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Some refreshingly counter-cultural thoughts about identity, kids, and self-fulfillment from America’s favorite comedian, courtesy of a recent conversation with NPR’s Terry Gross:

C.K: When I first got married and had kids, I thought, you know – I had some friends that I played poker with on Mondays, and I thought the poker game on Mondays is – that’s the water line. Like, if I don’t make that game, I’m losing something. I’m losing something if I don’t make it to that game. It means I’m letting go of my youth, I’m letting go of my manhood – all of things – my independence.

louis-c-k1But then after a while, I realized, why would I want to go play poker with a bunch of guys in a smoky room when I could be at home with my family? And I realized that a lot of things that my kid was taking away from me, she was freeing me of. A lot of things that men hang onto when they’re younger, they’re just not good for you. And that there was this huge pride in having a kid and also that I didn’t matter anymore. The greatest thing about having a child is putting yourself second in your own life. It’s a massive gift to be able to say that you’re not the most important person to yourself.

GROSS: Why is that a good thing?

C.K.: Because you’re – because you’ll always – I don’t know – because that’s always going to let you down, you know what I mean? The idea of I’ve got to get me right. I’ve got to get what I want. I’ve got to get – that’s got to be right. That’s never going to quite work. You know, life just isn’t that satisfying. But if you can be useful to somebody else, that you can actually accomplish, you know what I mean? You can go, I did a pretty damn good job today as a dad – pretty good – best as I could. That’s worth so much more, you know?

Louie

Louis describes what this might look like in reference to a recent episode of Louie, in which he catches his daughter smoking pot. His take on ‘grace in practice’ is worth reprinting:

I don’t have the authority or the high ground or the understanding to really have something great to say to my kid about [doing drugs]. All I can say is, hey, I’m here. I am your dad, and we have a lot of history – your whole life. And I love you and I’m here. That’s all you can really be for your kids is present. And I think, in the end, that’s the best thing you can do for your kids when they come to you with real problems, is try to understood how they feel, and try to give them a place to say how they feel so that they can sort it out. And give them what you can about your past, you know?

I think to tell them that the world is this place where you’re supposed to act perfectly and to represent that you did is a huge disservice to your kids, you know? So, yeah, my kids know that I did drugs. They know that I’ve struggled with that kind of thing. I think it’s important to share your mistakes with your kids and – because you get knowledge from your mistakes and wisdom from it. If you can’t pass that on, what good are you? To give your kids an impossible bar to reach that you didn’t reach and to say, oh, yeah, I never did any of that and neither should you, you’re just making it impossible. But if you can say, yeah, listen, I did it. It really screwed me up. I don’t recommend it. Tell me what’s going on in your life that’s leading you to get there.

The whole interview’s pretty great. You can listen below: