Tag Archives: family

Thankful For My Nephew

26 Nov

164403_489341263086_7458514_nA few years ago, my nephew Jake sat down for dinner with the adults on Thanksgiving Day and listened as we all went around the table telling each other what we were thankful for that year.  The ole Jakester was about 5 years old at the time and my journey into fatherhood wouldn’t begin till the following year.  No one had ever called me “Dad” back then, in fact all of our names were from the lone grandchild of the family, Jake.  My parents were “Papa Doo” and “G.G.,” my wife was “Kee Kee,” and I was “Uncle Boo Boo.”  Still am.  I’ve been “Boo” or “Boo Boo” in my immediate family for as long as I can remember and once Jake graced our lives with his presence everyone called me “Uncle Boo Boo.”  I loved it…I remember the first time Jake looked at me with those bright eyes and said, “Boo Boo.”  It was awesome.  I got to be an uncle for half a decade before learning to become a dad.  Jake and I taught each other a lot.  That day 5 years ago at Thanksgiving I think I said something to the effect of being thankful for family, for Kate, for us all being together…and it was special…it was a time to be thankful for family.  We all raised our glasses and were about to cheers when Jake pointed out that he hadn’t told us what he was thankful for.  I smiled hoping he’d say he was thankful for his mom, and he did…but then he threw us a curveball.  He turned to the table and said, “But most of all…I’m thankful for gravity, because without gravity we’d all float off into outer space!!!”  It was the finest toast I have ever heard.  “To gravity!”  We all cheered and clinked our glasses together.  It has become my favorite pre-dinner toast, making cameos throughout the year and always on Thanksgiving.

Gravity Cheers

To Gravity!

Jake will be turning 10 next month and has grown from a lovable little kid into a marvelous young boy.  He astounds me every time I see him!  I cannot believe how fast he is growing and it makes me hug my 1-year old Dodge and 3-year old Max a little longer and harder…soaking up this stage of their lives.  When I first found out I was going to be a dad I read a statistic that when women picture themselves as mothers they see themselves providing for a tiny baby, while when men picture themselves as dads they see themselves participating in activities like swimming, teaching, and sports.  Basically, men see themselves as dads when their kids are older – not when they’re babies.  I rejected this notion proclaiming that I would be the best dad on earth!  Turns out I’m the best dad I can be which sometimes is only “meh”…and that’s okay.  I’m not perfect, but I’m full of love.  Jake let me learn how to have Dad-esk moments before being a dad.  I learned how to change diapers, I learned how to care for a baby, I learned how to listen, I learned how to be patient…or at least pretend to be patient.  Jake taught me how to love someone who frustrates you and how to frustrate someone you love.  He taught me that kids don’t think like adults but adults should learn to think more like kids…because thank goodness for gravity!  Jake was like my adult pre-school for becoming a dad…which is why he’s my son Dodge’s godparent.

I got to learn so much from Jake over the years.

Yesterday Jake came home from school with a project from class most likely aimed at further developing his written skills both mechanically and visualizing his verbal thoughts.  He wrote me a letter for Thanksgiving.  Me.  Uncle Boo Boo.  Stupid fat old me.  The guy who asks himself daily, “What can I do to be a better dad?”  I ask myself this because I fear I’m not a good dad.  I ask this because I get frustrated, because I make mistakes, and because I realize I am responsible for two tiny lives…and that’s scary.  Maybe that’s what makes a good dad?  Maybe that’s more important than always trying to look perfect to the kids.  I like to think so.  I like to think that by being myself and letting my kids see me for who I am they understand that perfection is nothing more than a word, and we are all human.  I tell them I love them every day, and they tell me they love me too.  I can feel their love and I know they can feel mine.  I love my family, immediate and extended, and Jake’s letter from school leveled me.  Reduced me to rubble.  Brought me to tears.  Reminded me who I am.  It is one of the sweetest things anyone has ever written me and there is nothing more special than feeling the love of a child, especially when it comes seemingly from the blue.  Jake wrote:

