether or not I’m actually accomplishing that with my daughter, it seems to show up in my writing.

5. Tell us something we don’t know about you and being a writer-slash-parent.

Okay, here’s an embarrassing one: my daughter swears like a sailor!  Because I do, and because I decided at the outset that I didn’t want to teach my daughter a fear of words, nor would I ever speak to her in some censored “grown-up” voice.  So instead I taught her there are certain words we only use at home or with close friends, because other people just can’t handle how awesome they are!  And she totally got that, at age five.  You can swear in front of Dad, but not in front of your teachers.  So that’s one experiment in extreme parenting that seems to have gone well.  Your mileage may vary.

  1. gaige permalink
    August 26, 2011 \pm\31 10:01 pm 10:01 pm

    that’s the first thing i’ve read in months. it’s the only thing that makes having children seem sort of ….. acceptable. mykle, you are the a man.

    • August 27, 2011 \am\31 9:45 am 9:45 am

      Yeah! This is one of the more uplifting interviews we did for this project. (They’ve all been great, though).

  2. August 26, 2011 \pm\31 11:21 pm 11:21 pm

    phina, the famous, mysterious writer-child and face modifier


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