Paternal

By Nick Firchau

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Description

Paternal is a show about the brotherhood of fatherhood. Created and hosted by Nick Firchau, a longtime journalist and podcast producer, Paternal offers candid and in-depth conversations with great men who are quietly forging new paths in fatherhood. Listen as our diverse and thoughtful guests – a world-renowned soccer star in San Diego, a Oglala Sioux elder in South Dakota, a New York Knicks barber in Queens, a pioneering rock DJ in Seattle and many more - discuss the models of manhood that were passed down to them, and how they're redefining those models as they become fathers themselves.

Episode Date
#63 Jesse Thistle: Tracing Our Fathers’ Footsteps (2021)
36:59

Jesse Thistle is an assistant professor at York University in Toronto and an award-winning memoirist who wrote the top-selling Canadian book in 2020, but his success didn’t come easily. Prior to penning his celebrated emotional memoir From the Ashes, Thistle spent years struggling with issues of addiction and homelessness, a lifestyle he sees to some degree as the result of the absence of a father figure in his life. His own father was an addict and a thief who disappeared nearly 40 years ago, and no one has seen or heard from him since.

But how much of his father’s troubles can be traced back to the generations of men who came before him? On this previous episode of Paternal from 2021, Thistle wrestles with the myths he’s been told about his father, discusses how his own indigenous heritage contributed to years spent living on the streets of Canada, and breaks down the manifestations of intergenerational trauma, including addiction, abuse, homelessness, and crime.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jun 22, 2022
#62 The Best of Paternal: Advice for New Dads
42:48

The new dads have spoken, and they want some help. So in honor of those men celebrating Father’s Day for the first time this year, Paternal welcomes back four favorite guests from the past to offer advice on how to survive those early days of parenthood, including what they did right, what they did wrong, and what lessons they learned in the process of becoming a father.

Guests on this special episode include New York Times chief theater critic Jesse Green, entrepreneur Jelani Memory, author Waubgeshig Rice, and journalist and screenwriter Chris Jones.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jun 15, 2022
#61 Andrew Reiner: Better Boys, Better Men
38:27

A number of years ago, the dean at the Honors College at Towson University in Maryland went on the prowl for ideas for new seminar courses at the college. Andrew Reiner wasted no time in offering an idea for a seminar on a subject that he says has become a compulsion in his life: Masculinity. What if the school offered a course where he could work with students to deconstruct our ideas around masculinity and what it looks like now for a new generation of college students, men and women?   On this episode of Paternal, Reiner discusses the course “The Changing Face of Masculinity,” as well as some of the most compelling findings in his 2020 book Better Boys Better Men, including why boys are struggling with a crisis of masculinity, how their ideas of masculinity hold them back in the classroom, and why their penchant for competition inhibits their ability to build trust among male peers, even in adulthood. Reiner, a father himself, has also written about men’s issues for the New York Times, Washington Post, and Forbes.


Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jun 01, 2022
#60 Michael Ian Black: The Mystery Door To Male Competence
39:23

After a particularly feverish Twitter rant in 2018 landed him an invite to write a guest opinion on boys and violence from The New York Times, Michael Ian Black had to ask one simple question: Are you sure you want me? After all, Black is best known as a sketch and standup comic, and a particularly snarky one at that. But he wrote the essay and it subsequently went viral, leading Black to eventually pen the 2020 memoir A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter To My Son, which offers a candid take on his own boyhood, the death of his father, and why he’s concerned for his own son’s future. On this episode of Paternal, Black recounts his adolescent experience of desperately seeking all the secrets of manhood, why he tinged his own successful brand of humor with defensive sarcasm, why even the most influential male comics rarely delve into painful vulnerability, and where he failed and succeeded as a father to his two children.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

May 18, 2022
#59 Akhil Sharma: Fatherhood at Fifty
35:11
Of all the guests on Paternal over the years, it’s safe to say that Akhil Sharma was the last guy who would have expected to appear on a podcast about fatherhood. Over the past three decades he carved out a nice life as an Ivy League educated investment banker, and then a successful writer and college professor. Fatherhood never really entered the equation because, in his mind, he was worthless when it came to what he could possibly teach a child. 

On this episode of Paternal, Sharma reflects on some of the complicated family backstory illustrated in his acclaimed 2014 book Family Life, which the New York Times said “reveals how love becomes warped and jagged and even seemingly vanishes in the midst of huge grief.” Sharma also discusses how a life-altering accident helped define his relationship with his parents, and influenced why he never considered having children until he was in his late 40s. Sharma is a professor at Duke University and the author of the essay Passage to Parenthood, which appeared in the The New Yorker earlier this year.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

May 04, 2022
#58 Eric Larsen: On The Ice With A Polar Explorer (2018)
35:17

For centuries, the ends of the Earth have captivated and courted the world’s bravest characters. The highest peaks of the Himalayas, the furthest depths of the oceans, and the poles, frozen pinpoints on opposite ends of the globe that still serve as two of the most ambitious destinations for a certain type of person you may have thought died out years ago: The explorers.

Eric Larsen is one of those people, a veteran explorer who has not only reached both the geographic north and south poles, but also summited Mount Everest. And in 2009 and 2010 he became the first person in the world to reach all three in the span of 365 days, an endeavor that cemented him as one of the most successful American explorers in recent years.

On this replay of his Paternal episode from 2018,  Larsen discusses the conflict of being a leading-edge American explorer and an engaged father at the same time, and how he and his wife have worked on the unique elements of their relationship.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Apr 06, 2022
#57 Paternal Workshop: The Masculinity Trap
34:41

Award-winning research psychologist and professor Dr. Michael Addis returns to Paternal for the third in a series of special episodes examining various issues affecting men’s mental health. In this episode, Dr. Addis calls on his decades of research to break down the links between social learning and the social construction of masculinity, and why he considers masculinity a form of anxiety disorder for some men.

Dr. Addis also explains how and when young boys are first exposed to the ideas of masculinity, how the perception of masculinity has changed over the years, and why living up to a constantly evolving ideal of masculinity can be a problem for some men.

Dr. Addis is an award-winning research psychologist and a professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. He also provides personal coaching and consultation for men at www.incontextcoaching.com.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Mar 23, 2022
#56 Max Lowe: Daddy’s On The Mountain
38:18

One world-renowned climber dies and leaves a widow and three young sons behind, and his climbing partner and best friend helps pick up the pieces by marrying the widow and helping raise a trio of boys who lost their father. Among the world’s mountaineers, climbers and explorers, the life and tragic death of Alex Lowe is nothing short of legend. For newcomers hearing the story for the first time, it’s a fascinating examination of circumstance and fate, love lost and then rediscovered. 

