It’s surely no accident that “The Life of Dad” should appear this close to Father’s Day. It is a paper iteration of The Life of Dad website and podcast. There have been over 300 episodes of “The Life of Dad Show,” and the authors note that “our online community of fathers has grown to over two million strong and has become a home for dads to connect, comment, laugh, and share their thoughts on parenting.”
The authors refer to the myriad pieces in this volume as “essays.” Those pieces aren’t so much essays as they are short commentaries, really, all carefully structured the same way. There’s a quick introduction, then one question for and an answer from one of “Today’s Leaders, Icons and Legendary Dads.” All this is followed by a brief takeaway summing up the celebrity advice given.
These commentaries have been organized into three sections:
Part I is called “Tools” and “focuses on a series of core traits (positive mindset, character, work ethic, humility, values, and wisdom) that dads try to instill in their children, along with advice on how to do so.”
Part II is “Talk.” It “turns the attention from children to fathers, offering advice, strategies, tips and tactics that you can use to improve everything from work/life balance to your marriage.”
Part III is “Talents” and is “dedicated to activities and skills you and your kids can do (and get better at) together.”
The “advice” comes from a collection of fathers that isn’t a professionally equalized group. The balance seems tipped towards sports figures and “entrepreneurs” (a term that is used quite often). Yet the advice given by dads for dads, however, often seems movingly down-to-earth.
Bond and communicate with your children: “Youngsters need role models more than they need criticism.” Herman Edwards, NFL player.
Demonstrate the importance of family. “People who can’t love their kids or let their kids know that they are loved have no business having children.” Adam Savage, special effects designer.
Maintain a sense of humor about yourself. “Explain very clearly to the children that I was in a bad mood and they could leave me alone or suffer the gorilla that was about to jump out of my body.” Henry Winkler, actor.
Be kind. “I just hope that my son looks at me as a friend and someone he can receive guidance from. It is not a relationship where he is afraid of his dad or worrying if he is going to be in trouble.” Chris Long, NFL player.
Be grateful. “I think it is very important to remind our children that they need to have gratitude. Not just for, say, their bike, but things that are taken for granted. They can drink clean water. They can take a hot bath. They don’t live in a place where they have to be fearful all the time.” Titus Welliver, actor.
Be present. “When they’re twelve, you’re already on the last 25 percent of your life with them. Treasure it. Take them to work with you sometimes. It’s good for them to see what the other part of your life is like.” Jim Koch, entrepreneur.
“Our goal on this project was simple: to write the most useful, entertaining, all-encompassing book of fatherhood advice and thoughts ever assembled, from the most wide-ranging, iconic group of dads we could talk to,” state the authors on the final page: It’s basically a self-help book, of course. Even so, the father in your life could likely find “The Life of Dad” a gift of value.
Steven Whitton is a retired Professor of English.