November 20, 2017

Happy Un-Father’s Day?

Happy Father's Day, virtualDavis and Gordon Davis

"Happy Father's Day, Dad!" (to George Gordon Davis, Sr. from George Gordon Davis, Jr.)

Today is a spectacular day. Bluebird skies overhead. Warm breezes off of Lake Champlain. Dry air. Perfect. Oh, and it’s Father’s Day.

I’ve just returned from Father’s Day brunch at the Essex Inn in Essex, New York. A delicious meal in newly remodeled digs with my father, my mother and my bride. An enjoyable way to celebrate my dad. As his eldest child I couldn’t help but remind him that I was if not instrumental at least a willing participant in his transition into the heralded halls of fatherdom. Early adopter? Angel investor? Something.

It’s easy enough to scoff at Hallmark holidays, but there’s not much value in the effort. As far as I’m concerned any excuse to celebrate, any opportunity to express gratitude, and any chance to commemorate goodness is worthwhile. Life is just better when we celebrate! And Father’s day is no exception. A reminder to let the fellow know that I still love him after almost forty years, that I genuinely appreciate the sacrifices and the efforts he undertook (and undertakes) for me, that I’m sincerely pleased to have a more congenial rapport with him in recent years, that I look forward to a whole lot of living and learning and laughing together in the years ahead.

And yet, I said goodbye to my parents after brunch without sharing these thoughts. My bride and I gave him a handsome pair of cufflinks with a card that was funny/flip/poignant but totally sidestepped mentioning anything I’ve just banged out on my keyboard. Why? Chalk it up to filial psychology. Or distraction. Chalk it up to anything you like, the point is simply that even with Father’s Day on the calendar and even with a leisurely (and delicious) brunch together to celebrate Father’s Day, I dropped the ball entirely. So far…

You see what I’m getting at? Hallmark holidays are marketing miracles. But they also afford us welcome reminders to celebrate and thank and commemorate people who make our lives worth the cost of admission. To say things we’d otherwise overlook. Which is why I’m going to ask my father to read this post shortly. I’d like to make sure he gets the memo, even if it’s delivered digitally instead of over eggs Benedict and roast beef.

Dad, thank you. Thanks for marrying mom. Thanks for choosing to have children. Thanks for swapping your childfree life, your childfree marriage for decades of aggravation, anxiety, astronomical expense and frequent insubordination. Thanks for leaving New York City to raise your family in the North Country. Thanks for working your @$$ off to cloth us, to feed us, to house us, to educate us, to ship us off on far-flung adventures. Thanks for encouraging me to leave home at fourteen to attend Deerfield and later Georgetown. Thanks for underwriting both. Thanks for the letter after college telling me to unwind, to take an adventure, to go learn how to surf and an airplane ticket to anywhere that might help me tackle all three. Thanks for respecting my graduate studies at St. John’s, for helping me juggle graduate school debt, drive a safe car, sort through big people challenges and mistakes. Thanks for encouraging my teaching, my writing, my increasingly peripatetic lifestyle. Thanks for free legal advice over years, and thanks too for learning when to relinquish the lawyer dynamic. Thanks for loving, supporting and encouraging my bride and for never pressuring me to marry her during the four years it took me to take the proverbial leap. Thanks for accepting (and hopefully understanding) our decision not to have children. Full stop. What?

I hope that you know our childfree family is not a judgment of our own parents’ parenting. We both consider ourselves unusually fortunate in this regard. But I do understand that our choice not to have children can be confusing, even saddening or disappointing to our parents. I apologize for the confusion, the sadness, the disappointment. And I am grateful that you have not tried to change our minds, that you’ve respected our decision. In short, this Father’s Day I’d like to thank you for supporting my decision not to be a father!

Which brings me back to the title of this post, “Happy Un-Father’s Day”. With the exception of today, every other day of the year must be Un-Father’s Day, right? Looking to The Unbirthday Song from Alice in Wonderland for logic or at least inspiration, I’ve decided that there are three hundred and sixty four Un-Father’s Days each year. Now that’s reason to celebrate! (Though it’s not the only reason to remain childfree…)

Kidding Around with Adam Mansbach

“You probably should not read it to your children.”

Go the F*ck to Sleep

With 284,000,000 search results on Google, a shout out in New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix, and the #1 spot on Amazon, Go the F*ck to Sleep is the talk of the publishing industry. And it doesn’t even come out until October!

Is this the beginning of a new trend in “kidding around” lit for parents? A few other irreverent series have made their way to bookshelves and gift stores in the past (see below). Why is this book getting so much attention? And why now? Are parents really so fed up? Or have we all recovered a sense of humor about parenting? Regardless, Go the F*ck to Sleep provides a brilliant burst of levity, and people are responding favorably.

I was introduced to Go the F*ck to Sleep when several of my friends sent the pdf version that has been circling email chains for the last few months. As a children’s book author and WNK blogger, they thought it was perfect for me. They also admitted the story reflects their own bedtime struggles.

In a recent “Today” show interview author Adam Mansbach said, “Despite the tremendous culture of parenting there’s a lot that doesn’t get talked about. Hopefully, the honesty of this book will open up the conversation. These are legitimate ways that we feel, and we should laugh about it, and be honest about these tribulations.”

As with most widely appealing humor, people seem to be laughing because the joke is on all of us, and is born from a seed of truth.

I found the book to be worthy of the response. It’s well written, and the viral contagion is as much a reflection of the authors talent and honesty as it is just plain good timing. People are obviously ready for a little break from Baby Einsteining, and humor, we are reminded, is always a good way to shine a light into some shadowed cracks and get people talking. And maybe if parents readily share simple daily struggles, fewer among us will feel alienated by perceived failings at a job that may be too often advertised as glorious and rewarding? Go the F*ck to Sleep is a breath of fresh, funny air, because we all know, it’s really not that easy.

Go the F*ck to Sleep by Adam Manbach from Akashic Books:

“Go the Fuck to Sleep is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don’t always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate, and radically honest, California Book Award-winning author Adam Mansbach’s verses perfectly capture the familiar–and unspoken–tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night. In the process, they open up a conversation about parenting, granting us permission to admit our frustrations, and laugh at their absurdity. With illustrations by Ricardo Cortes, Go the Fuck to Sleep is beautiful, subversive, and pants-wettingly funny–a book for parents new, old, and expectant. You probably should not read it to your children.”

Three-Martini Family Vacation by Christie Mellor from Chronicle Books:

Three-Martini Family Vacation

“Chill the glasses! The author of the wildly successful Three-Martini Playdate is back with more irreverent and useful advice about life with children. Wickedly funny essays offer helpful advice on harnessing the energy of toddlers-gone-wild: on vacation, out to dinner, even just when grandmother stops by for a visit. Parents will relearn the art of traveling, socializing, and eating out like adults . . . sometimes with well-behaved children in tow. In dozens of short, kicky chapters like Cocktail Parties: Actually for Grown-ups…gently reminds parents that family vacations can truly be fun.”

Baby Be of Use Series by Lisa Brown from McSweeney’s:

Baby Be of Use

“With the Baby Be of Use Six-Book Bundle, you’ve got your domestic bases covered. Between naps and “turning over,” your baby can learn his or her way around banking, car repair, breakfast preparation, drink-mixing, wedding planning, and romantic matchmaking. Through basic shapes and colors, these board books teach your precious little angels to be useful at long last. And why shouldn’t they help a little around the house?”