Thursday, July 8, 2010

Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis

Why I read it: Christmas gift, and I had read Moneyball.

Summary: Michael Lewis, better known as the author of Moneyball and The Blind Side, also one of the country's top finance writers, tackles the story of his own fatherhood foibles trough the journals he wrote during the formative years of his children Quinn, Dixie and Walker.

My Thoughts: I'm just twenty months into this fatherhood thing, but I can certainly see what Lewis is talking about.

While there are some things I will never relate to in his book - like dropping everything to live in Paris for a while, or setting up permanent camp in Berkeley, California; we just don't have that sort of financial freedom - a lot more hits very close to what I call home in suburban Boston. Lewis brings up the situations that a new dad goes through, like attempting to soothe a baby with a superhuman capacity to scream and cry, and ponders his own reactions to such distressing situations. Do all fathers really take these things in stride, or are they just, like him, putting on a face for show, while secretly thinking about what the consequences would be if he simply placed the child in his crib and ran into the wilderness for good?

The transformation to fatherhood from the freedom of male youth is a shock to the ego. Teenage boys don't spend their time seeking out cousins and young aunts with babies so they can hold them, feed them and change them. They're skills that just are not inherent in a young man. They've been told most of their lives, in fact, to make sure they don't have kids until the right time comes. Why should they spend their time coddling and cooing a baby, when there are video games to play, sports to watch, beer to drink and women to chase (sometimes all at the same time)? During the teens and early twenties, babies are simply not on the radar screen.

Yet, the change occurs, sometimes subconsciously. Lewis refers to a movie in which there is an abduction scene, a child stolen from a public pool. Three years previously, to him, it would simply have been a plot twist. Now, with a youngster at home, the thought puts his gut into a twist. He's right. I read a story today about a man in South Carolina arrested on the disappearance of his two-year-old, and it turned my stomach.

The growth starts there. A father is a juggler, tryng to keep everybody happy at all times. Lewis doesn't even get into extended families and holidays, and he has no need to. Doing his share of the parenting of three children while attempting to maintain a career as a writer is enough to fill a book. There are hospital visits for all involved, children to soothe in the face of loss of attention from a parent during the birth of a new sibling, overnight camping trips, lack of sleep and more.

If this book is a guide, as the title states, then perhaps the main lesson to be learned is to approach it all with humor, or, at least, to know that what you go through as a new father will be laughed at later on. Hopefully by you.

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