Tag Archives: books

Dad’s Role In The Family

Dads matter.

That seems like a no-brainer these days, but for much of the 20th century, the role of the father in family life, especially the rearing of children, was assumed to be minimal.

Note that word there — assumed. There really wasn’t much in the way of research done on the effect a dad has on his children’s growth and development. After all, Freud Himself enshrined the role of the mother as vastly important to the personality of the child so who were they to argue?

More recently, researchers have been turning their gimlet eye to dadsdads_best_1 and finding out what I’ve known all along: Dads matter.

Did you know that a healthy father can ease the impact of a mother’s depression on the children, while a depressed father is a risk factor for excessive crying in infants? That fathers can suffer from hormonal postpartum depression?

Or that fathers’ early involvement with their daughters leads to “a reduced risk of early puberty, early initiation of sex and teen pregnancy”? We’re not sure exactly why, but Bruce J. Ellis, of the University of Arizona, has noted that exposure to fathers’ pheromones can slow down pubertal development.

In a review of Paul Raeburn’s “Do Fathers Matter?” in the New York Times, Mark Oppenheimer reports that numerous researchers are finding that fathers have some surprising effects on their children.

Older fathers are more deeply involved with their children’s schools, more likely to attend ballet classes or know their children’s friends. On the other hand, the children of older fathers seem to have stronger genetic predispositions toschizophrenia and autism — so much so that older dads should get genetic counseling, Mr. Raeburn argues, just as older moms hear about the risk of Down syndrome.

On yet another hand, the children of older dads are taller and slimmer. So there’s that. (Nobody knows why.)

That nobody knows why there at the end is a familiar refrain in a lot of sociological research of this type. We’re able to find the effects, but because the initiating incidents are so intertwined with multifarious actions by multiple actors, it’s difficult to sort out which cause is the, well, cause.

For instance, research shows that dads are the dudes who have a bigger effect on their children’s vocabulary than do moms. One prevailing theory for this has to do with vicious stereotyping. Because, the theory goes, the mothers are around the little dudes and dudettes more (because women stay home and men work outside the house of course), they tend to tailor their vocabulary to words the kid already knows. Fathers, however, because they’re absent for more time, don’t know their kids as well and so introduce words that are novel to the child.

Does it surprise anyone to think I might disagree with this theory. I know the reason my young dudes have great vocabularies (and they do. No question.) is because I actively worked at it. I wouldn’t use baby talk with them and didn’t dumb down my vocabulary when I talked to them.

I did explain a lot of words, but I made sure to expose them to the variety of vocabulary victuals I liked to serve up on the plate of life. Even when the metaphor is horrifically strained because of atrocious alliteration.

Dads matter. We’ve always known it, but now it’s up to science to start letting us know how and why. And it’s up to dads like us to make sure we matter because of our presence, rather than our absence.

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Unplugging Because. . .

Technology, like sex, has a love/scare relationship with most Americans.

Until relatively recently, sex has been something that you just did not speak about in anything remotely resembling polite company. Not only did Lucy and Ricky sleep in separate beds with a nightstand between them, but most of George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on television have to do with sex.

The flip side to that, however, is that while sex might not have been a public subject, it was the thing most on the minds of American men and women. Porn thrived, especially with the arrival of the internet and the ability of people to buy it anonymously. You couldn’t talk about it, but it was used to sell everything from cars and toothpaste to fridges and massagers.*

Things haven’t changed all that much, but it has become a bit less of a taboo in public discussion. Or at least, my wife, known to one and all as She Who Must Be Talking About Sex, and her friends seem to have no trouble talking about this kind of thing anywhere and everywhere.

I’m thinking technology is beginning to occupy a similar place in the American psyche. Not so much its existence, but, rather its use.What's the point of things like the National Day of Unplugging? Are we that scared of what the internet, in particular, and technology, in general, can offer to us?

More and more people are joining movements like the National Day of Unplugging, which was held early last month. The point of it was to abjure technology from sundown March 7 to sundown March 8. Ironically, folks who participated took photos of themselves and posted them on the National Day of Unplugging website to talk about “I unplug to. . . ”

I’m assuming ironic-deafness is a prerequisite to becoming a Luddite.

