EPISODE #127

Katz in the Cradle

New Jersey governor Chris Christie is known for talking smack to reporters. Like this:

That “I worked the cones” comment was aimed at WNYC’s Matt Katz, who has always seemed emboldened by the governor’s antagonism—using it as fuel to drive him to dig deeper in his reporting. To create Peabody award-winning coverage of the “Bridgegate” scandal.

And that’s why I was so surprised to hear some tape Matt sent us, fretting over a thing he wanted to tell his five-year-old daughter, Sadie.

Tune in as Matt reveals his family secret to Sadie. It involves a proposal to a pre-schooler, a changed identity, a break-in, some threats involving the FBI—and the truth about Matt’s father.

Matt (top left) with his family

Yes, I am geeking out over Matt Katz
And you should, too. He is one of those reporters who, whenever I hear him on the radio, I stop what I’m doing and I listen.

If you want to hear the full scoop on what it was like to cover Chris Christie up close for four years, check out Matt’s Fresh Air interview.

And read his biography of Christie: American Governor: Chris Christie’s Bridge to Redemption.

Also tune in on June 27th to hear Matt’s episode on the podcast The United States of Anxiety. He’ll be talking about the culture wars around Islam in the US.

What have you been nervous to reveal to YOUR family?
And how did it go? Share the juicy details below.

Top photo: Four-year-old Matt at his parents’ wedding

Our sponsors for this episode are Third Love, Peanut, BarkBox, and Little Passports (code: LONGSHORT). Use the promo codes at checkout for a special discount.

11 thoughts on “EPISODE #127: Katz In The Cradle

  1. Oh Hillary.

    This episode hit me so, incredibly hard. I usually listen on my commute and I had to pull over towards the end and sob in the middle of a cornfield.

    I am 34, my wife is 28, and our son just turned three. We met in her college town 10 years ago (yes, she was 18.) and after an amazing dating experience while she was in college, we married and moved to her hometown where she started taking over her family business and where all of her family lives. Mostly for stability for starting our own family.

    You see, she and her family have this amazing interconnected web of grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters.

    And I have a shattered family – my mother and father divorced when I was 12. At the time, I had no idea why, but as I got older I discovered that (like your Fun & the Chaos episodes) my upbringing was not normal. My father suffered from severe depression and opioid abuse – my mother had severe mental illness best described as borderline personality disorder.

    This led to my mother being removed from my life a year before my son was born – and my father (who I still had a healthy relationship with) ending his life only 3 months before my son was born.

    If you want to talk to me for an episode, I’m game. I know your episodes with other people have helped me, maybe my story will help other people.

    Anyway, thanks for your show, it has helped me so much.

  2. Awww. My heart was breaking for little Matt, even grownup Matt still affected by what happened (and didn’t) to little Matt. Sadie will love her Pop Pop and likely barely register that he is not her biological grandfather until it occurs to her, and it will do so with more and more weight as she ages, that her beloved father was abandoned when he was a little kid. She is luckier. But there is a lot of love in this episode. And its hero, of course, is Richard.

  3. I have been a dedicated weekly listener of The Longest Shortest Time for over 2 years now . Each story has moved me in its own right but has also inevitably lead me to think about my own mother, with whom I have not had a relationship in over 10 years. As my husband and I discuss our future family (discussions often fueled by experiences shared on this podcast), I often think about how I would explain this once close, now non-existent relationship to our possible child-to-be.

    I have never left a comment on any public forum before, but I was so grateful to hear an episode about the complicated, lasting impact of an absent parent that I decided to make this a first! Thank you Matt for telling your story and Hillary and The Longest Shortest Time team for helping it reach and touch listeners like me.

  4. This episode hit so close to home. I’m a new mom and have long wondered how and when to talk to my kids about my abusive bio-dad. He’s been out of my life for nearly 20 years, but the events of my childhood still echo through our family. Like Matt, I believe my daughter has a right to know about her family history–and yet, I want to protect her from him and his lasting effects. I also don’t want to open old wounds of my siblings and parents. Also like Matt, I have an amazing step-dad turned adopted-dad, and wouldn’t want to put any distance between him and my daughter.

    I’ve never heard anyone talk about this specific parenting issue before; so thank you to you, your team, and Matt for putting this episode together. I’d love to hear more perspectives and stories about how others think about sharing their experiences with absent/abusive parents with their own kids.

  5. on the topic of family secrets, my own father revealed to me at age 18 that he had been married once before my mom, to his high school sweetheart. I’m not really sure why he never told me sooner. There was no contact with her as we live many states away. Also, like Matt’s 5 year old, I cared a lot less than I think my parents thought I would. My biggest question was if I had half siblings I never knew about (no). I remember being disappointed. My best friend’s mom had been married before her dad and this was just a fact known in the family. A non-thing. If nothing else, this revelation made me wonder what else my parents haven’t told me. when my toddler son gets older, I hope to share more about my life with him than my parents did . Not talking about even neutral details of the past imbues them with shame and I don’t want to do that.

  6. I loved this episode for so many reasons. Richard the loving dad and Sadies response… so perfect! And not really all that surprising.

    I have a secret to share with my kids someday too and wonder when the right time is or will be. Not only that their Nana has been married six… yes six! times, but that one of those men sexually abused me for years. My boys are 11 and 15. Seems like it’s important to share with them (for more reasons than I can count) but just not sure how or when.

    Thanks for sharing Matts story, gave me food for thought!

    1. Hi Chrissy,
      Thanks so much for listening. I’m so sorry to hear that you were sexually abused by a family member. If you haven’t heard our episode with Zoe Zolbrod — #106 When You Tell, I highly reccomend. Best wishes, Abigail – LST Producer.