 

But for Max Lowe - who was just 10 years old when his father died in an avalanche high in the Himalayas - it’s a complicated reality he’s dealt with for more than 20 years. On this episode of Paternal, Max discusses his life as the son of one of the world’s greatest climbers, memories of his father Alex, the uncomplicated psychology of the mountaineers who take frightening risks, and what it was like to make the acclaimed 2021 documentary Torn, which forced Max and his family to confront more than two decades of grief and repressed emotions surrounding the sudden loss of a real-life superhero.

Torn is currently streaming on Disney Plus, and you can read more about the film and the legacy of Alex Lowe in the Los Angeles Times, Outside, and The New Yorker.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Mar 09, 2022
#55 Daniel José Older: Fatherhood In A Galaxy Far, Far Away
37:19
Daniel José Older was three years old when he caught his first glimpse of the characters who occupied the Star Wars galaxy, and he was so frightened he made a run for the exit of the movie theater. But Older - now a New York Times bestselling fantasy and sci-fi author - went back in, and his life has never been the same. Older is a lead story architect for Star Wars: The High Republic, a series of young adult and middle grade novels and comic books, and he’s keenly aware that most of the Star Wars characters, especially the most prominent male heroes, either have a strained relationship with their father, or simply don’t have a dad at all. 


On this episode of Paternal, Older discusses why there never seem to be many parents in the Star Wars galaxy, why he gravitated to the series after never seeing protagonists who looked like him as a kid, his mother’s penchant for magical storytelling after fleeing Cuba, and how he thinks about the Jedi-like skill of compassionate detachment, especially now that he’s recently become a father himself.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Feb 23, 2022
#54 Mickey Rowe: The World Needs What Makes You Different
40:02

Mickey Rowe has made a career out of one simple motto: The world needs what makes you different. An autistic actor who started out as a street performer in Seattle but was never given speaking roles in the theater during his 20s, Rowe eventually earned the lead role in the theater adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. In the process Rowe became the first autistic actor to play the demanding lead role of Christopher Boone, a teenager on the spectrum who is convinced he can solve the murder of his neighbor’s dog. On this episode of Paternal, Rowe reflects on his life on the autistic spectrum and what role autism played in his drive to become an actor, as well as the complicated relationship Hollywood has with portraying characters who are disabled. He also discusses what fatherhood looks like as an autistic father of an autistic son, and how he’s learned to cast aside expectations about parenthood and embrace why his experience as a father is different from so many other men. Rowe is the founding Artistic Director of National Disability Theatre and his memoir, Fearlessly Different, will be released in March.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Feb 09, 2022
#53 Brendan Kiely: Reckoning With Our White Privilege
37:05

Author and teacher Brendan Kiely has spent years speaking to young adults about the difficult issues they might face in their teen years, and he’s in awe of the amount of hope that lies within the next generation. But after seemingly endless recent incidents of police brutality against African American men and the centuries of racism that came before, he’s writing for young adults about what it means to live with the benefits of white privilege. And he’s figuring out how to start the same conversation with his young son.

In this episode of Paternal, Kiely discusses the themes covered in his 2021 book The Other Talk, the book’s reception during a time of fraught culture wars, and why the traits of humility and vulnerability are so essential to having better conversations about race, especially among men. Kiely is a New York Times bestselling author of five books and a former English and literature teacher in New York City, and prior to writing The Other Talk he co-wrote the award-winning and critically acclaimed young adult fiction novel All American Boys.

To hear additional episodes from Paternal about “The Talk,” check out Episode 5 and Episode 12.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jan 26, 2022
#52 Waubgeshig Rice: The Pressure In My Head
37:49

Growing up on the Wasauksing First Nation indigenous reserve in Ontario, journalist and bestselling author Waubgeshig Rice learned early in his life about the value of culture and community. But as an Anishinaabe young man schooled in the challenges his ancestors faced as indigenous people in Canada, Rice was also keenly aware of what happens when a community loses its connection to its history, traditions and culture, and how men can easily fall victim to the effects of intergenerational trauma. On this episode of Paternal, Rice recounts his experience on Wasauksing First Nation and his sometimes conflicted emotions about growing up on the reserve, as well as the challenges his own father faced in trying to reclaim the family’s Anishinaabe identity. Rice - who penned the celebrated apocalyptic thriller Moon of the Crusted Snow and was dubbed “one of the leading voices reshaping North American science fiction, horror and fantasy” by the New York Times - also discusses the emotional strain he experienced after the complicated birth of his first son, and how masculinity and vulnerability are valued on “the rez.”

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jan 12, 2022
#51 Paternal Workshop: Holiday Anxiety and New Year’s Resolutions
21:54

Award-winning research psychologist and professor Dr. Michael Addis returns to Paternal for the second in a series of special episodes examining various issues in men’s mental health, and the final episode of Paternal for 2021. In this episode, Dr. Addis discusses a variety of issues brought on by the holiday season, including anxiety, stress, loneliness, and why we create a mythology around the holidays that can be tough to live up to year after year.

Dr. Addis also discusses the value of New Year’s resolutions, and why men typically focus on fixing their bodies and their bank accounts instead of maintaining male friendships or making new ones in order to improve their mental health.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Dec 22, 2021
#50 Ivan Maisel: Love And Grief
38:40
Former Sports Illustrated and ESPN journalist Ivan Maisel spent the bulk of his life holding big emotions at bay, and turning to run at the first sign of emotional pain. It was behavior learned from years of watching his parents, who valued strength and stoicism in the face of tragedy, which Maisel himself successfully dodged for 55 years. Then his son Max went missing, and everything changed.

On this episode of Paternal, Maisel discusses his 2021 memoir I Keep Trying To Catch His Eye and reflects on his role as a father to Max, who struggled with social anxiety and resided “somewhere on the learning disorder spectrum.” Maisel strained at times to connect with his son and leaned heavily on empathy and a hope that Max would one day find his people, and his place in the world. But when that expectation goes unfulfilled, how will Maisel cope with the kinds of emotions he’s been running from for years?

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Dec 08, 2021
#49 Iain Cunningham: My Mother’s Ghost
36:54

Documentary filmmaker and father Iain Cunningham knows all about the myths we like to tell ourselves about family. But he knows just as much about the details our parents sometimes leave out, and the impact those family secrets can have on children who never learn the truth. Cunningham’s mother Irene passed away when he was just three years old, and his family rarely spoke or shared memories of her for decades, leaving Iain to wonder what kind of person his mother was, and what exactly led to her death. On this episode of Paternal, Cunningham discusses why his father kept the details of Irene’s life and death a secret, and why becoming a father himself helped inspire him to trace his mother’s footsteps through the English town where he grew up. He filmed the entire experience and eventually released the documentary Irene’s Ghost, a celebrated love letter to his mother and a touching examination of the complicated relationship between father and son.

