“What Your Dad Believes”
I’m writing a new book
I love writing, and often package my projects into books. The other day I had a book idea that I’m pretty excited about: giving my 13 year old son a book called around the concept of What Your Dad Believes. I’m planning on giving it to him for his birthday later this year, so I’ve been writing a bunch of essays.
The gap in the market
If I walked into an airport bookstore and I saw a book called “The Way I See It” or “What I Believe” I’d roll my eyes so hard. I bet you would too. The only reason you’d buy a book like that is if you were keenly interested in the person writing it. But even then, the title is a bit much. Opinions are hardly a rare commodity.
But I’d put parents and ancestors in a different category. If there was a dusty old book in my home written by my great grandpa that explained how he saw the world, I’d read it cover to cover. Maybe not as a 14 year old, but as I grew up the book would get more and more valuable to me. It’s hard to find your way in the world, which is why mind-expanding books like Walden’s Pond are so important. I would have found it useful having those sorts of insights from someone directly related to me, even if they weren’t as accomplished a writer.
The thing about dads
When we think about cavemen, people imagine a strong warrior and hunter. Dads way back then would be less interested in communication and childrearing, and more interested in protecting the family from bears and making sure it has ample food and resources.
When we think of dads from about fifty years ago, the caveman archetype still fits. In 1971, men were still expected to be the breadwinners for the family and women were still expected to do the vast majority of the work around the house. The stereotypical mom was emotionally nurturing, and stereotypical dads were emotionally distant.
I think the expectations for dads have changed a lot in the last 50 years. More and more dads are staying home, working to make the housework duties more equitable, and attempting to be more present, both physically and emotionally. And yet I think in 2021 dads can still slip into some of those caveman stereotypes. Maybe in 1950 your dad would come home, pour himself a stiff drink, and read the paper instead of engaging with the kids or helping with dinner. But swap “stiff drink” with “craft beer” and “read the paper” with “endlessly scroll on your phone” and things might not be as improved as we might think.
The most you can spend is time
There’s a Jurrassic 5 song called Contribution that has the line “the most that you can spend on any child is time.”
The parents I know have done a good job at in-person quality time. Attending recitals, sporting events, and parent/teacher conferences have all taken a big upswing since the 70s, and of course Covid has forced families even closer still. But I’m hoping this book for my son will give him another gift of time: the effort spent writing down why I see the world the way I do to make a bit more transparent and explicit rather than something to guess at from afar.
That said, he’ll probably find it as boring and cringe-worthy as anyone would at first. And that’s ok. He can choose to treasure it or ignore it, but either way his dad will have put in the time.