Interview: Kendall Guillemette
We are really excited to introduce this series of interviews as we launch Grounded Magazine’s blog. The blog will further build a community that is nourishing to parents and through these interviews we can hear the honest and thoughtful voices of parents. We invite you to read how we’re all finding our way through this wonderful, often crazy and challenging journey of life and parenting.
We’ll begin with interviews with Grounded’s co-founders, Kendall and Mollie, then move onto to a range of other parents whose voices will inspire, challenge and encourage us.
Where do you live and how many kids do you have?
I live in Portland Oregon with my beautiful and amazing wife, our 4 year old son Finnegan and shortly after this hits there will be another little guy in our family.
We're all making this up as we go along. We don't know what we're doing and I think it is detrimental to pretend like we do.What do you spend your days doing?
This is a time in our life where my days are very full–pleasantly so. Time spent regaling my boy with the latest ‘Popcorn Jones’ adventure, consulting with clients on various projects, partnering with my wife in carrying out our plans for that given day. I’m a web consultant and it’s my job to see problems and find solutions. When that work is done, I spend my time with my family in our garden, on walks and enjoying heartfelt conversation.
What do you like most about your family?
The smiles, it’s gotta be the smiles. My wife has a smile that absolutely lights up a room. And when I see that smile come across my son’s face, I know that it is a gift that she has given to him. Smiling, laughing, joking, playing with each other and making each other laugh is the best. When we’re clicking on that level, nothing else in the world matters if it exists at all.
What parts of parenting come naturally to you and what parts are a struggle?
I think there are 2 things in particular that have come fairly naturally. First is that I’m a total softie, and I immediately fell head over heels in love with that little boy. I was ‘in’, and when I’m ‘in’, I’m totally committed. Since then, that commitment has brought me so much joy, oftentimes due to situations brought about by his curious nature. Which brings me to the second thing that came naturally, answering questions. I’m never shy about answering a question. My answer may not be right and may indeed be made up on the spot, but I can give an answer. Which is good, because my son can ask question after question after question after question.
He and I share a love of baseball and we live near a small college, so one day this spring we decided to go over and watch the college baseball team play. As my wife and I settled into our seats right behind home plate, he sidled up next me and started in with the questions. At one point the coach from a team that was sitting in the stands made eye contact with me, motioned to the boy and smiled. At some point he will find baseball-reference.com and he won’t have as many questions for me. Even then, I hope he keeps asking me.
The biggest struggle for me has been that I never stop being a parent. While this wasn’t a surprise to me intellectually, after my son was born, it really struck me that forever I will be this boy’s Papa. There is weight and substance there that I wasn’t really prepared for. That was a big struggle for me. I think I’ve made peace with it pretty well, but even now it still comes up. Along with that is that kids’ needs are immediate and they usually lack the skill or development to delay gratification. I’m pretty selfish and I was very comfortable in that role myself. Moving to the role where I’m the one who delays gratification was and remains a struggle.
What do you need as a parent?
I need other parents, and I need honesty. I’ll start with honesty. We’re all making this up as we go along. We don’t know what we’re doing and I think it is detrimental to pretend like we do. At least to ourselves, but I think to all other parents as well. When I’ve totally lost my patience at bedtime because my son is suddenly hungry and has to potty and needs a drink of water, it’s not helpful to pretend that it’s not maddening. It is maddening. And I need to be able to say it’s maddening. I also need other parents. It’s one of the reasons that we started Grounded Magazine and why we’re doing this series of interviews. I need to know that I’m not the only one who wants and needs time away from my family. The walls of pressure and pretense that our society puts on parents is crushing and I need other parents to help tear that wall down.
How does where you live affect your parenting?
Where we live has been a very hot topic in our family since our son was born. Actually since long before our son was born. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and lived there until I was 30. Married 4 years, my wife and I decided to pick up and move, site unseen, to Seattle. Best decision ever. We love the Pacific Northwest and don’t anticipate ever leaving. We lived in Capitol Hill in Seattle which skews very young and hip. We lived there for 5 years, within which our first son was born. As we experienced city living with a young baby, we wondered what our other options were. Would it be better for our family to relocate to a very family friendly environment where our son could roam free, get to know his neighbors and really be a part of a smaller community. We looked around and settled on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle. There was public transit into Seattle, but provided a slower more small town setting. And it was great. But it wasn’t for us. Last summer we decided that we wanted to move to Portland. It’s a city that’s considerably smaller than Seattle, but maintains the Pacific Northwest vibe.
So that brings me back to the question of how that affects my parenting. I think that all the while we have been searching for the right setting for our family, a large part of that has to do with how we want to parent. We want to provide our children with opportunities to pursue the things that they’re passionate about. The limited access to these things is part of what pulled us away from the small town setting. For us, living in an urban environment also exposes us, and especially our children, to people who are different from us. Having access to opportunities and experiencing different people and cultures allow us to live a more vibrant life.
What are you especially conscious of as a parent?
I’m really conscious of raising well-mannered children. Growing up, that was something that my Mom emphasized and in the same way I am a stickler for it. I’d even say that I’m uptight about it. I’ve really had to learn to back off and let him be a kid with it. If he’s 16 and still eating like a 4 year old, I’ll have a conversation with him then. Until then I think I’ll try to relax and model the manners that I’d like him to have.
I guess another thing I’m really conscious of as a parent is violence. It’s so prevalent in our society and I really struggle with how to explain war and violence to a 4 year old. I think there are some human nature things with kids as they play to get the bad guy, and to ‘kill’. It really makes me uneasy to use those concepts in play.
What nurtures and inspires you as a person?
Music and road trips, often together. When I’m in a funk or down, listening to music usually lifts me out of that state and connects me with a broader consciousness that is bigger than myself. When I listen to a song that resonates with me, or expresses a feeling, mood or thought that I’ve had, but not been able to adequately express. That tends to my soul. Also seeing live music is something that has always opened up a creative door inside of me. I’m not sure even how to express it, but seeing live music is definitely something like that for me.
And road trips for me are an opportunity to think freely. Driving down the highway is where I feel most in tune with my thoughts. I read somewhere, at some time, that there is something about the rhythm of the lines on the road and the noise of the car that can put people into some sort of meditative state. It feels like that to me anyway. I focus on driving but I don’t have to focus on thinking about driving. I can be free to just think.
What is your favorite time of day?
This is a hard one. There are a couple that stick out, but I like very early in the morning when all is peaceful. The promise of a new day has been fulfilled and the possibilities of what the day holds are endless. It’s such a hopeful and beautiful time. The light in the morning is also the best light of the day.
What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
My answer to this question 5 years ago would look vastly different than my answer today. My plans were grand, and big and my actions were small, if there at all. Now my plans are a lot smaller and my actions have caught up to my plans. I guess my biggest plan is to be a force of good in the world, starting in my home. If I can pull off being a loving husband and father, that is wild and precious enough for me.
Is there anything you do that you want to share with our readers?
I have a lot of irons in the fire. I’m co-founder of Grounded Magazine (this very site you’re on right now), a web consultant that helps small to medium sized businesses solve business problems with digital technology, and I’m an amateur baseball writer at Vigilante Baseball and you can find me on Instagram.