  7. I loved this episode so much. My dad had a similar story but none of it was revealed to me until I was almost a teenager and my grandparents had divorced. At that point my dad’s bio father was involved in our lives but I had no idea who he was. He and his wife were just really nice friends of my parents who bought me boatloads of gifts each year. It took years to put myself and my concept of who I was, where my family came from back together after the revelation. This dad is doing his kiddo a favor by being honest. Thank you!

  8. Hillary
    Thank you for this amazing episode. I had no idea that anyone but myself used the terminology Dad and Father. It was somehow comforting to know that I am not alone. So much of your episode rang true to me. These types of situations stick with you well into adulthood. I wonder how many others like us are out there? The custody agreements of the time did not foster much of a relationship with the father, agreements like one weekend a month and one month in the summer.

  9. This was a hard one to listen to.

    I met the father who raised me when I was six years old. My sister was four. He had a son who was 5. We are all in our thirties now. We have never called him dad though, his nickname is Pepe (which is similar to the Spanish word papá) so that helped. He never adopted us, but we did talk a few times about changing our last names. I believe my mom had full custody over us. When I was 9, mom and Pepe had their only common child, my little brother.
    A year ago, mom and Pepe split up. I have a six year old daughter and a 3 year old son and I sometimes worry whether they will have him us a grandfather or not. Circumstances have made it so, that Pepe is a devoted grandfather of his first son’s daughter. I know he loves my kids as well, he is just not as devoted. He is still a full time dad to my stepbrother and my “little” ‘half-brother’. I have no idea what our relationship is now or what it will look like in the future. It is a very strange feeling, is he “my former stepdad?” What is that?
    As for my biological father, he has appeared and disappeared throughout my entire life. I didn’t see him for a period of 15 years, although we sometimes communicated via email. This was the longest longest time we spent without seeing each other. I haven’t talked to him in over 3 years now.

    Thanks to Matt for sharing his story, best of luck.

  10. Hello,
    I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I started listening to this episode, just that it will be another great story that I will love. As I keep listening, I realized my stomach was getting tighter and tighter. I even had to pause every now and then to think about what I have just heard. I related to this story so much.
    Growing up my father was never around. He lived abroad and my brother and I lived with my maternal grandparents in Bangladesh. My mom was basically a single mom. My father visited us every now and then, sometimes just once a year for a month or so, sometimes not even. We became a real family when we all moved to the US in 1996. That was the first time I learned what is to live with my father and got to know him. I was 15 at that time. He wasn’t a nice person. He wasn’t nice to us. He certainly wasn’t nice to mom. The physical abuse he poured on my mom and me was nothing compared to the mental and verbal abuse. I lived with him for 13 years until I finally met my husband and moved out. In those 13 years, I had to drop out of college because my mom needed help supporting the family financially because my father worked whenever he felt like. I am not sure why I stayed with him. I just did. You can say I was bounded by the culture I grew up with. I also couldn’t leave my mom in her situation with him.
    My complicated relationship still continued with him even after my marriage. We would talk for some times. Then we would have fall outs for some reason and not talk for months or even years. Then I would start feeling bad and make up with him. Of course we would never sort anything out. I just went back every time; thinking things will go back to normal. That he would become a Father to me someday.
    Then I had my daughter in 2012. I figured may be this would change him. It did for a few months but again, the same drama. All these times, he stopped his physical abuse but he was still mentally abusing my mom. She didn’t/couldn’t get out of that marriage. And by then, she thought it was too late. Finally one day after a huge blow out in front of my 2 year old, who was hysterical watching me and my father screaming at each other, I told myself that’s enough. I cannot ever let my daughter see my in that situations. Also I cannot make her go through the ugliness that surrounds my father.
    We moved from NY to New Jersey in 2016. A month later my mom moved in with us. It was huge because this was her very first step of moving away from him after being married to him for 35 years . He never asked and none of us told him where we are moving in Jersey. But couple of months after my moved, he started calling her. It dawned on him that my mom wasn’t coming back, when he was sure she would. He was angry at her. He was angry at me for taking her away. Of course she never picked up any of his calls but it never discouraged him. He constantly called at least once a day and leaving nasty voicemails; cursing her, cursing me, wishing all of us ill. I was afraid that he will start saying horrible things about my daughter as well. Because that man had no filters and he never thought about what he said and never regretted anything that came out of his mouth. This continues till today.

    Sorry about this long story. I loved this episode but I was hoping the talk Matt had with his daughter would include his daughter asking about her paternal grandfather. Because my 5 year old started asking already. Last month was the first time. I guess it just clicked in her head that, her Momma’s mom lives with her. So where is her Momma’s dad? She asked me, Momma where is your Papa (my daughter calls her dad Papa)? And all I can get out is, he lives far away. I am not proud of my answer. I just don’t know what to say to her. I have been dreading this question since the last fight my father and I had, when she was 2. My husband and I spoke about it many times and I told each other, we just have to be honest with her. But how much honestly can you give a 5 year old? My 5 year old is the type, who loves to know that others love her; others want to be her friends, she wants to be liked. She gets disappointed even if one of her friends says,” I am not your friend Zareen” (which is so normal for a bunch of 5 year olds to say; they love to be dramatic at times). But my daughter really takes it to heart. How do I tell her, her grandfather wants nothing to do with her? And if someday I do let him in her life, he will abuse their relationship to his advantage. I know I cannot protect her always but I cannot help wanting to build a shield around her right now. She is so naïve. How do I explain this part of my life to her without affecting her in the long run? I am terrified of the day I have to have this chat with her. I have to say something since she started asking. Need some advice please!

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