Learn more about where you can watch the film Irene’s Ghost. rent or buy it on Itunes or watch on Amazon Prime.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Nov 17, 2021
#48 Omar Mouallem: Faith and Fatherhood
40:46
Journalist and filmmaker Omar Mouallem first learned he was Muslim when his mother scolded him for eating Hawaiian pizza during preschool. Over the past three decades he’s tried to make sense what exactly his faith means to him and how he identifies as Muslim as grown man and a father, punctuated with the release of his acclaimed 2021 examination of Islam’s role in the Americas, Praying to the West.

On this episode of Paternal, Mouallem reflects on his Lebanese parents and the moment he realized he and his family were outsiders in a small town in Western Canada, and what it meant to see Middle Easterners regularly portrayed as terrorists when he was a kid parked in front of cable television. He also discusses how the recent rise of Islamophobia in Canada and the United States forced him to examine his faith more closely, and what role faith will play in the lives of his two young children.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Nov 03, 2021
#47 Paternal Workshop: Shame And Coming Up Short
25:40

Award-winning research psychologist and professor Dr. Michael Addis returns to Paternal for the first in a series of special episodes examining various issues in men’s mental health. In this episode, Dr. Addis dives deep into the topic of shame, including the definition of shame, what triggers the emotion in men, and how it manifests itself in men’s behavior.

 

Dr. Addis also explains why he chose shame as the first topic in a series of these special episodes of Paternal, why most people avoid social interactions when they’re feeling shame, why men who stick to rigid definitions of masculinity are more inclined to struggle with the emotion, and how we can avoid shaming our kids.


Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Oct 20, 2021
#46 Dr. Ian Kerner: The Sex Episode
40:22

Dr. Ian Kerner is a licensed psychotherapist and nationally recognized sexuality counselor who specializes in sex therapy, couples therapy and working with individuals on a range of relational issues that often lead to distress. He’s the author of a number of books on sexuality including the new York times bestseller She Comes First, and earlier this year released his latest book, So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex, where he shares the some fundamental exercises he uses to help thousands of couples achieve more intimacy and enjoyment. On this episode of Paternal, Dr. Kerner dives deep into a variety of topics, including how men think and communicate about sex. He also offers some insights for people who grew up in homes where conversations about sex were completely neglected, how to avoid falling into unsatisfying routines in the bedroom, and what parents can do to create novelty and nuance in their sex lives after having kids.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Oct 06, 2021
#45 Jesse Thistle: Tracing Our Fathers’ Footsteps
35:30
Jesse Thistle is an assistant professor at York University in Toronto and an award-winning memoirist who wrote the top-selling Canadian book in 2020, but his success didn’t come easily. Prior to penning his celebrated emotional memoir From the Ashes, Thistle spent years struggling with issues of addiction and homelessness, a lifestyle he sees to some degree as the result of the absence of a father figure in his life. His own father was an addict and a thief who disappeared nearly 40 years ago, and no one has seen or heard from him since.

But how much of his father’s troubles can be traced back to the generations of men who came before him? On this episode of Paternal, Thistle wrestles with the myths he’s been told about his father, discusses how his own indigenous heritage contributed to years spent living on the streets of Canada, and breaks down the manifestations of intergenerational trauma, including addiction, abuse, homelessness, and crime.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Sep 22, 2021
#44 Jelani Memory: How To Have Tough Conversations With Your Kids
36:53

When it comes to being a father, Jelani Memory lives by a fairly simple motto: Kids are ready to have difficult conversations. He and his wife have put that idea into practice with their six kids and he’s also made it the anchor of A Kids Company About, a media company he co-founded in 2019 that focuses on developing books, podcasts and online courses rooted in helping parents better communicate with their kids about tough topics like racism, shame, gender, addiction and more. A Kids Company About drew international attention - and praise from Oprah Winfrey - as concerned parents flocked to the company’s line of books following the murder of George Floyd, a clear sign that Memory’s philosophy was resonating across the globe. On this episode of Paternal, Memory discusses how he and his wife spoke to their kids about Floyd’s murder, offers some of his strategies for connecting with kids over tough topics, and traces the roots of the company back to his own father, a prominent jazz musician and educator who left the family when Memory was just four years old.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Sep 08, 2021
#43 Jordan Shapiro: The 21st Century Father Figure
37:39

It doesn’t really matter if you’ve seen a single episode of the 1950s sitcom Father Knows Best to understand the template for what a TV dad is supposed to be like. He works hard all day and inevitably serves as the family’s main source of some combination of three things: tough love, gentle fatherly insight or bumbling but endearing ineptitude.

Jordan Shapiro is out to help break the mold. A father of four, senior fellow at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at the Sesame Workshop, and former New York City restaurateur, Shapiro is the author of the 2021 release Father Figure: How To Be A Feminist Dad.

On this episode of Paternal he weighs in on the psychology of fatherhood and why some dads today are struggling to reconcile the kind of father they want to be - open-minded, responsive, inclusive, and (gasp) feminist - with the template of what a dad is supposed to be, often rooted in examples set by their own fathers or by those TV dads we still see on our screens today.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Aug 25, 2021
#42 Joshua Mohr: Father, Son, Addict, Survivor
36:27
Novelist and memoirist Joshua Mohr has managed to be a number of different men in his life. He’s been a writer, college professor, husband, father, son, addict and survivor, and he’s committed himself over the past few years to ensuring that his daughter understands exactly how all those men can fit into one lifetime. That effort culminated in the 2021 memoir Model Citizen, which looks back on Josh’s decades of drug and alcohol abuse in the bars and streets of San Francisco and subsequent health scares, all posited as proof to his young daughter that while he’s far from perfect, at least he’s honest.

On this episode of Paternal, Josh examines how discord in the home as a young child led to years of addiction, as well as the narrative he created to explain the mindset of his father, who left his family when Josh was in grade school. He also discusses how a series of frightening strokes before the age of 40 set him on a path to being more forthcoming about his life in “Model Citizen,” and why it’s crucial to recognize and celebrate human complexities, especially among our parents.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Aug 04, 2021
#41 Chris Jones: When Life Becomes A Smoking Crater
33:46

Journalist and screenwriter Chris Jones spent 14 years as a contributing editor and writer-at-large for the men’s magazine Esquire, writing everything from celebrity profiles on George Clooney and Penelope Cruz to in-depth features on astronauts, soldiers and wild animal zookeepers. He twice won the National Magazine Award in Feature Writing for his work at the magazine, in large part because of his commitment to looking back on past events and dissecting how they happened. And what went wrong.

On this episode of Paternal, Jones looks back on two major events in his life, and how they shaped his stance on what it means to be a man today. The anxiety from work, fatherhood, and marriage led him to nearly commit suicide twice more than a decade ago - he wrote about the experiences for Esquire in a candid essay in 2011 - and then his first marriage fell apart years later, leaving him to sort out fatherhood and what the second half of his life looks like now. “If your life becomes a smoking crater,” Jones says, “it’s little fixes everyday. You can’t fix it all at once.”

