Michael Lewis is one of a handful of authors whose work I seem to natter on about incessantly. It should be little wonder then that I picked up his latest, Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood. As you may gather from the title, this is a book that may be of limited interest, mostly to the dad and expectant dad reader cohort (I am in both camps). And maybe some moms that overhear the dads/expectant dads belly laughing throughout.
Let’s start here: If you’re looking for an actual “guide” on how to be a dad, this i snot the place to start. Home Game is mostly a collection of anecdotes about his experiences of being a father that Lewis has previously published in Slate and other venues. The value in these stories comes from Lewis’s natural storytelling abilities and his journalistic ability to relate fatherhood as it is – not in the gee-whiz terms of the glossy parenting books/magazines/web sites of the parenting-industrial complex.
In the introduction, Lewis notes that the dad business as practiced in the US is going through a difficult transition. We are moving away from the way our father’s did things, away from the guy who came home from work and watched the news with a beer and had to be left alone, preferably in silence until dinner time – towards some new, as yet undefined “ideal model”:
Within a few miles of my house I can find perfectly sane men and women who regard me as a Neanderthal who should do more to help my poor wife with the kids, and just shut up about it. But I can also find other perfectly sane men and women who view me as a Truly Modern Man and marvel aloud at my ability to be both a breadwinner and domestic dervish–doer of an approximately 31.5 percent of all parenting. The absence of standards is the social equivalent of the absence of an acknowledged fair price for a good in a marketplace. At best it leads to haggling; at worst, to market failure.
Lewis’s stories are often hilarious and have the ring of truth wrought from hard won experience. Women will surely have little sympathy for the ”dad trying to find his way in the world” aspects of some of these stories. There are definitely some laugh out loud bits that anyone with a sense of humor will enjoy, like the tale of his young daughter’s profanity-laden outburst at a hotel pool. The chapters on Lewis’s trip to get a vasectomy and its aftermath are both cringe-inducing and hilarious. The book also has deadly serious moments that drive home the precarious business that parenting really is at its heart.
If there is a message in this “guide”, it comes in the form of Lewis’s realization that to do the job right, you’ve got to put in the work. This message is repeated at several key points, and it certainly deserves underscoring. Dads, take note.
I first attempted to buy this book on the day after Father’s Day (completely by coincidence). Bad move. The bookstore had sold out of all copies. ”It was the centerpiece of our Father’s Day display. Moron,” said the helpful clerk. Well, the “moron” was implied. But still. Home Game is a good read and a perfect gift for dad’s and those about to set out into those uncharted waters.