Sunday, June 16th, 2013
Today is a good day to hug a dad whether he is the father of your children, the man who gave you life, your grandpa or your in-law. So go give a man a squeeze and then read this Father’s Day tribute. You’re sure to be flooded with memories from your own childhood.
Author Joel Schwartzberg, a popular essay writer and author of The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad, explains the significance and steadfastness of the simple inquisitive words of his father: “What’s new?”
“Back when I competed in middle school debate, my dad would rouse me early on Saturday tournament mornings. With night sky still hovering, I’d pull on my only blue suit, grab the thin attaché case that was once his, and he’d drive me to the waiting school bus. If time allowed, we’d pick up a box of glazed donuts for the team.
Roughly 12 hours later, the bus would pull back into the school parking lot. The sky would be dark, as if the day had never arrived. I’d spot my dad’s car, its dome light illuminated so he could grade papers while he waited. He graded a lot of papers those nights.
“So…what’s new?” he’d ask while I climbed inside. At the time, I thought the question had everything to do with my trophies.
“What’s new?” is how my dad greets me to this day, albeit slower and with slightly more vocal gravel thirty years later. I understand now the meaning with which these words are imbued. My dad expresses affection in sacrifice, devotion, and time–not in simple words so overplayed in greeting cards and the closing scenes of romantic comedies.
It was my dad who cut his thumb open making a birdhouse for my third grade cub scout project. As he hammered away, he continued bleeding into the house even though we begged him to stop. I’m not sure we were concerned for his safety so much as utterly grossed out by the splattering of bright blood onto the light wood. The only thing driving him was a determination to do right by us. That he was creating a Dexter-themed birdhouse wouldn’t stand in the way.
It was my dad who drove to the mall where I worked to hand-deliver my SAT scores, hot off the mailman’s truck.
It was my dad who supported my paper-thin rationalizations to start law school, and he supported me just as much when I left six months later, the first Schwartzberg to quit an educational endeavor since I dropped AP biology.
It was my dad who visited me at the tiny video store where, at 24, I competed for the title of Assistant Manager against a teenager who wore sports-themed ties. It was my dad who told me it was okay to quit three weeks in, with no other prospects.
It was my dad who opened his home and every possession to me following my divorce. He treated it like a routine event, even though it was the first divorce in our family. He insisted I wear his work shirts and pants–as if sensing holes the separation had left in me and trying to cover them with pieces of himself.
Throughout a childhood spotted with quits and failures, I’ve never felt like a quitter or a failure. That’s a parenting trick bordering on magic.
Sometimes on Friday nights, while I wait in my ex-wife’s driveway for the children to emerge, I think about the kind of father I am, about the pieces of myself I try to give to my own kids. I try to assess the cumulative effect of my fathering, and how it might be remembered years into their future.
The kids knock the ridiculous thought out of my head as they pile in.
“So… what’s new?” I ask instinctively.
They smile, and start spilling their stories.”
Joel Schwartzberg is a nationally-published essayist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, Babble.com, AOL ParentDish, the Good Men Project, The Huffington Post and elsewhere. Author of the award-winning collection The 40-Year-old Version, Joel lives in New Jersey and is currently at work on his next personal anthology “Yes, I Want a Medal!”
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Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, book publishers released a slew of great books written by dads. This week, I’m going to focus on a few of my favorites. Like Glad to be Dad: A Call to Fatherhood by Tim J. Meyers. He’s spent years in the trenches raising two sons and a daughter. A longtime, successful writer, he is the primary caretaker while his wife works outside of the home. He’s full of hard-won wisdom–on everything from cleaning products to kids’ snacks–and conveys practical advice in his characteristically warm and witty style. At the heart of Myers’ book, he advocates for father involvement. When dads play central roles in child-rearing, the wives and children are happier and less stressed. When I read Glad to be Dad, I thought of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. She writes about the importance of choosing a helpful partner–someone just like Myers.
Find out more about fatherhood from Myers himself. Below, he answers questions that range from household chores to Father’s Day presents. (Hint: Get this man some peanut butter cups ASAP.)
KK: Why is it so important for dads to be involved in childcare and house chores?
TM: I think family is one of the most beautiful realities in the world, but to reach its full potential, family members have to work together. Right now, though many men are superb husbands and fathers, a lot of women are doing more than their share. Which is not only unfair, but works against that life-giving unity of the family. Children also benefit profoundly from the loving attention of their fathers–of course. And the kicker is that men grow happier and wiser too!
KK: If a dad works a lot, and he doesn’t watch the kids often, what are three ways to entice him to help more?
TM: To me it’s not a matter of “enticing,” but of growing in our understanding. One way to do that is to recognize that most men face their own pressures, especially at work. Men shouldn’t get a pass on domestic commitment because of this, but we all should respect the hard work they do (and the worry that sometimes goes with it). A second way is for husband and wife to keep talking about these issues. This is especially crucial because a lot of men don’t have good models of committed fatherhood, so it’s all new to them. Third, I think families in general should value themselves more, celebrate themselves more, which will lead everyone to appreciate being with each other. The beautiful thing is to gradually make that potential a reality!
KK: What are some household chores that males might be more likely to do?
TM: I can’t speak for all men, of course, but I don’t think it’s wise to even think this way. My wife and I agreed years ago that we would value all work that goes into the family, whether it brings in money or not, whether it’s lowly or repetitive, whatever. All the work counts–picking up far-flung socks or cleaning a toilet are as worthy as bringing home a paycheck or helping kids with homework. So everyone does everything. (Though I must admit that, out of my own ignorance, I was banned from helping our kids with math).
KK: Some husbands are very involved in the daily domestic routine. What are some nice things their wives can do to tell them thank you?
TM: Let’s see…”You are one studly love-muffin, baby!” I’m always happy to hear things along those lines. And though I’m joking, I’m partly serious too, since a guy can sometimes feel less masculine under domestic circumstances. I don’t think a man should feel that way; I can’t think of anything more masculine, for example, than a full-grown man bending to a child. But there’s a tendency to associate homelife with femininity, and I know some guys won’t mind being reminded–in whatever ways–that they’re still 100 percent male.
KK: What is/was your favorite stay-at-home dad responsibility?
TM: Being able to share the astonishing miracle of life with my children hour by hour, day by day–and giving my heart to complete partnership with the woman I love.
KK: What do you want for Father’s Day?
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TM: Buy me a power tool, and I’ll send it on to Tim Allen. But I wouldn’t mind a gift card to buy music–I’ve been eyeballing some Ben Folds CDs lately. And my family knows my desperate weakness for that quintessence of edibles, glory of all deliciousness, the peanut-butter cup. A bunch of those. A whole bunch. So yep, I’m pretty easy to please.
Father's Day, fatherhood, Glad to be Dad, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, stay at home dad, Tim J. Myers | Categories:
Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Q&A With Authors