Dad Files: Meet Steve, Our Newest Be Well Blogger

It didn't take long for new dad Steve Volk to realize that this whole parenting thing would be hard—especially with twin boys. In our newest series, he documents the ups and downs of modern-day fatherhood.

Baby Eli smiles for the camera.

I became a new parent last July—twice over, to fraternal twins, Jack and Eli.

I’d been warned, by long-time parents, “You’ll forget the whole first year.” The life of a new parent, particularly with twins, devolves into a timeless haze of diapers, breasts, bottles and burp cloths. I decided to write a column as a way of preserving some trace of my memories, so on Be Well Philly sister site, the Philly Post, I’ve written on topics ranging from breastfeeding and miscarriageco-sleeping and circumcision. My favorite column remains the one in which I advised a great many people—maybe even you—to shut up.

Now, each week, I’m bringing my posts here to Be Well, where I hope you’ll join me on this new journey. And I also hope you’ll pipe in every now and then with your thoughts and advice—even if we completely disagree with each other.

The standard chatter I hear from most parents and even one particularly vitriolic nonparent is negative. One woman who found out I had twins said, simply, “They will break you.”

It might be that they have. I know I probably cried more in the last six months than I did in any other given year. But there has been another steady theme to the last six months: unbridled joy. And frankly, I’m surprised at how relatively few parents spoke to me about that. So, in an effort to sum up essentially my first six months as a parent and clear the decks for the many columns to come, here is some happiness with which to start the New Year—a story I’d imagine reflects a natural high common to parenthood, though no one warned me about it.


What time is it? Hard to tell. The clock says it is 3 p.m. My body says it is Never O’Clock, a land beyond time I arrived in, Through the Looking Glass-style, by virtue of sleeping, for many months, just long enough to stave off a hallucinatory breakdown.

My wife holds a boy, Jack.

I hold a boy, Eli.

The boy is fussy. He whines, his voice like a rain of straight pins. He yells, his voice like a box cutter. I walk, holding him in cradle position. I rock, holding him like a football. I clutch him to my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Nothing helps. Never O’Clock, it seems, is a timeless space built for whining and crying.

“He fights it,” Lisa says, meaning Eli cries his way toward sleep. “Make him fight.”

So I sit down in a makeshift fort of pillows: Eli in my left arm, an iPad to my right. He cries. And I jiggle my boy. Not sure what I am trying to mimic here: A car. A swing. The motions he felt in the womb.

He wails and groans like I am torturing him.

Then he quiets.


I try to jiggle with no more enthusiasm than before. But inside, I am thrilled at Eli’s silence. I begin to read a book on my iPad: Why Does The World Exist? An Existential Detective Story by Jim Holt. The book ponders a central question of philosophy: why is there something, rather than nothing?

I’m reading it because it relates to my own book, Fringe-ology, and suddenly I am … reading. I am lost, pondering the mysteries of existence. When I turn back to my left there is a small, perfectly sleeping boy nestled in my left arm. His lips are full and pink. His eyelashes are terrifically long, telescoping out like the tendrils of a flower. He sleeps. I turn back to my book. Holt is in Europe, pondering the Big Bang, a universe that is slowly expanding. I feel myself coming back together.

The man who pondered and read. The new dad who loves to stare at his boys. I watch Eli sleep—vivid, no atmosphere clouding his round, glowing moon face. And more than an hour passes like this, till it is no longer Never O’Clock.

It is 4:40 p.m.

I will finish reading this book, even though I already know how it ends: Why is there something rather than nothing? Oh, Jim Holt. For Eli.


Steve Volk is Philadelphia magazine’s senior writer. A new dad to twin boys, he blogs about the ups and downs of modern-day fatherhood each week here on Be Well Philly.