Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fatherhood by Bill Cosby

This was a very enjoyable read! It was another one of those books that I’ve know about for a long time, but never had the interest in reading. I came across it again recently, and, since now I am a father of two, thought it might be interesting. It was. I laughed on almost every page. What I loved most is that Cosby is so sarcastic about his appreciation for his children, speaking often of a concealed desire to set them on fire or getting rid of them and making new ones. He refers many times to his hope that his children will be out of the house by the time he dies. He calls his children beggars, and says that he often sits in the stillness of the night watching his daughter sleep, relishing the air of innocence about her when she’s not asking for anything. He is wry, and he says it like he means it. But he’s not always serious, except when he is. You have to trust him to understand him, and I do.

He’s creative with his comedy, and actually very intelligent about it. I was surprised to find out that he has his doctorate in education, and his value on education certainly comes through in the book. These are no low-brow jokes, although the appeal probably still spans across all educational levels. He expertly and often eloquently boils down the ‘sweet insanity’ of parenting, not only fatherhood, to its quintessence, and helps us come to terms with those most frustrating realities like a child’s lack of logic, a girl’s journey through dating, a boy’s devil-may-care attitude, and a grown children’s tendency to return home after college.

I am definitely going to re-introduce this book into circulation among my friends and family who are parents, although a parent will mostly appreciate it only after having been a parent for at least several years. Besides being a classic—much of it has already woven itself into the parenting humor of our culture (“I brought you into this world, and I can take you out…”)—it is a safety valve of sorts, releasing in laughter the building pressure from all the things you think you can’t complain about in parenting. Cosby blows his top for you, and does it brilliantly. You can hear his punctuated, consonant-popping, measured emphasis of every syllable, stressing his utter bewilderment of why kids do the things they do, and why people choose to have them in the first place.

For all the satire, it really is good-natured humor. He makes complaining about children’s behavior feel right, for at its heart it is deeply reverent of the miracle of life and love. You sense that Cosby is a paragon of a good father, and his steady love and understanding of children’s sometimes slow intellectual development becomes the model of patience for his readers. I come away from this with a better understanding that parents are in the unique position of being the wisdom and law for relatively unreasonable creatures, while still trying to learn the rules of the life ourselves. We walk the tightrope of trying not to take human logic—and the lack of— too seriously, while taking love very seriously.

I don’t spend a lot of time with humor books, but this one was rich and well worth the short read!

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