“Give the people what they want,” the old show-biz slogan goes. And the folks who enjoyed Steve Doocy’s first book, The Mr. & Mrs. Happy Handbook, will be glad to learn that that’s just what they’ll get in his second book, Tales from the Dad Side: Misadventures in Fatherhood -- amusing anecdotes that vividly portray the ups and downs of parenthood.
If you’ve ever seen Steve at work as one of the co-anchors of FOX News Channel’s top-rated morning show, “Fox & Friends,” you won’t be surprised to learn that the Dad Side is one of the funniest new books around. Steve’s quick timing and light touch helped him win an Emmy, and that same gift for comic storytelling makes it likely that the Dad Side, like Mr. & Mrs. Happy, will be a New York Times bestseller.
But don’t assume that Steve’s focus on the humorous side of parenting means you’re in for another bumbling father figure. That crude stereotype is a feature of far too many TV shows and movies today, and I’m glad to report that Steve has no interest in perpetuating it. In fact, years ago he was offered a role as a dad in a TV sitcom (which he doesn’t name) that he turned down specifically because it showed the father as nothing more than a punchline.
My long-time readers know what how much this cultural trend bothers me. During an appearance last year on “The O’Reilly Factor,” I made the following observation: “All you have to do is turn on the TV for 30 minutes and tell me how men and dads are portrayed -- as ignorant and stupid and lazy. The white, Anglo-Saxon male, the young teenage guy, is probably the most discriminated against kid on the face of the earth right now.”
This brought a huge response -- a flood of mail from viewers who agreed. I had obviously touched a nerve. One man, a self-described “fed-up father of three boys” said he was “delighted to hear someone echo my longstanding observation that fathers these days are almost universally ridiculed by the media. It’s been years since I’ve seen a humorous TV commercial where the joke is on the woman, for example.”
Humor, however, is essential if you’re going to raise a family and keep your sanity intact. Steve’s been married to “Mrs. Happy” (a.k.a. Kathy) for more than 20 years, and they have three children -- Peter, Mary and Sally. Judging from the antics we read in Tales from the Dad Side, their childhood was anything but boring.
What comes through loud and clear, behind all the stories, is the welcome image of a father getting involved in his kids’ lives. Taking time to observe what his kids were learning, Steve jumped in with both feet to teach them, even when he didn’t know what he was doing. He made the effort, especially when they were small, to show them that their interests mattered to him. He helped them finish school projects and get their first jobs.
As I’ve noted before, a growing body of social-science research shows that such father-child involvement is vital. As Patrick Fagan noted in a study for The Heritage Foundation:
“Teen-agers without a dad around are almost twice as likely to be depressed as teen-agers from an intact married family. They are more than four times as likely to be expelled from school and three times as likely to repeat a grade. Drug and alcohol abuse is much more common. On top of that, they are also more likely to have sex before they are married -- setting the stage for yet another fatherless generation.”
In the Dad Side, you see a man who decided, when his kids were small, to dive into the hard work and fun of fatherhood, unafraid to look silly -- and all for the sake of being there for them. Being a father means “on-the-job training,” Steve says, and it starts from day one: “Those stories about how life changes are absolutely true. On the birthday of my first child, when I walked out of that hospital, the sky seemed bluer, food tasted better, and the songs on the radio were happy and apparently written just for me? I had a reason to be on earth; I was somebody’s dad.”
In his witty and creative way, Steve shows parents how they can make a difference, even when they feel inadequate. You see that parents don’t have to be experts -- just present and willing to raise their kids through thick and thin.
And if you can laugh while you’re learning that, so much the better. Looks as if we can all benefit in some way by going over to the Dad Side.