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Literary Daddies

June 21st, 2004 · No Comments

The beginning of this Seattle Times article reminded me of our own family…from Saturday’s Seattle author wants parents to reclaim role as teachers and mentors, connect with kids

Dr. Jeffrey Lee made his daughter cry the first time he showed her how to throw a ball.

Like many parents, he got impatient and expected his daughter to already know stuff so basic it seems innate to adults.

It was a reminder that even — or perhaps especially — a Harvard-trained physician can be stymied teaching simple tasks to children.

“I have a kid who’s not tremendously coordinated and who is very sensitive,” Lee said. “She’s not one to pick up something right away, but she’ll get frustrated to not get it right off. I needed to learn that about her.”

He hopes to save other children’s tears — and parental frustrations — with a new book, “Catch a Fish, Throw a Ball, Fly a Kite: 21 Timeless Skills Every Child Should Know (and Any Parent Can Teach).”

Instead of assuming everybody knows how to do it, the book offers step-by-step directions for old-fashioned activities such as baking bread, making a paper airplane and playing a blade of grass. It includes tips for troubleshooting as well as related jokes, stories and science lessons.


Lee’s father searched for library books to help him teach his kids to fish and play basketball since “neither his childhood in China nor his adolescence in his family’s laundry had prepared him to raise four sons who wanted to be all-American boys,” Lee writes. “This is the book he always needed but never had.”

I like his attitude about fatherhood

“Becoming a dad was a revolution to me,” explained Lee. “I was on a very intense career track, and it was always very important to get into the best school. When I became a dad, it blew everything out of the water. I reprioritized my life.”

He cut back from working 60 to 70 hours a week, no longer delivers babies and rarely does hospital rounds. “It’s just too crazy working late nights,” he said. “I couldn’t do that and be the way I want to be with my family.”

Even at home, his drive and ambition collapsed before the reality of kids. “Having kids really forces you to put down your own agenda,” he said. “If you go in with a take-charge attitude, ‘We’ve got to get this done today,’ you’re gonna fail.

“You learn to sit back and say, ‘Let’s just see where this is going to go.'”

At the library last week, I picked up Keeping Your Toddler on Track till Mommy Gets Back by Walter Roark, subtitled The Toddler Survival Guide for 21st Century Dads. I flipped through it and it seems to be both humorous and helpful, although it’s not incredibly funny to me. Then again, I’m not supposed to be reading this book, as the back warns:

This book is FOR MEN ONLY! It contains secrets about toddler-care only a man should read.

Ever the rebel, I continued despite the CAUTION. There are multiple multiple-choice questions from potential situations a father could encounter while home alone. And advice such as this one, for child-proofing

…for five to six years, seal the inside of your house, lawn and garden in acres of bubble-wrap packing material. If you, your wife and daughter find this inconvenient, hire a pair of ex-Secret Service agents as live-in nanny/body guards.

As a forbidden female, I won’t evaluate the book further, except to offer a few chapter titles as examples

  • The Toddler Table: Serving Whine with Every Meal (I find myself thinking of Enoch for some reason…;-) )
  • Temper Tantrum: The Toddler National Anthem
  • How Not to be a Weenie When It’s Time to Wean
  • Little Known Facts about Toddler Insomniacs (a chapter section title)
  • Tags: books