Jarrod Norris is a great guy. We have shared some pretty cool conversations together, and I knew immediately he would have some great things to share in this feature. There are few professions as noble to me as a teacher. These are the people that help encourage children in the most positive ways and can inspire them throughout their entire lives. As a special education teacher, he is especially passionate about his profession. Without spreading himself too thin, he also remains a part of his local hardcore/punk scene and sings (screams) for Beast of Burden. Married for 13 years, with three children, Jarrod is the perfect example of a Modern Day Dad.
1. Tell us about what you do, who you are, and how you balance your career with being a dad?
My name is Jarrod Norris and I am now into the latter half of my 30’s. My wife and I have been married for almost 13 years. We have 3 kids together: two lovely daughters (ages 11 and 7) and one son (age 9). My favorite thing in life is being a husband and father. I love being at home with my family. I am a special education teacher and I coach basketball for Special Olympics. Punk and hardcore have been part of me for most of my life. Currently, I yell into a mic for a hardcore band with some of my friends called Beast of Burden. I enjoy occasional “fat dad” skate sessions that no longer involve me leaving the skateboard. I also have an affinity for custom cars, lowriders, and traditional hot rods.
My son has Down syndrome. A few months after he was born (about 9 years ago) we moved from my home state of Texas to my wife’s home state of Arizona. I decided then that I wanted to be a special ed teacher, to hopefully be a better father for my son. I worked hard and earned a dual major in elementary and special education. I am now in my fourth year as a teacher for students with intellectual disabilities (mental retardation). My two youngest kids come to school with me.
I have worked hard to balance my career with being a dad. Prior to teaching I was an electrician and a UPS driver. Being a teacher, for me, is much more conducive with family life than my previous careers. As a general rule, I don’t take my work home. I save that time for my family. We have a traditional sit down, family dinner each evening. I made the decision early on that no job is worth sacrificing my family for. I can be a better husband and father or I can be a better teacher. My family comes first, but I certainly don’t slack as a teacher. Having summers off is super rad too! We travel out of town a lot, camping, etc. I might not be able to show my kids the world, but I can show them our country.
2. What does being a modern-day dad mean to you?
A modern day dad is one who takes his own life experiences and uses them to be the best dad he can be. We all have our own lives and stories. We may have had a great dad, a really horrible one, or none at all. A modern day dad, I imagine, uses what he learned (good and/or bad) and builds off that to be present, active, and available for his children. A modern day dad doesn’t point fingers and blame others; he sacks up and handles his business for his family no matter the circumstances.
3.How did becoming a father change your life?
We had a girl first. For me, having a girl was the best thing to help soften me up. If we had a boy first, I’m afraid I would have been too hard on him. Then having our son stopped us in our tracks. Having a child is life changing. Having a child with special needs is even more so. Since becoming a father, I have dedicated my life to being the best one I can be. My wife and I have made huge life changes because of our children and I have no regrets in
4. What’s the greatest part about being a dad?
I enjoy watching my children grow with confidence, developing their own identities and interests. My oldest daughter is very much into the arts and sciences. She is super creative and has been a self-professed “scientist” since about age 5. She has also been playing piano for several years and writes her own songs. Her creativity astounds me. My son is my little shadow. He has much of the same interests as me, including music and movies.
He loves action figures and has to have one in his hand at all times. He prefers to be with me. That works out pretty well because I like being with him too. My youngest daughter is a little cowgirl. She has been infatuated with horses since she was very little. She’s 7 now and has been taking riding lessons for a couple years. She wears boots and hats, the whole nine yards. I support that! I’m very proud of who my children are. I want them to be individuals and pursue their own interests. I have no desire to live vicariously through my kids. So for me, the greatest part about being a dad is enjoying my kids’ individualism.
5. Can you share a funny story about being a father?
A birthday party my oldest daughter attended a couple years ago was an eye opening experience for her. It was probably the first time she recognized she was being raised by a punk rock dad. When I picked her up she told me it was a karaoke party and she was the only kid that didn’t know the songs. She said, “everyone was singing along to these weird dance songs. I wanted to sing along too, but there were no Ramones, Rancid, or Bouncing Souls
6. What advice can you give any new father out there?
I have a bit of experience as a father of three children. I also have the outside perspective as a teacher. That position gives me a great vantage point on what dads are doing right and what dads are doing wrong.
If you didn’t plan on having your kid, it doesn’t matter. Your kid needs you. Even if you’re behind bars or miles away you can write, call, and email. Don’t make your child pay for your life choices. Even if you can’t stand the child’s mother, do whatever it takes to be present in their life. Even if you have no visitation rights, send letters and call them on their birthday and Christmas!
If you did plan on having your child, be grateful for the child you are given. No matter how much planning and research you do, you will never really be “prepared” and you never really know what you’re going to get. Kids are different. There just really isn’t one way to raise them.
If you have a kid with special needs, it’s going to be challenging. The severity of those needs will also differ greatly, so it doesn’t do any good to compare. My experience as a father, teacher, and coach of individuals with special needs is that the benefits and joy far outweigh the challenges. I wouldn’t trade my son with Down syndrome for anything.
I choose to raise my children to be selfless, show respect for others, and stand up for those that cannot speak for themselves. I think all we can do as dads is our personal best to give our children the love, care, and opportunities that we are able to provide. Then hope and pray they grow up to not resent us too much for our shortcomings. I’ve been keeping a blog about my adventures as a father, teacher, and coach of individuals with Down syndrome and other special needs for over 4 years now. The blog includes personal narrative, advice, pictures, and more. If that interests you, or you know someone that might be interested check out my blog at JUSTLISTENHARDER.BLOGSPOT.COM
Thanks so much Jarrod! It was an absolute pleasure. You are an awesome father and real inspiration.
Give Jarrod a follow here:
If punk and hardcore is your thing check out my band at BEASTOFBURDEN.BANDCAMP.COM
If you care to follow on social media you can do that on Instagram:
@justlistenharder – professional/non-personal account to support the blog
@just_jarrod – personal account
@beastofburdenhardcore – band account
You can always contact me via email too: firstname.lastname@example.org