Dear Uncle Boo Boo,

I love you.  Thank you for teaching me how to swim.  Before that I only knew the doggy paddle.  Now that I know how to swim you teach me how to do cool tricks.  Like that group of rocks you use to go fast under water.  Thanks to you I can touch the bottom of the Lake George Club.  That’s 12 feet!  I can also jump off Calfspen.  That’s like 50 feet.  Thank you.  Sincerely,


Yup…he got me.  I can’t tell you how proud I was of him when he touched the bottom of the lake at the Lake George Club.  I taught him how to clear the air out of his lungs while diving so buoyancy wouldn’t work against him.  I sat on the bottom of the lake and watched him swim down to me, touch the bottom, then push off like a rocket to the surface!  It was amazing.  It was the gift of accomplishment after a summer swimming together.  Jakester and Boo Boo.  I also remember the first time his tiny fingers wrapped around my index finger as I fed him a bottle.  I remember the first time he crawled.  I remember the first time he walked.  I remember the first time he did most things…like hold my sons in his arms when he met them for the first time.

Jake reminds me why I do what I do.  Jake was frustrating when he was my boys’ age and I frustrated him too.  He is a glance into the future and the rewards that come from making a child know they are loved.  Every letter should start out like Jake’s, “I love you.”  What fantastic 3 words, written out in pencil on a turkey.  I love you too Jake.  Thank you for teaching me how to be Max and Dodge’s dad.  This Thanksgiving I am also thankful for the things that teach us about life, remind us who we are, allow us to be ourselves, and bring us together:

Here’s to Family and Gravity!

May your Thanksgiving Holiday be filled with both!

2014-11-25 15.56.15

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Our Film Will Premiere At The Tallgrass Film Festival

20 Sep
Max At Kate's NYC Show 2011

Max at Kate’s 2011 NYC show in Chelsea

My wife Kate and I have deep roots in the arts, which can often be tested when you have two small children.  Kate is a renowned painter and published artist, I am an accomplished film & television director/producer, but for the past three years we have pretty much just been “Mom and Dad.”  This year we started changing out of our baby-food-encrusted pajamas on weekends and started dressing like real people and actually going to events.  As active board members of multiple artistic institutions in Wichita it has been wonderful to have all access passes to the amazing things happening here, but it hasn’t been till recently that we were able to leave both kids with a sitter and actually participate on an adult level instead of just an observer.

RyanTallgrassMost recently we entered the 2013 Creative Rush Down To The Wire 24 Hour Film Race which you can read about here.  24 hour film races are extremely challenging.  Kate and I added one extra challenge to the mix:  I wanted to make a film 100% created by, starring, and executed by our little family of four.  It was our first family art project.  I wanted to make something different that challenged the conventional films we saw at last year’s race and show that an engaging film can be made by a small family for less than $100.

24hour-filmfest-logo-GRAY-185x300I threw out the concept that we would use special effects, complicated locations, setups that would require large lighting rigs, and any script ideas that would require more than one central character:  Kate.  I went back to my roots of studying Stan Brakhage and Abigail Child (whom I studied under at Sarah Lawrence College) to provide a film that was visually driven, aesthetically pleasing, a plot line fun to follow, and driven by the motto of “less is more.”  The result?  Last night I received an email from the Tallgrass Film Festival stating, “Congratulations! Our selection committee has agreed that your short film would be a great addition to the 2013 Tallgrass Film Festival.”  Max and Dodge will be walking the red carpet this October!  (Technically…the Tallgrass carpet is green).

2013-08-26 12.14.01My film, “Best Hubby Ever,” will premiere at Tallgrass this year as part of the Creative Rush Down To The wire Spotlight.  The festival runs from October 16-20 and once the full schedule is released I will post updates here and on Facebook and Twitter.  After its premiere at the festival I will release the film publicly online for those who cannot attend the festival.  While this little 6 minute film was made in 24 hours and for less than $100…I am extremely proud of it because it was made as a family.  As well, I realized that through all my career, Oscar nominated independent films, Hollywood big budget films, awards, and multi-million dollar projects…I had never had a film in a festival that was solely my own.  Something I wrote and directed.  I skipped that early phase when I took my first major directing gig for Disney my Sophomore year of college.  I’ve always been the line producer, or the assistant director, or the director, or the editor, or some other part of the crew.  Somehow…I’ve never had “A Ryan W. Gates Film” go to festival…till this one, and I love that it is starring the three people I love most in the world.

