Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Publishers, Is This What You Really Think of Fathers?

OK. I have come to accept that the "Poetry" section in most commercial bookstores is going to contain the works of Jewel, Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, and two local authors. But I also accept that - for the most part - contemporary poetry is a limited-appeal art form and a bit of an acquired taste. As a pledge to the fraternity of the word, I feel comfortable admitting this aloud.

But parenting? Is there really an acquired taste for being a good parent? An attentive spouse and caregiver? My local paper recently ran a microreview - a positive microreview - of something called "Dad's Own Housekeeping Book" (Link deliberately omitted). Author David Bowers is a stay-at-home Dad and in general seems to be a creator of useful books, and I hope he won't take this personally, but:

Oh, please.

I'm sure it's filled with useful advice (to be fair, I'm reacting to the review, not the book), but how many more books do we need that assume male parents haven't progressed past Ricky Ricardo? The publisher's description of the book (via opens with "Just because you’re born with a “Y” chromosome doesn’t excuse you from cleaning the bathroom, especially in this day and age when time’s at a premium and partners have to be, well, partners." Excuse me, but which of us knuckle-dragging cavemen in the 45 and under category hasn't been living this since we first dropped to one knee?

Maybe my ire is misdirected. What I'm really aggravated about is when friends anticipating their first blessed event turn to me for resources (knowing my first approach to just about anything is to acquire baseline knowledge and the right vocabulary), and I have just the one suggestion: Armin Brott. Don't get me wrong - Brott's books are pretty good, and I learned much from each of them (except for some of the deliberate redundancies of Father for Life). But are these really the only books available that don't assume that we (fathers) are stupid, reluctant, incompetent, depressed, belligerent, or some appalling combination of these? Maybe I'm missing the forest here, but for every "Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads", I see 6 "Keeping the Baby Alive till Your Wife Gets Home: The Tough New 'how-to' for 21st Century Dads". I mean, even the (presumably) well-intentioned anthology Fatherhood displays a dismal lack of awareness by including Plath's "Daddy". I'm not looking for pollyanish, sunshine-and-saccharine treatments, just ones that don't think me an imbecile, a jerk, or a monster. Isn't there market for a book about caring, positive, literate fathering experience?

Are there good books out there I just haven't found? Or is this my call to arms? Or, more accurately, to pencils?

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