Friday, June 17, 2011

Too much information

I'm a researcher. It's what I do. My days as a journalist helped me fall in love with the art of overpreparing with facts and details before working on stories, and grad school only reinforced the mode of always learning before doing. This is my mode, how I operate. Even in my teaching, I'm constantly playing with new tools and toys that I hope to demonstrate and integrate into the classroom.

I noted in a previous post that this side of me has come out when looking at baby products. When it comes to things related to safety and such, I'm all about research and reading up. This is a world I don't know much about, and I want to learn.

But it hasn't bled into reading about being a dad. There are a million self-help books out there on how to be a dad, be a good dad, how to be a hip dad, etc. I thumbed through a couple of them, but I'm bored.

The popular ones I read seem to follow a particular formula: 1) Tell cute/harrowing/unexpected-lesson type story. 2) Generalize it as a parenting principle. 3) Rinse, recycle, repeat.

Thing is, I know a few things about stats. This is a bell curve:

What we know is this. Most people tend to clump in the middle; much as we like to think we're unique and totally different than everyone, the truth is that in a given situation most people are the same, in the middle of that curve. Give me a room of 100 men and I can pretty much predict the that most men of the men would check in between 5'8" and 6'0".

Problem is I am 6'4". On most bell curves, I'm average. On some, I'm not. Height is one of them. Education is another. I may like the same condiments on my hot dog as most people, but in some things I'm different.

We're all this way. Which brings me to why I dislike these dad books. They take stories, which admittedly are a bit cute or funny, and too often try to make the point that YOUR BABY WILL BE LIKE THIS. Which I call B.S. on, because I know about bell curves. My baby might conform to the norms on some things, but be different on others.

Is this nitpicky? I do know that we tend to idealize when we learn, which means that isn't there a possibility I would be disappointed if my baby didn't turn out to be what I expect? If something is deemed "normal" by a hack dad writer who has a flair for turning his experiences into a faux universal one, then it's hard to fight the sense that your kid isn't normal when they don't conform.

In other words, I feel like I'm only setting myself up to be disappointed or question my parenting ability if it doesn't turn out like everyone else's kid, or at least my ideal sense of what everyone else's kid is based on some random anecdote from a guy writing about being a dad.

I want the basics. What I should feed the kid, and when. How often to let it sleep. I figure the kid needs food, shelter, sleep, safety, and a lot of love. I'll research the first three to death, but the fourth is up to me.

While I'm on the subject, here's a book I'll be checking out: "Go The F**K To Sleep" by Adam Mansbach. It's gotten great reviews as a hilarious children's book for adults, but the deal was REALLY sealed when I discovered you could get an audio version featuring Samuel L. Jackson. Who wouldn't do this? On order from Amazon now.


Post #2 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right.


  1. No person will have all the answers. Not the "hack dad author, the the pediatrician, not even your "been there, done that" friends. You will also not have the answers. But some way, between you, your wife and your baby, you will figure it out. Babies came before books and the Internet. And here we ll are.

  2. All kids develop differently.
    The good parenting books work hard to help parents understand that point; the bad ones toss it off in between cutesy anecdotes about Diaper Genies.