Friday, June 09, 2006

Books, Books and More Books

Once upon a time, I dreamed of writing the definitive book on at-home fatherhood, a thoughtful and funny and informative work that really got to the bottom of the whole at-home dad thing. (That dream is currently on hiatus.)

But what I should have been dreaming about was writing the definitive fatherhood advice book, a thoughtful and funny and informative work that really got to the bottom of the whole dad thing. That dream is out the window, too, because that book has just been written, and written well, by someone else.

I just finished "Pop Culture" by Christopher Healy, and it's great read, with a light touch and spot-on advice about the stuff you actually need advice on. It meshes with my own experiences. You can take that his advice to the bank. It may replace the altogether different -- though wonderful -- "Be Prepared" as my standard gift for first-time fathers.

A sample grab:

Most dads approach developmental charts out of anticipation rather than some kind of obsessive fear that something might be wrong with their children. But even if you first grab a chart, thinking, "Ooh, let me see what my son's going to be doing next!" once you've seen the various baby stunts on the list lined up next to very specific ages, it's too late. If your kid diverges from the chart, the seed of anxiety is planted.

And the chance that your child won't be hitting all the marks is pretty damn high, considering the remarkable level of specificity with which with which these charts are written. Take some of these examples pulled from the What to Expect When You're Expecting sequel, What to Expect the First Year. Your baby should be able to:

* 2 months, respond to a bell
* 2.5 months, follow an object in an arc about six inches above the face past the midline
* 3 months, laugh out loud
* 5 months, pay attention to a raisin

And then the reader is advised: "If your baby seems not to have reached one or more of these milestones, check with the doctor."

With this kind of detail, these charts seem impossible to misinterpret. Who can blame an inexperienced parent for running off to the pediatrician, shouting, "Oh my God, my baby pays no attention to raisins whatsoever!"


"Pop Culture" is one of a slew of books for dads, and all of them are worth a look. I've read through the hilarious essays of "Daddy Needs a Drink -- it's certainly a worth addition to the canon. (Daddy Type raved about it earlier this week.)

Also out is "The Fatherstyle Advantage which is a straightforward parenting advice book with a twist that was sure to catch my attention: it's based largely on the benefits that a typically "dad" parenting style** can bring to a child. It's more prescriptive than the thoughtful, more analytical "Fatherneed" from Kyle Pruett.

And while we're on the subject of dad books, I haven't yet read "Dad's Own Housekeeping Book," so I couldn't tell you if it's a helpful book with a light touch or a self-mocking tome that plays on the ol' dad-can't-see-dirt stereotype.

** The author make clear that "fatherstyle" is not representative of the way that all dads parent, nor is it some sort of biology-driven imperative. It is always dangerous to make sex-based generalization -- in the real world, all dads and moms do not fit into neat categories. Your mileage my vary -- but "Fatherstyle" makes those caveats up front, which I appreciate.

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