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts please visit suicidelifeline.org to access a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jul 21, 2021
#40 Dr. Michael Addis: The Isolation Of Modern Men
36:35
The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be over in the United States. More than half the U.S. population has received at one least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and new daily cases of the disease are at their lowest point since the early days of the pandemic in April 2020. But that doesn’t mean that the stress and anxiety building over the past 16 months is gone, especially for men still struggling to articulate or even identify how they’re feeling when it comes to careers, relationships, or the stress they’re feeling after COVID.

Dr. Michael Addis is an award-winning research psychologist and a professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. He specializes in the links between social learning and social construction of masculinity, as well as the ways men experience, express and respond to the problems in their lives.

On this episode of Paternal, Dr. Addis examines why most men are still reluctant to seek help dealing with the problems in their lives, and how men learn as young children to avoid showing vulnerability or pain to their peers. He also discusses the value of lasting male friendships and the challenges men face in making them, the psychological effects of parenting, and much more.

Learn more about Dr. Addis’s 2011 release Invisible Men here.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jul 07, 2021
#39 Chris Ballew: Fame, Fatherhood, and Caspar Babypants
29:15

Even before his third birthday, Chris Ballew was transfixed by music. He would sit on the floor in his parents’ Seattle-area home and listen to The Beatles’ seminal 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and not long after he was writing and performing his own songs. By the mid-90s he was fronting the Presidents of the United States of America -  one of the hottest bands in rock'n'roll - and appearing regularly on MTV. But he was quietly harboring a secret: “On a gut level, I wanted out immediately.”

On this episode of Paternal, Ballew looks back at his early experiences with fame, and examines the instinct that led him to leave modern rock behind to take on a new stage presence: celebrated children’s musician Caspar Babypants. Ballew has released 17 albums and been nominated for a Grammy during his career as Caspar, all driven by a desire to imbue his music with the same lyrical elements he found in the music of the Beatles, and to help weary parents make it through the day.

Songs Featured In This Episode:

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jul 22, 2020
#38 Jayson Greene: The Language of Grief
32:12

When Jayson Greene was in the fourth grade, his teacher gave him an assignment that most kids get at some point in grade school: What do you want to be when you grow up? Jayson mentioned two goals for himself, one of which may come as a surprise for a kid in grade school. He wanted to be a writer, and a father.

On this episode of Paternal, Jayson discusses his celebrated 2019 memoir Once More We Saw Stars, which chronicles the life and death of his two-year-old daughter Greta, and how he and his wife Stacy dealt with the grief stemming from their daughter’s death and the challenges of becoming parents again to their son, Harrison.

Jayson also discusses the striking parallels of birth and death, and how he and Stacy communicate with their son about his sister, and the family’s recurring commitment to hope in the face of grief.

Learn more about Once More We Saw Stars here and read Jayson’s 2016 essay “Children Don’t Always Live” from the New York Times here.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jul 01, 2020
#37 Ted Bunch: A Cry For Healthier Manhood
30:08

Ted Bunch has spent the bulk of his adult life as an educator, activist and lecturer, focused specifically on the intersection of masculinity and violence against women. He’s also spent 18 years as the Chief Development Officer of the violence prevention organization A Call To Men, and in that time he’s become one of the nation’s leading voices on the perils of male socialization and the misperception of toxic masculinity.

On this episode of Paternal, Bunch breaks down the challenges men and boys face due to the rigid expectations of who society expects them to be - strong, fearless, emotionless, and in control - and why it’s so dangerous for them and their kids to fall into that trap.

He also discusses how his parents - two college educators and civil rights activists - influenced his path towards social justice, but also the challenges he faced while growing up black in a largely white community in Westchester County, New York.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jun 17, 2020
#36: Conversations About Race And Fatherhood
27:09
Paternal dives back into the archives to share the stories of three previous guests all focused on one topic: What it’s like to raise African American kids in the United States.

This special episode begins with Ryan Harris, who spent nine years as an offensive lineman in the National Football League and won a Super Bowl in 2015 with the Denver Broncos. In this excerpt taken from his May 2018 episode, Harris outlines his experience raising his son and daughter in Denver, and discusses the unspoken lessons passed down through generations of African American men and boys about the risks of dealing with police.

Artist and journalist Graham Parker also weighs in on his life as father to adopted son Artie, who began asking questions about race and identity not long after he learned to speak. In this conversation from his March 2018 episode, Parker outlines how he and his wife have worked tirelessly over the years to communicate openly about race with their son, especially after the family moved from Brooklyn to a predominantly white community in a swing county in eastern Pennsylvania.

And lastly, New Jersey-based DJ Shawn Francis weighs in on the role his stepfather played in giving him “The Talk,” and how he’s processed that lesson over the years. Recorded in December 2017, when Francis was feeling the weight of teaching his kids how to best negotiate the world while being black not long after the election of Donald Trump, his experience as a father resonates louder today than ever.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jun 03, 2020
#35 Jaed Coffin: Bloodlines And Boxing
38:37

When Jaed Coffin was 23 years old he had recently graduated from college, and like a lot of people in that stage of their lives, he found himself looking ... for something. What he found was an austere and single-minded life in Southeast Alaska, training to become the next big thing in the sport of roughhouse boxing, a boozy, bloody, and rugged class of amateur boxing. Coffin chronicled his rise from wide-eyed novice to eventual middleweight champion in his 2019 memoir Roughhouse Friday, which the LA Review of Books called “a beautifully crafted memoir about fathers and sons, masculinity, and the lengths we sometimes go to in order to confront our past.” 

 

On this episode of Paternal, Coffin discusses life in the small Alaskan coastal town of Sitka, the phenomenon of roughhouse boxing, and how a complicated relationship with his father helped steer Jaed into the sport, where he came up close and personal with a unique cast of characters looking to prove their manhood in the ring.

 

Coffin also discusses his 2019 New York Times essay about his father’s need to go “Out to Sea,” an idea that offers forgiveness for men who sometimes or even permanently abandon their families when the burdens of real life become too overwhelming.


Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

May 26, 2020
#34 John Richards: Quarantine Radio
22:39

When news first broke that the Coronavirus pandemic had come to Seattle, John Richards had no idea how he could keep doing his job. More than two months later, his work has never been important.

Richards is a father of two boys and the host of the “The Morning Show” on 90.3 KEXP FM in Seattle. KEXP is an independent radio station supported largely by its listeners, so that means John and the other DJs are free to take requests from people all over the world and play whatever they want. And the station has received more notes and music requests from listeners over the past two months than ever before in the station’s history, giving Richards and his fellow DJs a unique perspective into how people all over the world are coping with the pandemic, and which songs are helping them through.

