Posts Tagged ‘Michael Lewis’

nurtured

June 21, 2010

It was a fine Dad’s day, though sobering. Spending a portion of it with my recently-widowed mother-in-law brought home the reality that, since her husband’s passing a few months ago, I’ve now inherited the role of family patriarch.

But it was far more a day for reveling in the privilege and pleasures of paternity. It began with Younger Daughter feigning irritation at being awakened by my beeping cell phone, which announced her smiley-faced “Happy father’s day daddy” text message. Later, Older Daughter re-routed the Dad Taxi from its declared destination (Church) to Parmer Park instead for some quality time with the driver (and Harry Potter– she’s decided to re-read the corpus).

Through some flukey or perverse coincidence, or maybe it was perfectly timed to the day, I found myself thinking yesterday morning about Judith Rich Harris’s Nurture Assumption thesis that parental influence is mostly a fiction.

Variable genetic factors establish different talents and predispositions among kids, she says, which do indeed play out differently in light of variable experiences and environmental interactions. But the greatest environmental influences are their peers, not their parents. She takes the Steve Pinker Blank Slate line too, coming down hard against nurture and for biological nature as the determinative elements in our personal and species development.

The good news in all of this, she says, is that we’re going to isolate the genetic markers for childhood depression and eliminate that scourge in the coming decades. I suppose losing the pretense (if that’s what it is) of paternal relevance would be a small price to pay for that great stride forward for the race.

But wait. It being Father’s Day, I also spent a lot of time thinking about my own Dad [JCO… ]and the difference he made, still makes, for me and (transitively) for his grandchildren and for the future.

He influenced and encouraged and supported me as a toddler, as a child, as an adolescent, as an adult. He’s not been with us for going on two years, and his influence on me now is still constant. I think of him almost daily, and am always asking myself what Dad would say, think, do.

If that’s not meaningful influence, what is?

(BTW: If you’re looking for an entertaining Dad-book– though I suppose it’s a day late to be doing that– check out Michael Lewis’s hilarious Home Game. The recently-noted Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon is very funny, too. More seriously, look at Bruce Feiler‘s Council of Dads.)

“Home Game”

August 7, 2009

Sat down last night with Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis, and didn’t get up to go to bed ’til I’d turned the last page. (I first heard about it when Lewis talked with Bob Edwards.)

Hilarious! His kids say the darnedest things. Like the time his 3-year old younger daughter called out the older boys who were menacing her older sister at the pool: “TEASING BOYS! YOU JUST SHUT UP YOU STUPID MOTHER(bleeping) ASS****!” (It’s p.13, if you want to confirm that the little girl really said what you’re sure she couldn’t have.) And who knew a detailed first-hand account of one’s own vasectomy could be so much fun? The spousal acknowledgement on the last page is sweet: “The first reaction of many readers to the original series was to pity the woman who was married to its author… incubator of the source material.”

At one time I, too, aspired to write a Daddy memoir. I, too, kept notes of our girls’ early years. But I didn’t follow through. Yet.

This isn’t the book I’d have written anyway, even if I could rise to Lewis’s level of narrative and wit. He begins from a very different emotional place than I did, he not having felt particularly sentimental about what he calls “the dirty work” of hands-on parenting where I was totally into it. He says he inherited his Dad’s parenting style, who “didn’t even talk to you until you went away to college.” I self-consciously set out to do it differently, to what end only time will show.

michael lewisBut maybe there’s room on the shelves for one more of these Daddyographies. I’ve also noted a gap “between the idea of fatherhood and a man’s actual experience of it.” Lewis has inspired me to hunt up those notes. But it might be better to just start scribbling some fresh observations, with the kids on the respective cusps of Middle and High School. They’ll love me for that!