Book review: Clyde Edgerton's newest work gives dads humorous advice

ajohnson@newsobserver.comJune 15, 2013 

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LISA DEJONG — LISA DEJONG/SPECIAL TO THE OBSER

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    Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers Clyde Edgerton

    Little Brown, 2013

Clyde Edgerton, 68, has 10 novels and four children under his belt, so you could say “Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers” (Little Brown) is a culmination of what he knows best.

The Durham-born author uses his trademark humor to give dads advice, including C.O.D. – that’s considerably older dads. It’s a slim volume, but chock full of the minutiae (car seats and childproofing), the challenges (poop, cursing and bath time) and the glories of child-rearing. It also has illustrations by Chapel Hill author Daniel Wallace.

Edgerton talked to us from his home in Wilmington about his book and his brand of fatherhood.

Q: There are lots of books about fatherhood. Why did you think you had something to add to the genre? Oh, well, because I’ve never heard about a book that talks about throwing a baby in the air to stop them from crying. When I write a novel, it’s not about adding but about taking a different angle. I had this idea that men have these notions, expectations and apprehension about a baby coming and I wanted to share my experience with fathers-to-be to help settle them down, in part by trying to be funny and by trying to be serious, but not too serious because I sense a lot of these parenting books take themselves too seriously.

Q: Your children range in age from 6 to 30. Were the changes in fathering part of what made this book interesting? I think so. I believe if I had four in a row... I think I would have wanted to write about it. I’ve always written in journals and loose things, so when this last bunch came late in life, after I had time after the diaper-changing stage, I had time to write it. Being older and, perhaps, perhaps, a little wiser. Someone asked me how it is different being a parent after that 20-year period, and I told them it’s tough having to explain the towel dispenser that has a light that comes on when you wave your hand near it. Or, now, I don’t say, “no more TV,” I say, “no more screen time.”

Q: The book is really detailed. When you were conceiving it, what was the thing you thought absolutely had to be shared?The first thing was, 3 o’clock in the morning as the newspaper hit the driveway and I was ending a four-day job of putting together the crib. It was hard. I was rolling it toward the baby room, and it wouldn’t fit into the door. I wrote an essay about that. Then a friend wrote something on an online site and he titled it “fatherhood,” and someone sent a query and said “don’t you mean motherhood?” That really bothered him. So he asked 15 male friends to write about fatherhood. I wrote about how hard it was to get the car seat in. Fathers don’t read in general, and especially about parenting. Those small details can make the difference.

Q: Why do you think that is? Because men have fathers who don’t read up on fatherhood. It’s not so much the content but the shape of the wheelbarrow that carries the content. Because most of us grew up with fathers who didn’t read – my father barely read anything besides the newspaper and the Bible and not much of the Bible. It’s part of the culture that you trust that the mother would do it all. I also heard from a fellow who grew up without a father, and he said he thought the book would be good for them because they could get a feel for things from a father’s point of view.

Q: You write that maybe one of the best ways to be a good father is to be a good mother. What did you mean? As an older dad who grew up in a rural culture in the South, certain things were expected of women, and that included raising the children. But I think it’s just as important for the father to give the baths, to hug, to change the diapers, to tell the stories. It’s a little bit tongue in cheek, a little bit of a twist, but I thought if you try to be the mother of the classic storybook who mothers her children. Fathers should look to good mothers to be good fathers. We couldn’t do much worse than that.

Ajohnson: 919-829-4751;Twitter: @amajomartin

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