Question and Answer with Author Philip Lerman
Q: What’s it like, being an older dad? Is it different?
It is different. The first thing you realize is, there’s a reason people have kids at a younger age. We’re not built to stay up all night the way we used to be. Also, you feel really silly when people keep coming up to you and saying what a lovely grandchild you have.
But being an older father, I came to learn, had its advantages, too. We’ve learned a thing or two about life, having hung around this long. Once we stopped spending all our money on chasing women, we saved up enough to make things a little easier. And having controlled roving packs of wild producers is great practice for having a four-year-old.
Q: You say in the book that dads are, in some ways, better parents than moms. Are you a crazy person, or what?
No, not better, but different. Moms are like God. The creator. After birth and breastfeeding, they can pretty much expect eternal devotion. What can dads do, compared to I Created You Whole From Inside Me and Gave You Complete Sustenance From My Own Body? So dads are like the Avis of parenthood. They try harder. They sing and cuddle and change diapers and read stories and make funny faces and tell jokes and do a thousand other things to try to replicate the code that links the child to its mother. Dads are always working at it. You gotta love them for that. Or at least, they hope you do.
Q: If you had one bit of advice for fathers, what would it be?
When you’re with your child, there are mothers everywhere, so be very careful: Don’t get caught looking at the boobs of all the moms in the playground. It’s considered bad form.
Q: If you had one OTHER bit of advice for fathers, what would it be?
Chill out. Dads think they always have to be in control. We like to fix things that are broken. Half the dads I know took a toolbox into the delivery room, just in case. They carry their office personality into their parenting world: believing that with the right amount of positive feedback, bolstered by patient but firm disciplinary actions when necessary, you can control your environment and the people in it.
A three-year-old takes that belief and stuffs cheese balls in its ear.
Q: Music plays a big part in your book. Does it play a big part in your relationship with your child?
I think that’s one of the bonding things between men and their children, especially their sons, that people don’t talk about. The cliche is that the dad will teach you to throw a football and explain icing the puck, and that’s about it. But men love rock-and-roll. They can argue for hours about which is the best live album ever, or whether Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” is his best album (it isn’t, “Blood on the Tracks” is, but they’ll argue anyway). And this is a love they share with their children from the day they’re born. You should hear me and Max do a duet on “Who Put the Bomp in the Bomp-ba-Bomp-ba-Bomp.” It’s terrible. But we love it.
Q: What’s the hardest thing about being a dad?
Hearing your child scream “I want my mommy” is pretty tough. They all go through that at some point. Also, at a certain age, around two or so, they’re just the right height so that when you pick them up, they always kick you in the nuts.
But beyond that, I think the hardest thing for dads is learning to just…. Be There. To just stop, stop teaching and doing and taking and going and fixing, and just Be There. That’s what I learned from Max: If I can clear my mind enough to just plop down on the floor with him, and pick up a car, and roll it around the floor and make the car sound — that’s the real music to Max’s ears. When Daddy’s just… There.
It’s not only the hardest thing about being a dad, by the way. It’s also, once you’ve allowed yourself to do it, the very best.