This whole thing reminds me of people who used to say, “I never watch television, except maybe a few hours of Masterpiece Theater on PBS.” Mostly folks said that to make it look like they were too smart, too sophisticated to debase their minds with the common drivel the rest of us enjoyed.

I suspect these folks are probably the same ones who won’t use an e-reader because they only read “real” books.

So, really, what’s the point? It’s not like any of these people are going to unplug for the rest of their lives. It seems to me that the whole point of this unplugging is to plug back in and then broadcast to one and all how virtuous you were because you put down your smartphone for a while.

It might have something to do with the fact that people don’t trust themselves very much. They use programs that block the internet or blank their web browsers so they won’t fool around when they should be working. They keep checking their messages and e-mail during meals with other people.

Even if you have always-on connection, that doesn’t mean you have to use it, yeah?

Mostly, I think the attraction of these sorts of things lies in the fact that, for most people, the idea of change is scary. And technology is all about change, about doing things differently, more efficiently, on a wider scale than before, seeing new things in your lives that had always been there, but were never noticed.

Dudes and dudettes get caught up in the world and begin racing toward the future with eyes open, but stop every once in a while, stumble, and realize just how much change we’ve been through and still face.

The strong smile, assess and continue. The weak unplug.

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In Need Of Some Spirit Glue

Well, that was a spirit breaker.

I don’t know if you dudes have noticed, but I’m a bit of a writer. (Perhaps you’ve heard of a little thing called A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook?)

Having worked as a newspaper reporter for the first part of my professional career, I equate writing with getting paid. I’m also a bit old so I’m a bit of a traditionalist. That means I want to sell my stories and books to an actual publisher (like Barry and I did with A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook) and get paid for it that way. I’m not all that into self publishing, although I do see it as a perfectly valid form of expression. It’s just not for me right now.

Because of that, I can’t just write something and toss it out to the public. I have to sell my work to someone in a publishing house, which means I face a lot of rejection. Seriously, dudes, I’m talking a lot of rejection.

Heck, compared to the writing career, my success with the ladies in high school and college was legen. . . . dary. That’s the level of rejection I and most writers tend to get from the traditional publishers.

Lately, however, I’ve been feeling pretty good. My critique group seems to like the book I’m working on with them. I managed to crank out a good-sized YA book in a couple of weeks and actually liked the result. I’m halfway through a middle grades book and also feeling good about it.

However, on Tuesday evening, I received an email from one of the larger publishers telling me, in essence, thanks but no thanks. What’s different about this one is that I was able to get my book directly into the hands of someone who works there, who, in turn, gave it to an editor.

Being rejected this time feels a bit more . . . solid.

In my brain, I understand this rejection is no different from any other. I know in my brain that not every story is for every person and I only need to find the right agent or publisher and they’ll love my work.

But, just for now, I’m feeling a bit like I’ve been wasting my time trying to write. That what I’ve just produced won’t be read by anyone but me. That I’m not going to succeed, by any definition of success that means anything.

Please, understand I’m not looking for sympathy. I’ll probably get over it.

My issue right now is that I’m pretty open with my young dudes. They knew that I was submitting a book to this big publisher. I’m going to tell them I got rejected, but I also want them to see me taking it in stride.

I have to set the right kind of example. I need them to internalize the idea that one setback (or 12 setbacks) isn’t enough to make them quit. Will never make them quit. I need them to know that the only thing that can make them quit is inside them already and they have control over that.

But, right now. . . It’s hard to set that sort of example. Knowing you’re good enough to succeed is a bit easier than finding the folks who will agree with you and can help you achieve that.

So I think I’m going to take a bit of a breather, get myself together before telling them about this rejection. I need to get my head in the right place so they can see I remain hard at work, that I’m not going to let this minor roadblock stop me. That I fell, but only so that I could learn to get back up.

After all, Tempus sanat omnia vulnera.

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