Says Richards: “It’s been absolutely surreal, weird and intense, everyday I’ve been on the air.”

Listen in as John recounts what he’s been hearing from listeners, how his work on the air now compares to his experience behind the mic on 9/11, and how he’s dealing with a new reality for his wife and kids as they try to balance work and home schooling. 

You can also listen to John’s first appearance on Paternal from its debut episode in 2017 here, and follow John on Twitter and Instagram for more updates from KEXP.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

May 11, 2020
#33 Scott Cooper: The Front Lines of Coronavirus
27:39

When beloved children’s television icon Fred Rogers was a child he would sometimes see troubling stories or images in the news, and he would look to his mother for help. Her advice was simple, but left its mark: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Season 4 of Paternal opens with a conversation with Scott Cooper, a New Jersey-based single father of two with a daily glimpse into the severity of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Scott is the Director of Professional Practice at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, a hospital that has been inundated with Covid-19 patients since the virus took hold in March.

Scott has ditched his suit and tie in favor of scrubs and a mask for roughly the past month, serving as a critical care nurse for patients placed in the hospital’s ever-expanding Intensive Care Unit. Despite nearly three decades in nursing the Tri-State Area, he’s never seen anything like this. He’s afraid he’ll get sick. He’s afraid his patients will die. And when he hears “Code Blue” on the hospital’s intercom, he runs.

Listen in as Scott discusses the toll Covid-19 has taken on the hospital, what it’s like to lose a patient to the virus and how the hospital staff salutes the survivors. Scott also examines what lessons he’s learned from the experience of the past six weeks - suddenly he has become the helper Rogers was seeking - and how he’s speaking with his kids about times of trouble, as well as the opportunities that await whenever the pandemic finally ends.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men we should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Apr 23, 2020
#32 The Best of Paternal: Let Me Tell You About My Dad
49:43

Paternal celebrates Father’s Day by looking back at some of the show’s best interviews while focusing about one thing in particular: What we think of when we think about our dads. Although that’s a topic that has come up quite a bit on the show over the first 31 episodes, certain guests over the years have offered candid insight into their relationships with their own dads, the good stuff and the bad.

Paternal host Nick Firchau offers up conversations with six previous guests and each man reflects on the role his father played in his life. Guests include radio deejay John Richards, author Neal Thompson, youth advocate Ashanti Branch, polar explorer Eric Larsen, entrepreneur and hunter Jason Hairston, and psychologist Michael G. Thompson.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jun 13, 2019
#31 Keith Gaston: Tales of Teaching Fatherhood
27:35

Keith Gaston is a father, social worker and, just like his dad, a man born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut. But the city has changed in the decades since Gaston grew up there, with a climbing unemployment rate, a declining city population and issues with gun violence and drugs that are taking a toll on some of the city’s young men. That’s where Gaston has stepped in, focused on teaching those same men the skills of being a father.

On this episode of Paternal, Gaston reflects on an ambitious five-year study that gathered young fathers from right off the streets of Hartford. These were young men who perhaps became an accidental father years ago and have struggled to build a relationship with their young family, or even avoided the responsibility all together, and it became Gaston’s task to help teach them about the impact an engaged dad can have not just on his own family, but also on the community.

Raised in the 1960s and 1970s in a family with seven kids, Gaston says his father took every step to stress the importance of education, family and safety, and that allowed Gaston to become an ideal mentor for men looking for help.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

May 29, 2019
#30 Jesse Green: The Gay History of Your Favorite Children’s Books
36:27

Back in 1970, author and illustrator Arnold Lobel released the first in a series of award-winning children’s books chronicling the adventures of two good friends: Frog and Toad. Though the pair’s sexuality was never explicitly disclosed in the books, was it possible that Lobel created the characters to teach children about ideas of acceptance, tolerance and compassion?

Author, father, and New York Times co-chief theater critic Jesse Green recently examined works by Lobel, Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak and other prominent children’s book authors and illustrators of the past 50-plus years and discovered that a host of writers of a more conservative era created the best works of their lives - and some of the most influential children’s literature of all time - while largely hiding their sexuality from the public.

In this episode of Paternal, Green discusses the effect those books had on children both gay and straight, why it’s such a triumph that these books have persisted through the years, and what that says about the connection between creativity and repression. He also offers a candid reflection on his own life as a father and the challenges gay men faced in raising children decades ago in New York City, not long after the panic and confusion of the AIDS crisis and when prejudiced polices and strict laws forbade gay men from adopting kids of their own.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

May 08, 2019
#29 Craig Scott: Twenty Years After Columbine
33:51
Craig Scott was a sophomore at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, when two students descended on the school and unleashed what was, at the time, the deadliest high school shooting in American history. And though Scott survived by hiding under a desk in the library, the shooters killed 12 students and a teacher that day, including Scott's friends, classmates, and older sister Rachel. Scott is now a speaker with and a co-founder of the Denver-based non-profit organization Value Up, dedicated to improving the social climate in high schools and instilling self-worth and value in kids who need it most. Scott has told his story of survival to thousands of teenagers and helped them deal with cross-generational problems of social pressures and anxiety, but also with issues exclusive to a new generation of teens, including the pitfalls of social media and sexting, as well as active shooter drills that are commonplace in today’s schools.

On the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, Scott discusses his thoughts on the shooters who caused so much emotional and physical damage two decades ago, how he connects with teenagers today, if the emotional trauma changed how he communicates with his family, and if he should start his own someday soon.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Apr 17, 2019
#28 Dr. Kyle Pruett: The Benefits of Engaged Dads
33:10

How many times have mothers and fathers argued about roughhousing with young kids, or why dad is a different disciplinarian than mom? After roughly four decades working in pediatrics and child psychiatry, Dr. Kyle Pruett knows the answer: Moms and dads simply parent differently, and that’s fine for everyone involved. Including the kid. On this episode of Paternal, Dr. Pruett examines some of the fundamental differences between men and women - how they communicate, how they discipline, even how they read to their kids at night - and reflects on how far both men and women have come when it comes to accepting engaged dads into the fold of parenting.

He also reflects on the results of a variety of eye-opening studies over the years on engaged fathers and the relationships with their kids. As it turns out, dad often has a deep effect on children’s ideas of gender roles, how they control their violent impulses, how they solve problems and how they feel about themselves every day.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

 

Apr 03, 2019
#27 Mark Eckhardt: How Fatherhood F*cked Me Up
35:53

How would you describe the feeling when you first became a parent? California businessman Mark Eckhardt never seriously thought of starting a family before the birth of his first daughter. And when she finally arrived he was overcome with joy, but also with the feeling that his entire life had been forever disrupted.

