Dads in the Limelight – Andrew Park

Our 37th Dad in the Limelight is Author Andrew Park. Andrew is the author of the book Between a Church and a Hard Place: One Faith-Free Dad’s Struggle to Understand What it Means to be Religious (or Not). I want to thank Andrew for being a part of this series. It has been great getting to know him and now sharing him with all of you!

1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)

I’m a husband and the father of a 5-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy. I’m also the author of Between a Church and a Hard Place: One Faith-Free Dad’s Struggle to Understand What it Means to be Religious (or Not). It’s my first book, but I have been writing professionally for more than a dozen years, first for newspapers in Raleigh and Austin, then for BusinessWeek, and now as a freelancer for national publications such as The New York Times, WIRED, Inc. and Slate. My specialty is writing about business and technology, but I’ve also covered everything from murders to medicine.

2) Tell me about your family

I met my wife, the lovely and talented Cristina Smith, while we were both in graduate school studying journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a full-time mother and a part-time producer at the public radio program The Story with Dick Gordon. We got married in 1998 in Austin, Texas. After stays in Dallas and Charlotte, we are back where we started, in idyllic Chapel Hill, N.C. Life is a bit different now that we have kids and a mortgage, but we love the stimulation you get living in a college town. And most of the time, there’s a pretty good basketball team to cheer for. 

3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?

As you might have guessed from the title of my book, I have struggled with how to give my children a grounding spiritually when I myself did not grow up with religious faith — and still stay true to myself. I want them to have the chance to make up their own minds about religion, but it is hard to accept that they might choose beliefs very different from my own. It’s also difficult in our very religious society to not feel insecure about not involving your children in a community of faith. 
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?

Be open with your children about what you believe and don’t believe and what you haven’t made up your mind about. Even the most ardent non-believers confront religious questions and spiritual quandaries. I think it’s critical that our kids understand that these questions don’t have easy answers and that it’s okay to wrestle with them, even when you’re an adult and supposed to know all of the answers. If you avoid the topic, they will seek answers somewhere else. 

5) Seeing that you (or your position) is in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
When I wrote my book, I was very concerned about my children’s privacy and autonomy. So I made a point of keeping their names out of the manuscript completely, and I also didn’t force them to come along for any of the research. I didn’t want to pick up the book in a few years and think that I had exploited them for my own professional gain. 

6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?

The fathers I admire the most are the ones who seem to always be in the moment when they’re with their children. My thoughts are always drifting to work or finances or the future when I should just be enjoying the present with my kids. Even when the present isn’t so enjoyable, I think we owe it to ourselves and our families to be there completely.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?

I wish I had brought a a tape recorder with me everywhere we went so I would remember more of them. Or better yet, I wish I had wired them up with one for those times when I wasn’t around. 

8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?

The first line of my book described “the first time I heard my son say ‘God'” and how it sent me into a panic that led me to re-examine my feelings about religion. But I go on to talk about how it happened while “passing the time in one of the amazing yet quickly forgotten ways that you do when your free hours are given over to bringing up small children. Perhaps it is just me, but I now have a hard time distinguishing between my experiences during my nearly 8 years as a parent. Sure, there are the obvious stand-out moments — the delivery room, the first day of pre-school, the trips to the ER. But the rest of them have poured together like the paint spilled from a million overturned cans such that it’s now completely impossible to imagine life being any different.

If you have any questions for Andrew, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!

Also, do you know a Dad in the Limelight? If so, please email me their contact information so that they too can be a part of this series!

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