Jonathan Seidler is an Australian author, father and nu-metal apologist. You may have read his memoir, caught his compelling live performance at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival, or noticed his distinct eyebrows on the street. He has some interesting things to say about music, fatherhood, Aussie culture, mental health and the social gymnastics of group chats. This is ‘Winging It’, his column for Esquire.
I DON’T THINK it’s a reach to say that I’m a generally impatient person.
I rush across the street before the little green man tells me I’m allowed to. When people are conversing with me and searching for the right word, I often provide it to them without them asking. I file columns like this two days early. If I see a free parking spot on the other side of the street, I’m known to pull Fast & Furious-style manoeuvres in order to secure it. If someone is dawdling on the footpath, I can’t help but speed up my stride to overtake them. Sometimes it feels like I’m a New Yorker trapped in the body of a Sydneysider. It’s not that I’m too abrupt; it’s just that everyone else is a laggard.
Patience, as it has often been said, is a great virtue. It’s something my father had in spades—but also didn’t. This was the conundrum of being a community GP while raising four children. Dad gave loads of his time to his patients, whether it be the impromptu ones that would stop him on the street or those just cruising into the surgery to score scripts. With us, at the end of a long day, he was more likely to lose his temper.
When I became a teenager, I realised it didn’t take much to set an exhausted doctor off, and got particularly good at winding my father up. I remember thinking it was hilarious—and that he was nuts. Sometimes he’d lose his shit, take his dinner and eat alone in his study. Occasionally, with us all bickering in the back seat, he’d snap and pull open the door to our Tarago while it was still moving. Such was his albatross of being an impatient, patient man who treated other impatient patients six days a week.
Of course, impatience can also have its benefits. If you’re campaigning for social justice, for instance, pushing against the status quo for what you think is right, leaning back is not an option. This fire in the belly is also something I picked up from my dad, who used to advocate for the rights of addicts in the late ‘80s when the government wanted them all locked up. My early marketing career was marked by proactive campaigns to save Sydney’s nightlife and championing the gay marriage vote. More often than not, proactivity and patience do not make for good bedfellows.
But this is a professional example. Most of the issues around men and patience are personal. I’m a new-ish dad and I’m fast learning that the problems my own father had were not unique. While I like to style myself as a renaissance man, writing thinkpieces for Esquire or wearing neon pink Converse to the office, I’ve come to realise that I also have an incredibly short fuse with my own child. A quick Google will show you that there’s now an entire industry that’s popped up around impatient dads, from online subscription courses to dedicated books.
Having a child is a steep learning curve for any person, but it’s particularly perilous if you’re someone that typically likes to be in control. Impatient people harbour the illusion that they can occasionally bend the world to their will, a fallacy that quickly reveals itself when your child decides that yoghurt belongs on the floor, or in their hair, or that they now hate yoghurt entirely. Small children and toddlers have no concept of time and unlike me in my adolescent goth phase, no idea of how infuriating they can be.
This is something my partner innately understands, but then again, she is also a far more patient person in most contexts. Intercepting bad behaviour as it happens, CBT-style, is something that comes naturally to her. But casting this as a Men Are From Mars argument doesn’t resolve the fact that as much as I love my child, she will get older, chattier and inevitably more annoying, and I will have to adapt by practising even more patience. She will learn how to push my buttons instead of tripping over them in her cute little shoes by mistake. I will have to teach her how to wait for the green man before she crosses the road.
One good piece I read on fatherhood nodded to the fact that our world has become geared around impatience. We can be pinged from anyone, anywhere and usually need a very good reason not to jump on something immediately. I think impatience is an issue I’ve always had, but it’s exacerbated by working in a world and at a time where everything happens in double time. Our brains are wired for this, but our kids’ aren’t. Sometimes I think my daughter is just a tiny human, forgetting that she’s also a developing one.
Either way, it’s something I know I have to get on top of quick. Our apartment is tiny and there’s no other room for me to eat dinner in.
Jonathan Seidler is an Esquire columnist and the author of It’s A Shame About Ray (Allen & Unwin).
Like all proper columns, this one will be back next week. You can read all of Jonno’s columns for Esquire here.