By Rebecca Zornow
Photo Credit to Tim Marshall on Unsplash
I met author David McGlynn at a coffee shop close to my alma mater, Lawrence University, where he’s a professor. In my mind, professors can’t stray too far from campus, it could be bad for their health, so I suggested a nearby place. I thought I got there early, but David was already waiting on a high bar chair. We got tea and sat down to talk about his new book: One Day You’ll Thank Me: Lessons from an Unexpected Fatherhood.
With one memoir already on the shelves (A Door in the Ocean), David expected to focus on a novel. Then, he wrote an article about parenting his sons and the content stuck with him as well as with his readers. David found himself paying attention to the funny things kids do and the way he responded as a parent. He “didn’t expect to write a book about kids,” but his observations and family experiences steamrolled into an idea.
On top of that, David noted an important gap in literature and media. When we watch fictional fathers on a screen or observe them via the written word, they typically fall into two well-known caricatures: the Drill Sergeant and the Phil Dunphy. Always serious, the Drill Sergeant personifies the fears we had about our fathers as young people. Don’t touch dad’s tools. I can’t stay out too late or dad will get upset. The Phil Dunphy is genial, but falls through fatherhood more haphazardly than anyone would truly want in his or her father. Named for the Modern Family character, that stereotype of fatherhood is a kid’s best friend, but does not parent purposefully. Both figures are more about surviving fatherhood than reveling in the messy, crazy, right-of-passage being a dad is.
It’s tough knowing how to be a good father in the current climate. Indeed, it’s tough being anyone right now in America: man, woman, boy, or girl. The rise of #MeToo, a building dialogue among professional women, and an alarming rate of violence in schools expose the ugly head of societal problems that steam, often, from men. In the face of these challenges, women are fighting for a moment of clarity and influence in our nation’s head-space, and are fighting beautifully.
But what about men, fathers, and, most especially, our boys? No one quite knows how to solve the systemic problems of toxic masculinity and sexual harassment. How do we support and empower this generation of sons to be better?
“Men like me want something relatable, approachable, funny, and earnest,” David said. Library and bookstore shelves are stocked with parenting books alright, but typically from a mother’s perspective. Yet, fathers are spending three times more weekly hours parenting than they were in the 1960’s according to the Pew Research Center. It’s a time filled with change and opportunity for fathers.
One Day You’ll Thank Me relates stories of David, his wife, and their two sons. If David’s articles are any indication (links at the bottom), the stories in the book will be entertaining and humorous. David said he sought to balance that funny side with the importance of being a father and role model. He is conscious of how he responds to his kids as individuals and demonstrates the partnership between him and his wife, two keys that he’s found essential to a healthy family life. Being a parent is never easy, but as David says, you “just keep trying, just keep showing up.”
His sons like the writing, which is good because they’re main characters. They’ve argued over which of the two kids on the book cover represents them, each wanting to be the one standing victorious. One Day You’ll Thank Me is sure to be an entertaining and thoughtful read for all, but it’s also a wonderful fathers’ day gift: a memoir capturing all of the work, love, time, grief, and purpose of fatherhood.
Links to Articles by David McGlynn:
New York Times: Please Forgive My Spotless House
Men’s Health: My Dad, Bad Santa
New York Times: In the #MeToo Era, Raising Boys to be Good Guys
O Magazine: Why This Family is Happier in a Smaller House
Learn more at David’s Website
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