In a conversation that echoes many of the candid complaints from both mothers and fathers, Eckhardt outlines his experience as a somewhat reluctant dad - a lack of natural emotional connection, a loss of identity, the loneliness - and connects the dots back to his own upbringing, his father’s coming out and his parents’ divorce.

“All of a sudden you’re home 24/7, taking care of a kid,” Eckhardt says of the early days of fatherhood. “And you’re doing the same thing over, and over, and over again? And you’re doing the same thing over, and over, and over again, while you’re sleep deprived?

“And you’re trying to take care of your wife, the mother of your children, and you don’t know how to do that because her whole life has changed too? Excuse the language, but it fucked me up.”

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Mar 13, 2019
#26 Andy Johnson: Farmering Up A Marriage
29:59

Andy Johnson has spent much of his life fixing things. As a 35-year-old farmer growing corn and hay in Colorado, Johnson is a model of resourcefulness, spending the days on his 1,000 acres of farmland as an agronomist, a car mechanic, or a welder. Every year the summer storms come and go, crops thrive and die. But his farmer’s ingenuity has always persisted through the seasons, a trait passed down through five generations of men making their living off the land.

But when his wife, Sarah, was involved in a serious car accident just days after Thanksgiving, he began to ask himself one question: How do I fix this?

On the latest episode of Paternal, Johnson recounts the moment he learned of his wife’s injuries, but also what happened in the months that followed. As his wife slowly recovered from a traumatic brain injury, Johnson found himself balancing the responsibilities of caregiver and husband, and playing a larger role in the life of his young daughter. A task as simple as doing his daughter’s hair for a dance recital made Johnson realize his shortcomings as a dad, and how he needed to reach out to community for help, advice, and counsel.

“You wake up thinking you have an idea, and then life throws you a curveball, and you just get the job done,” Johnson says. “How do we get through this? How can we keep going?”

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

 

Feb 20, 2019
#25 John Vanek: Finding My Biological Father
39:59

What if you spent the first three decades of your life building a relationship with your father, and then one day, you found out he wasn’t the only father you had?

There are two guests on this episode of Paternal - one is 33-year-old John Vanek, a husband and father of two young girls living in the suburbs of Minneapolis. And the other is his biological father, Dr. Bruce A. Olmscheid, a physician who lives nearly 2,000 miles away in Southern California. Neither man knew the other one existed for almost 30 years.

But a shocking reveal from his parents and a persistent interest in science, history and genealogy led John down a path that led him to the truth about his family, his own origin story, and the man who is his father.

Well, he’s still working on that last part.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jan 31, 2019
#24 James Vlahos: The Quest For Artificial Immortality
36:27

How far would you be willing to go to somehow preserve the memory of someone you lost? When James Vlahos found out his father was dying of lung cancer, he set out to create a chatbot fueled by a treasure trove of interviews with his dad, and artificial intelligence software. The end result is the Dadbot, an interactive and compelling program that questions if artificial immortality might actually exist.

Listen as Vlahos describes the experience of interviewing his father during the final months of his life, and how an early interest in computers as a kid - and a New York Times Magazine article about a talking Barbie doll - helped bring the Dadbot to life. The bot says the kinds of things James’ father would say, it cracks the same jokes, it even sometimes sings songs, using audio clips from the oral history interviews. 

And while the technology at play might still be in its infancy and certainly has its critics, Vlahos suspects that the idea of artificial immortality - when we use modern technology to better preserve the memory of those we’ve lost and even interact with their avatars after the real people are gone - will be a very real part of our future.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

 

Jan 09, 2019
#23 Schwan Park: My Son, The Rubik's Cube Champion
31:17

Prior to the birth of his first son, the only things Schwan Park knew about autism were gleaned from watching Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. But after he and his wife realized something was different about the development of their son Max, Park reluctantly pushed himself to learn more about the symptoms of autism, and ultimately to accept a new reality for his family. “It’s sort of like you’re opening a door and trying to find something,” Park says, “but you really hope it’s not in there.”

But at the age of 10 years old, the Park family found their life line. Enter the Rubik’s Cube, the 1980s-era toy that frustrated puzzle solvers threw away years ago. Max’s interest in solving the cube as fast as possible - it’s now a growing and feverish international sport called speedcubing - served as an essential ingredient for Max’s therapy sessions, where he worked on social skills that had largely eluded him for years. 

Now 16 years old, Max is the sport’s reigning world champion, solving cubes in just seconds and earning fame and celebrity status among his peers. After years spent trying to solve the puzzle, it’s clear now that the cube itself is the solution.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Dec 12, 2018
#22 Jason Hairston: A Hunt For Meaning
37:48
Jason Hairston was always up for a challenge. As an undrafted free agent seeking a spot in the National Football League, as an entrepreneur looking to build his business, and as an experienced hunter stretched to his limits somewhere above the tree line. And by the time he was 47 years old he had overcome his fair share to become a family man, successful CEO of outdoor apparel giant KUIU, and a guru to thousands of like-minded men all looking for their own personal, primal experience on the hunt.

But to the shock of many who knew and loved him, there was one challenge Hairston simply couldn’t overcome. Hairston took his own life in September after suffering from symptoms of CTE, the degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. He left behind a wife and two young children, and a worldwide community of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts in mourning. 

In his final in-depth interview before his death and one of Paternal’s most intimate episodes to date, Hairston discusses all the experiences that shaped him as a father and a son. The devastating injury that ended his football career. The unexpected and very public takeover of his first hunting gear company. The moment he learned he would be a father. And his relationship with his own dad, who turned him on to hunting as a little boy, taught him how to play football, and then joined Hairston and his son on a three-generation hunting trip just weeks before Hairston’s passing.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Nov 27, 2018
#21 Eric Larsen: On The Ice With A Polar Explorer
32:32

For centuries, the ends of the Earth have captivated and courted the world’s bravest characters. The highest peaks of the Himalayas, the furthest depths of the oceans, and the poles, frozen pinpoints on opposite ends of the globe that still serve as two of the most ambitious destinations for a certain type of person you may have thought died out years ago: The explorers.

Eric Larsen is one of those people, a veteran explorer who has not only reached both the geographic north and south poles, but also summited Mount Everest. And in 2009 and 2010 he became the first person in the world to reach all three in the span of 365 days, an endeavor that cemented him as one of the most successful American explorers in recent years.

His latest mission is to establish a new speed record in reaching the South Pole, skiing and walking across 700 miles of Antarctica alone and unsupported, hauling roughly 160 pounds of gear on a sled behind him. But he’ll also be leaving his wife and two young children behind for weeks, which always raises some questions in his mind when he’s alone on the ice. On this episode of Paternal, Larsen discusses the conflict of being a leading-edge American explorer and an engaged father at the same time, and how he and his wife have worked on the unique elements of their relationship.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Nov 14, 2018
#20 Joe Andruzzi: A Career After Cancer
33:31

Joe Andruzzi has always been surrounded by family. As one of four sons born to a New York City police officer and his wife in Staten Island, New York, Andruzzi learned early on about the value of giving back to his community and how family can help people through the toughest times of their lives.

