Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Review: Captain Dad by Pat Byrnes

Captain Dad: The Manly Art of Stay-At-Home Parenting by Pat Byrnes

Most parenting books can be categorized as either inspirational or practical. Some books focus on how great it is to be a parent or the rewards hidden among the diapers, food fights, starting school, etc. Other books tackle specific problems and give practical advice on how to solve them. The categories often bleed into each other (we were inspired by one potty training book that talked about challenges with much older kids--glad it wasn't us!). Captain Dad is a humorous/inspirational book that gives many practical tips, some serious, some not so serious. 

The book comes from the less common perspective of a stay-at-home dad who has been raising two girls while his wife works as the state Attorney General. The author is a cartoonist, which means he works from home with flexible hours. It was natural for him to stay at home with the children. As a first-time parent, the task is a lot more than he bargained for, in demanding and delightful ways. As a dad, there are certain barriers (where are the baby changing tables in public? Mostly in the ladies' room, not very helpful for dads) and awkward situations (joining playgroups or going to the park as the only dad among lots of moms) that provide both humor and practical advice. I especially liked the idea of a dad just leaning his back against a wall as if sitting and using his lap as a changing table--that's the sign of a really tough man.

The book reads a little bit like the best of his blog posts, but they are woven together well to create a larger whole. The book can be read in bite-size chunks over several days or weeks, giving the reader a chance to enjoy it every day for quite a while. It is full of illustrations too, including some cartoons that originally appeared in the New Yorker. They are delightfully whimsical and add to the comic punch of the writing.

The book is very entertaining for dads and moms, validating the difficulty of raising children in our world and the bemusement needed to deal with how the world looks at us parents, stay-at-home or not.

The Parent's Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the grace to accept the things that cannot be cleaned,
the courage to clean the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference. [p. 215]

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