It was, perhaps, the imaginary blood splatter on the walls of Martha Stewart’s offices that made me realize just how fully I’d embraced my son’s fame. And all that came with it.
He and Emeril Lagasse’s boy, E.J., were racing — no, ripping, tearing, screaming, and wailing — through the corridors of Stewart’s television studio, blasting each other with imaginary laser rifles, flinging their “dead” bodies against the walls. The publicity handlers — there presumably to keep order — were polite. And dazed. It was not a good thing.
Except both boys were in their element — surrounded by food, cameras, and attention. A trinity to be expected for E.J., growing up in the home of one of the world’s most recognizable food celebrities.
But I was realizing it also was a course I’d unconsciously plotted for my son, Parker. Maybe not such a smart thing?
I recently needed to travel for work, always a tear-inducing experience for my son. As I left, I tried to soothe him. “You know that when I’m away, I think about you constantly, right? And I’m always talking about you to everyone I meet.”
The whimpering stopped. Fast. “Do you think they’ll want my autograph?”
Not a good thing, indeed.
Not long ago, parents worried mostly about how much media their children should consume. But as technology morphed and “TV time” was supplanted by “screen time,” the question has become more nuanced. Now, we fret over how much children should be exposed in media, as much as to it.
This isn’t about child stars. I have friends who won’t use their child’s real name on their blogs and avoid posting face-forward images of them on Facebook. Online lives forever, after all.
But I swallowed that pill shortly after Parker was born, chronicling in columns and feature stories too numerous his growth, eating habits, and eagerness to be in the kitchen with me.
And why not? I talk-the-line about the importance of involving kids in cooking, might as well walk it. And share it.
I live in a surreal place on the pop culture map. I am no celebrity, just a dorky dad in the 'burbs. But my job as cookbook author and food editor for the world’s largest news organization has me work — and play — smack at the center of a red-carpet world. And the kid is along for the ride. (Far left, J.M. Hirsch, his son Parker, and chef Emeril's son E.J. at a filming of Emeril's show.)
It started slowly. By the time he was 3, Parker had appointed himself the official taster of the AP’s test kitchen, snatching samples of whatever recipes we were developing or photographing. Photo shoots were his norm, and I joked that when eating at friends’ homes he must wonder why they don’t photograph their food before eating it. It wasn’t long before Parker was the subject of the shoots.