And he never valued family more than in 2007, when he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer that nearly took his life in a Boston hospital bed. Despite playing 10 seasons in the National Football League and wining three Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots, Andruzzi had never faced a battle like Burkitt's lymphoma, and it changed his life irrevocably. After a year of exhausting recovery, he went on to found the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, which has helped more than 8,000 families and individuals affected by cancer. 

On this episode of Paternal, Andruzzzi discusses his battle with cancer and the psychological toll it took on him, as well as his oldest brother’s narrow escape from tragedy as a New York City fire fighter on 9/11, and how his father’s role as one of New York’s finest shaped the family’s values.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Oct 31, 2018
#19 Neal Thompson: Dropping In With A Skate Dad
30:54

Seattle author Neal Thompson has profiled a range of intriguing characters during his career as an acclaimed author, but for his fifth book he turned his eye to his sons, two boys fixated on the sport and culture of skateboarding. In the debut episode of Season 3 of Paternal, Thompson discusses his kids' all-encompassing passion for the sport and their embrace of a counter-culture lifestyle that led to drugs, alcohol, vandalism and concerns from their father that he had somehow let his boys go too far. Learn more about Thompson’s latest book Kickflip Boys here.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Oct 17, 2018
#18 Frank: A Father’s Week Of Life On The Street
45:14

Meet Frank. He’s a 62 year-old father of four grown kids, and grandfather to seven beautiful grandchildren. Back in the summer of 2017, Frank decided to leave his home in San Diego and spend a week in Denver with his son Tommy, but it was no ordinary trip. Tommy is a homeless drug addict who lives in and around Civic Center Park in Denver, and he needs help. But can a committed father really change the course of life for his son, who’s addicted to heroin and caught in the deadliest drug crisis in American history?

On the Season 2 finale of Paternal, Frank discusses the signs that may have foretold a troubled future for his son and uses vivid detail to recount his experience of living homeless, with endless empathy for his son and his battle against addiction.

Special thanks on this episode to Chris Conner and Denver’s Road Home, as well as Denver Human Services. For more information about this episode please visit www.paternalpodcast.com.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jul 24, 2018
#17 Ashanti Branch: Behind the Masks of Teenage Boys
36:59

What if every teenage boy could tell you what he’s thinking, and what he fears when he leaves the house to walk to go to school? Oakland educator and youth advocate Ashanti Branch has spent more than a decade trying to provide young men with a place to do just that. In 2004 he founded the Ever Forward Club, gathering a small group of young men together in his classroom to offer them a safe space to share their concerns about life and establish a brotherhood with other teenagers from all over the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Born and raised in Oakland, Branch never knew his father and grew up with only a single mother in charge of their house. At times his family was on welfare and he struggled to learn some of the traditional skills men are supposed to have - how to throw a punch, how to talk to a girl - but he excelled in school and eventually became a civil engineer. But education pulled him back to Oakland and to working with kids who needed his help, mostly boys struggling with their grades, their futures and their identities as men. Branch and his students were featured in the 2015 documentary The Mask You Live Inand he's also been profiled on NPR and given a TEDx talk about his personal life and work.

On this episode of Paternal, Branch discusses his childhood in Oakland, how his father’s death fueled his drive to give back to young men, and how he founded the Ever Forward Club with a group of boys who, as it turned out, just wanted to share what was on their mind.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jul 09, 2018
#16 Alexi Lalas: Embracing Kids And Critics
35:20
Alexi Lalas knows all about opportunity. As a professional soccer player and member of the United States national team during the 1990s, Lalas used the global platform of the 1994 FIFA World Cup to introduce the world to his carefully cultivated image of a rebellious red-headed rockstar with a love for the world’s game, and life’s never been the same since.

More than two decades later Lalas is still in the public eye as a television analyst for Fox Sports at this summer’s World Cup in Russia, but fame does come with a price. Lalas constantly battles with soccer fans on social media and has even received death threats from his harshest critics over the years, and some fans have no problem harassing him when they spot him in public.

On this episode of Paternal, Lalas discusses how he tries to shield his two young kids from the vitriol he receives on social media, how the World Cup and the public persona he created back in the 90s changed his fortunes forever, and why he teaches his kids to constantly be aware of their surroundings, always looking for the next great opportunity in life.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jun 26, 2018
#15 Jason Smith: What If She Dies?
40:35
Paternal celebrates Father’s Day with one of its most personal and uplifting episodes to date, examining what it means to risk loss in the pursuit of love, and how one father helped hold his family together during a life-altering set of circumstances.

Ten years ago, Jason Smith found himself in a hospital waiting room in Boston, waiting to see is his wife would live through the night after a dangerous allergic reaction to chemotherapy. Smith, a psychotherapist and father of two, endured that agonizing night in the emergency room and then an exhausting year of parenting while his wife recovered. The lessons learned from the experience reaffirmed his love for his wife and his responsibilities as a father, but also helped him make sense of his own father’s trouble dealing with tragedy.

“I had to make the conscious choice to let myself love her, because in letting myself love her, I was open to the possibility that I would lose her,” Smith says. “It’s worth knowing that bad things will happen, and finding a way to have the courage to live your life fully anyway.”

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jun 13, 2018
#14 Alex Bogusky: The Elvis Of Advertising
34:19
Alex Bogusky spent years atop the advertising world while running one of the hottest ad agencies in the country, Crispin Porter + Bogusky. But he left the business while at the top of his game in 2010, switching his focus to spending more time with his two young children and working with social entrepreneurs. On this episode of Paternal, Bogusky discusses his decision to leave the ad industry, the problems with advertising to young children and how he dealt with his father’s depression while running the family ad business while still in his 20s.
May 29, 2018
#13 Dr. Michael Thompson: Emotional Illiteracy Of Fathers And Sons
43:58
Long before he became one of the nation’s leading voices on the emotional lives of adolescent boys, psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Michael G. Thompson actually focused his studies on the psychological issues of young women. “I got into schools as a consultant,” Thompson says, “and all of a sudden, all of my work was little boys.”

On this episode of Paternal, Thompson discusses his acclaimed book Raising Cain, how we should protect the emotional complexities of young boys, and why some fathers struggle to connect with their sons. 

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

May 15, 2018
#12 Ryan Harris: Fatherhood In The NFL
35:20
Ryan Harris spent nine years as an offensive lineman in the National Football League, earning a reputation as one of the brightest and most thoughtful players in any locker room in the league. He also won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos before retiring from the game in 2017.

On this episode of Paternal, Harris discusses a range of topics, including honoring his Muslim faith while playing at Notre Dame, getting cut in the NFL, raising African-American kids in Denver and if he’ll let his son play football.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

May 01, 2018
#11 Taylor Steele: Responsible Gypsy Father
31:31
Despite being born and raised in an iconic beach town just north of San Diego, Taylor Steele didn’t exactly enjoy his first ride on a surfboard. Or his second. In fact, it took nearly 10 years for Steele to find his footing on a board, but after he embraced the sport - and his keen eye for making surf documentaries - his life changed forever.

On this episode of Paternal, Steele discusses how he and his wife refused to let go of their dreams of travel and perfect careers after having kids, and how surfing just might be the perfect metaphor for the unpredictability of life.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Apr 11, 2018
#10 Graham Parker: Adoption And Race In America
38:45
What’s it like when a New York City social worker hands over a newborn baby on your doorstep at 9 pm on a Friday night? For longtime artist and journalist Graham Parker, that’s only a small part of the experience of being a father. Since he and his wife first laid eyes on their young son more than five years ago, Parker has focused most of his energy on helping his son – who is African-American – navigate the complexities of race in America.

Parker grew up in Ireland during frightening periods of sectarian violence in the 70s and 80s, and now he’s calling on his experiences to deal with newfound anxiety following the 2016 U.S presidential election. “I knew every tree where there had been a Trump sign," Parker says. "And I’m thinking, ‘Can we stay here?'”

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Mar 26, 2018
#9 Chris Matthew: A Conversation In The Barbershop
46:17
Noted social commentator, actress and New York native Fran Lebowitz once said, “You’re only as good as your last haircut.” But for Chris Matthew, a fellow New York native, lawyer, father and master barber, there’s far more to walking into the barbershop than just a new look.

On this episode of Paternal, Matthew discusses what the barbershop means to men, and why he began cutting hair for homeless men after his father exposed him to the diverse faces of a drug rehab clinic in New York as a kid.

Mar 08, 2018
#8 George Apple: The Modern Lakota Warrior
32:05
Few places in the United States can match South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation when it comes to challenges for a father to raise his kids. Poverty, soaring unemployment, alcoholism and isolation are all omnipresent for many of the Oglala Sioux men on Pine Ridge, but George Apple refuses to give in.

On this episode of Paternal, George discusses his challenges as a father and grandfather, why he embraced the traditions of his ancestors, and why the future of his family is so closely connected with the past.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Feb 21, 2018
#7 Eric Tung: The Outlandish Idea Of A Gay Dad
29:22
How would you describe the conversations at your family dinner table? When Eric Tung was a kid, there was never much room at dinner for communication with his parents, a pair of fairly conservative Chinese immigrants. So it comes as little surprise that they were shocked when he came out of the closet as an adult or that he wanted to find a way to raise a family. “That was even more outlandish,” Eric says. “They had never seen it. The notion of a gay dad was completely foreign to them.”

This episode of Paternal examines Eric's process of coming out and trying to convince his parents he would one day become a father, his experience of finding an egg donor and a surrogate for in vitro fertilization, and how he carefully explained a unique family structure to his son.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Feb 07, 2018
#6 Martin Rogers: Love and Grief
32:58
Martin Rogers moved to the United States a decade ago to take a job in sports writing, a transplant from England with a wife and plans to one day start a family. After his marriage soured and his ex-wife returned to England he worked tirelessly to stay in constant contact with his young son, and he rarely thought about starting over.

Then he met his new wife, and he unknowingly began down a path that taught him about love, grief and the possibility of changing your life story in the face of pain.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Jan 23, 2018
#5 Shawn Francis: You Can’t Do Everything Those White Guys Do
30:12
When was the last time you asked a good friend about where he came from, or the influences that shaped his life? On this episode of Paternal, Nick welcomes longtime friend and noted New Jersey-based DJ Shawn Francis to discuss his father’s alcohol and drug abuse, what The Talk meant to him and what it’s like to raise two African-American kids in Donald Trump’s America. 

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.



Dec 04, 2017
#4 Ken Sanders: The Center on Fathering
36:27
What if there was a place where men could go to commiserate about fatherhood, and even learn how to be a better dad? This episode of Paternal goes inside the Center on Fathering in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to examine how the center and its founder work with men looking to manage and improve their relationships with their children.

Center director Ken Sanders discusses how the classes work, and what motivated him to dedicate his career to helping men better shape their experience of fatherhood.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Nov 15, 2017
#3 Landon Donovan: Athletes, Dads, And Masculinity
35:58
Landon Donovan is widely recognized as the greatest male soccer player the United States has ever produced, appearing in three FIFA World Cups and winning six titles in Major League Soccer. But Donovan says he struggled to connect at times with teammates and coaches during his career because he was unlike some of the prototypical professional athletes in the locker room.

On this episode of Paternal, Donovan discusses the role his father played in his childhood, why being raised primarily by his mother changed the course of his life and how he intends to teach the lessons he's learned to his two young sons.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Nov 01, 2017
#2 Jake and Anna: This Is A Girl’s Penis
28:06
Raising a transgender daughter has been no easy task for Jake and his wife, Anna. The couple has spent the past five years educating themselves on how to best deal with a set of unexpected challenges since their second child, who was born a boy, expressing her real gender identity even before she was 18 months old. Since then Jake has committed himself to unflinching support and love for his daughter, and he’s come to serve as a model for fellow parents dealing with the same circumstances.

The names and identities of the real people in this episode of Paternal have been replaced for the sake of anonymity, but everything else is real. “I felt all kinds of stuff,” Jake says. “I was like, ‘I’ve done something wrong.’ But I don’t think I did anything wrong. I just let the kid be the kid.”

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

Oct 18, 2017
#1 John Richards: A New Generation Of Dads
41:34

John Richards is one of the most recognized radio voices in Seattle, and the host of the John in the Morning show on KEXP 90.3 FM. During his lengthy career on the air, Richards has helped uncover and promote bands like Interpol, Death Cab for Cutie, Fleet Foxes, Of Monsters and Men and others. But long before he became a DJ, Richards turned to iconic bands like The Pixies, REM, The Replacements and The Clash to find respite from an abusive, alcoholic father and the dissolution of his parents' marriage.

In the debut episode of Paternal, Richards discusses how he's navigated a complicated relationship with his estranged father, dealt with his own failed marriage and a custody battle for his son, and used those experiences to shape his own approach as a dad.

Learn more about Paternal and sign up for our newsletter at www.paternalpodcast.com. You can also email host Nick Firchau at nick@paternalpodcast.com with any comments or suggestions for men he should profile on the show. Make sure you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening, then keep an eye on your feed for new episodes.

 

Sep 19, 2017