Stay tuned for details and hopefully you will be able to attend the festival and see a film made by a family of four that challenges conventionalism.  Maybe it’s not “A Ryan W. Gates” film after all?  Maybe its “A Gates Family” film.  However you slice it, I know I’m pretty lucky to have a wife that supports me and two gorgeous children that allowed me to capture them on camera and be patient for 24 hours while Dada edited at the dining room table.  Thank you Kate, Max and Dodge.  You are wonderful people and I can’t wait for all of us to sit together in a theater and see our project on the big screen with an audience.


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Max Meets Dodge

3 Mar

All questions as to if Max understood we were having a baby have been answered…he gets it. He’s met Dodge twice and is quick to point out, “that’s the baby.” We explained his name is Dodge and Max calls him “baby Dodge.” He knows to be quiet around him, wash his hands, loves touching his soft hair, and kisses him on the head every chance he has. Today we bring Dodge home and I’m excited to start our lives as a family at last!


My boys

New Look For So Long Freedom

29 Jan

SoLongFreedom_MainAs the birth of the new baby approaches (less than 3 weeks till the due date!) So Long Freedom has made some changes to the online site layout, making it easier than ever to enjoy articles on parenting, life, anxiety, and beyond!  We’ll be doing more product testing and reviews in 2013 for all you tech-dads out there, sharing our experiences with our family, introducing a new family member, and inviting guest bloggers to add content as well.  If you haven’t browsed through SLF in a while be sure to check out the new menu options allowing you to follow the stories that speak to you.  Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already and pass the word on to your friends!  Thank you for your readership and support!

-Ryan Gates

Basking In The Banal

6 Dec

After weeks of travel, shows in different cities, film festivals, and tight deadlines at work…this week marks the end of the turmoil and the beginning of the holiday season for my little family.  This weekend we will not be running to the airport, getting on the turnpike, or going anywhere other than a few local holiday parties.  Ahhhh.  We made it!


Our 2012 Tree

Last night my dad joined us for dinner while my mother was out with her girlfriends.  Kate made a lovely dinner and we convinced Dad that his diet was stupid and he should have a stuffed pepper.  I did the Dukan Diet with him last year (as my subscribers likely remember) and lost about 40 lbs.  However, having these ongoing protein-only days to maintain got tiresome and I just decided to eat healthy, take smaller portions, and be smart.  I have not gained back any of the weight and feel great.  Once he got a stuffed pepper on his plate it was clear we should open some wine, and if we’re putting out wine glasses we might as well set the table.  Platters came out, we did different dishes for different courses instead of the trough-style eating we do in front of the TV with everything in a bowl.  There was all the necessary silverware, and we all sat at the table like real people.  Max “cheers’d” us with his milk cup and we had a lovely meal together with conversations about what was going on in the world and our community.

After dinner we retired to the family room where we did not turn on the TV and instead continued to drink wine and talk to each other.  The diet was completely out the window at this point so Dad was easily persuaded to have cookies and chocolate with us.  Kate read Max books, I tucked him in, and then the three adults sat by the light of the Christmas tree and enjoyed the company.


Max’s Tree

These are the nights where you feel your age in a great way, you are at peace with your life and the simple things make you happy.  It was an ordinary night.  We had dinner, tucked in our child, had conversation, and put ornaments on the tree…its a timeline from most American households this time of year.  However, it was so relaxing and nice.  It felt good to be an adult.  It felt good to be a dad.  It felt good to be a husband.  It felt good to be a son who isn’t a child.  It felt good to be in my 30’s.  Sometimes the simplest things are the sweetest things, like root beer floats on cloudy days.

Here are some of the memories on our tree, what’s on yours?


Tell us (or show us) what’s on your tree.  Is there an ornament you think we should get?  Share with us your holiday traditions and how you “Bask in the Banal.”  Happy Holidays!

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