This week I'm looking at two of the recent series of books about parenting from a father's perspective. If the female version of these are "momoirs," does that make these "dadiaries?"
Of the two, Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, by Michael Lewis, is the more recent and the more hyped. Lewis is the author of one of the better books I've ever read (Liar's Poker, about the excesses of Wall Street in the 1980s) and so I had high hopes for this book. And it has some really funny moments. But basically, it reads like the slapped together collection of Slate columns that it is. In it we learn that parenting can be absurd, exhausting and messy, but that "If you want to feel the way you're meant to feel about the new baby, you need to do the grunt work. it's only in caring for a thing that you become attached it."
I'd actually be interested in reading a book by Lewis in which he uses his journalistic talents to look at the contested territory of parenting in the 21st century, because he does nail some issues: "For now, there's an unsettling absence of universal, or even local, standards of behavior. Within a few miles of my house I can find perfectly sane men and women who regard me as a Neanderthal who should do more to help my poor wife with the kids, and just shut up about it. But I can also find other perfectly sane men and women who view me as a Truly Modern Man and marvel aloud at my ability to be both breadwinner and domestic dervish -- doer of an approximately 31.5 percent of all parenting. The absence of standards is the social equivalent of the absence of an acknowledged fair price for a good in a marketplace. At best, it leads to haggling; at worst, to market failure."
Dinner with Dad: How I Found My Way Back to the Family Table by Cameron Stracher doesn't try to describe modern fatherhood in general. Rather, it's the story of one man who decided to be home for dinner, 5 nights a week, for one school year, and how it changed his life. And yes, it looks like it started out as a blog.
In order to do this, Stracher started working from home a few days a week, and eventually wound up quitting one of his two jobs, and thus having more time to coach his kid's teams, and generally be part of their lives. Stracher acknowledges that everything he does would be unremarkable almost anywhere but in the suburbs of New York City, but he also doesn't downplay the difficulty in changing patterns of behavior when he works a two-hour train ride from home, he's expected to travel regularly for work, and all of the kid-focused activities are scheduled for at-home-parents.
The other major theme of the book is Stracher's desire to cook "real" (e.g. grown up) food for his family, and his frustration when his kids turn up their nose at it again and again. He writes with passion about the pleasure of feeding people you love, and how easy it is to put undue weight on it. (I know that one of the reasons I make waffles and muffins so often is they're pretty much the only things I can make that the kids will appreciate the effort.) He's not the elegant writer that Lewis is, but I think I enjoyed this book more.