Friday, November 12, 2010

Things I Learned About My Dad (in therapy)

I just finished this book of essays, edited by Dooce's Heather Armstrong. Books of essays can be hit or miss, but I loved nearly every essay in this book. I either laughed or cried (or both) at each one. Some authors reminisce about their fathers, some author-fathers talk about fatherhood, some author-wives talk about their husbands as fathers. It was very entertaining. (Is it more entertaining if you have a child? Perhaps.)

The most humorous essays were those by new fathers. "10 Conclusions from Four Years of Fatherhood" discussed everything from new parents' obsession with poo (so true!) to how your home will be a disaster area for the next several years (unfortunately, so true again, but maybe I should feel better about it knowing I'm not the only parent with a messy home?). I loved how "Sam I Am" compared pregnancy to Lord of the Rings. Wife = Frodo, who has to bear the burden the entire way. Husband = Sam, who is just their for moral support but can't really do anything. I loved "The Force is With Us. Always" in which the author described her husband's love for Star Wars and how it took just two years for him to introduce it to their now-obsessed son. Why I liked it? I believe it's my future, which is great because while the kid and dad play "light saber," I get to read a book or take a bath.

Of course, the essays that made me cry? The ones about the authors' own dads. I've always had a wonderful relationship with my dad. He was very present in my life. He's proud of me, he loves me and he's not afraid to tell me. So reading about how other people love their dads...well, it pulls at the heart strings a bit, you know?

This book is quick and fun. So if fatherhood from any level interests you, or if you just like good writing, I recommend it. A couple fun/true passages:

From "Peas and Domestic Tranquility"
A couple of years ago, we spent an afternoon at the park with some friends and their three girls. While the girls sat in the sand and shared toys and bonded in a way that was only missing a few glasses of wine or some chocolate ice cream, my sons ran in noisy circles around them, trying to punch each other in the face. "Wow," my friend said. "Is that what boys are like?"
"Man. They just...Wow."
"If it makes you feel any better for me, your kids are going to mutate into teenage girls at some point, and that will make this little melee look like tea with the Queen. The boys are just going to keep hitting each other. The only thing I have to worry about is fratricide. Your girls are going to run psy-ops campaigns that would make the CIA curl into a fetal ball and cry itself to sleep."
From "Not My Problem"
I had more questions than answers. Little did I know, that would never change.

There is something to be said for the phrase "day by day." Just take it one day at a time, they say. Each day was a new adventure and we were amazed at how excited we were about little changes. Sitting up was a big deal. Crawling gave us personal entertainment. Walking was a milestone and speaking drew us into rapt attention.

In time the manual wrote itself. What they never told you is that your child will write the manual, adding a few words every day. As a father, my job was to support the author, edit the work when I could, and hope that the book would be a best seller.

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