Read ‘Em And Weep

26 Aug 2010 by Dear Bad Dad, 2 Comments »

A Book For Kids

Dear Bad Dad,

I’m about to become a father for the first time. The thing that’s most overwhelming?  The sheer number of books out there on every single aspect of raising a child.  How do I even begin to figure out which one(s) to get?


Cambridge, MA

Dear Dan,

While you may THINK parenthood will be a team effort, you’re actually entering a war zone.  And there ain’t no pulling out.  Which is how you got into this mess in the first place.

On one side, there are the Dads.  We fly by the seats of our pants, like Chuck Yeager.  We make it up as we go, like Indiana Jones.  And we sure as hell don’t stop and ask for directions, either from the guy at the gas station or from Jenny McCarthy, Tori Spelling’s mom, or even Reverend Run.

Can I get a balls-out  “AMEN!”?

On the other size, there are the Moms.  They do everything by the book.  And there is a book for EVERYTHING.

Can I get a balls-shrinking “Um, yes dear”?

Pick any parenthood topic and you can be sure it’s on Amazon’s virtual shelves:

sleep training

breast feeding

colic soothing

hard-ass disciplining

touchy-feely disciplining

vaccine vaccinating

toddler developmentalizing

Full disclosure: Dear Bad Dad and The Missus did well with Dr. Spock.  Also, the whole “using our best judgment” thing has turned out all right.  To date, The Boy has not set himself (or anyone else) on fire and The Girl has not become Heidi Montag.

But the books at other end of the common sense spectrum make Dear Bad Dad’s blood boil.  And no, the latest edition of 10 Super-Simple Steps To Stop Your Blood From Boiling: A Guide For Jaded Fathers won’t help.  These books, by preying on parents’ initial lack of expertise, turn rookie jitters into self-doubt and guilt.

A perfect example of the evil: a book called I Love You Rituals.  It might as well be called New Parent?  You’re Doing Everything Wrong.  You Suck.  Lucky We’re Here To “Help.” From the back cover:

“more than seventy delightful rhymes and games that send a message of unconditional love … these positive nursery rhymes, interactive finger plays, soothing games, and physically active games … prime a child’s brain for learning.  Enhance attention, cooperation and self-esteem.  Help children cope with change.  Help busy families stay close.  Affirm the parent-child bond that insulate children from violence, peer pressure, and drugs, and much, much more.”

Really?  We really need a book to instruct us how to play with our kids?  How to show our own flesh and blood that we love them?

OK, yes, to be fair, the book does say it will protect our spawn from taking drugs by using interactive finger plays: “Guys, I’d totally love to get baked with you.  But how about we play ‘This is the church, this is the steeple instead of firing up that fatty?”

How did we get here?  Why do we feel compelled to lend credence to these so-called experts?  Hell, you shouldn’t even be listening to me!

But if you must, I will suggest one and only one book: The Holy Bible.

Nah, I’m just yanking your beef jerky.

But maybe that’s where we took the wrong turn — rather than relying on parental instinct and common sense, we turned to book in which:

1) Cain, the very first child ever in the history of anything, kills his own brother.

2) Abraham, the hallowed patriarch, thought a good father-son activity was to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice.  OK, yes, to be fair, it helped the Jews become The Chosen People.  It’s been smooth sailing for them ever since.

3) And let’s not forget the New Testament. God has one son (or Son, if that’s how you roll.) Look at how his (or His) story ended.  With all due respect, God’s gotta work on his Daddy skills.

So pick up a book of basics, Dan.  And the William and Martha Sears books are not unreasonable.  But don’t forget to turn to the best reference you have: your gut.

Oh, and the Internet.  It’s never wrong about anything.


  1. BAW says:

    I think it may be because not too many people grew up taking care of younger siblings/cousins or even (if your older siblings were enough older) nephews/nieces; hence, they come to parenting completely without experience; and people often live far away from their parents/grandparents/uncles/aunts etc., and don’t have any living sources of advice. In the old days when people lived in multigenerational extended families, they grew up gaining experience, and had plenty of advice and help on tap.

  2. Dear Bad Dad says:

    @ BAW – Thank you for your spot-on analysis. Dear Bad Dad can empathize, as his own extended family lives far away.

    But that hasn’t stopped Dear Bad Dad from turning to the next best thing for parenting guidance: Parade Magazine. Dear Bad Dad simply reads it from cover to cover, then does the exact opposite. It’s amazing how Jenny McCarthy almost starts to make sense when viewed from a 180 degree angle.

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