Here is something a bit different for this off-day.
Jennifer Margulis is a Red Sox fan living in Oregon. She and her husband James di Properzio are both writers and they have collaborated on "The Baby Bonding Book For Dads". While I am a 44-year-old man who has chosen not to have children, it looks like a great resource. Margulis and di Properzio have a writing style that is casual, informative and reassuring.
Jennifer invited JoS to be part of their online book tour and they answered a few questions via email. They will also check comments here if anyone has anything to ask.
Since this is Red Sox blog, let's start with the baseball angle. Tell me a little bit about your introduction to the Red Sox.
Jennifer: I wanted to be Jim Rice when I was little. No, I was Jim Rice. My older brother and I would go into the back yard in our house -- I grew up in Newton Center though it wasn't nearly as posh then as it is now -- and play ball. A group of kids in the neighborhood would also get together and play pick-up games. ... The first book I ever read, when I learned to read chapter books, was about baseball. Even though we usually think of baseball as father-son bonding time, I totally bonded with my dad over Boston's sports teams. Even now that we live in Oregon, I get that rush of adrenaline when I hear that the Sox have won a game. And it's definitely a way that I connected to my dad, who spent a lot of time with my brother and me when we were growing up.
James: I, on the other hand, grew up in Buffalo, which hasn't had major-league baseball since the 1800s! I'm still chagrined at the loss of our NBA team in the late 70s, and can't sing the national anthem without slipping and saying, "And the home of the Braves."
What prompted you to write this book?
James: I really had zero idea what to do with a baby -- I'd never even held one before our first was born. A lot of men in America grow up a little short in the whole experience-with-babies arena.
Jennifer: And we felt like most parenting books (and magazines) talk only to moms, but then we say we want dads to be more involved in parenting. That's what prompted us to write this book -- we wanted to inspire dads to interact with their babies, and give them ideas how.
Reviews of the book seem directed more towards mothers who may be unsure their husbands are prepared for a baby. Was that the case in your experience?
Jennifer: I think we were both really excited about the idea of having a baby. Then she came along and we were BOTH pretty overwhelmed. Even though I had a lot of experience babysitting and also looking after my sister (who's 23 years younger than me), I still felt unprepared.
James: I was on a radio talk show a few weeks ago and a guy called in and said he didn't have kids, and didn't think he was "father material" -- like, he shouldn't have kids because he might not be good at it. Then he backtracked and said maybe it was a stupid thing to say -- but I said, "Hey, that's why I wrote the book!" I think a lot of guys feel that way, even though most of them aren't going to admit it on public radio. But I appreciated that caller's honesty. In some ways Jennifer had more trouble adjusting to being a parent than I did, but I think I had more apprehension about it beforehand.
How does your book fit in with the other baby books that are out there? Does it fill a void or have more progressive information?
James: It's a to-do list. Everyday, do-able things that will help you bond with your newborn, and not feel at a loss. The chapters are short, because new parents don't have long stretches of time.
Jennifer: There are a lot of books out there about babies -- huge tomes that they give you in the doctor's office. I think sometimes it's information overload. When we were first pregnant what I really wanted was real-life stories and ideas not an exhaustive reference-like book.
Tell me a little bit about the process of writing the book.
James: This is not an "expert-written" book. It's by someone who was so clueless that he felt the need to book up on it, and the books weren't really there. And since I was the first among my group of friends to have children, I got to see that they had no more idea what it was about than I did, and so the book is aimed at guys like us, who could use some practical tips.
Jennifer: We passed documents back and forth a lot. We were actually writing the book while we were in Niger, West Africa, and we had to brave computer disasters (the 130 degree heat destroyed two computers) and brown outs and black outs. It was a bit painful to mesh our different voices but we work together a lot (James edits almost everything I write) so it was also a lot of fun.
One of your blog posts mentioned a survey showing that fathers now spend almost twice as much time taking care of their children than they did in the 1970s. Because of that, do you think that the stereotype of the clueless dad may be out-of-date? In 2008, don't many men already know these things?
James: Well, I dunno, I didn't. The difference you point to is more in attitude, or even consciousness that we as guys could bond with anyone too young to play little league. We can't so much look to the previous generation for an example of how to do it. I say in the book that we all look forward to when our kids can play ball and eat pizza; this book is about how to have those bonding experiences in the meantime.
What kind of feedback have you received from men (and women) about the book?
James: Our publisher [Willow Creek Press] said to us that it's women who buy parenting books, and that many copies of the book would be bought by women for men who were clueless -- whether they knew it or not. So far we've gotten a lot of positive reviews from women readers. We're looking forward to hearing from more men, and most of the blogs on the book tour are dad-oriented.
Jennifer: People always say they like the photographs and I say, "But what about the content?!" The black and white photography by Christopher Briscoe is really striking, I think.
Any thoughts on the growing trend of ballplayers (like Daisuke Matsuzaka) taking time off to be with their wives or girlfriends during childbirth?
Jennifer: I think it's awesome. When ballplayers like Matsuzaka take time off, it sets an example for everyone. Our second daughter was born at home and I said to James afterwards that I feel like he had her, and I was just along for the ride. He literally held me up the entire time I was in labor, and was right there with me. I couldn't have done it without him. I wish America were more like Canada and Scandinavia -- where there is paid paternity leave. The more high profile dads who show the American public that their families are important, the better.
James: Matsuzaka probably has a more balanced perspective on his life as a whole. What's he going to regret 20 years from now, missing one game or missing out on the beginning of his kid's life?
Any final thoughts?
Jennifer: We write in the book about how portable small babies are. They really are, especially once they are three or four months old, and we tell dads not to be afraid to take the baby with them -- to the post office, to the DMV, to a Sox game. ...
We espouse things like baby wrestling and crazy stroller pushing in the book. Dads tend to be more physical than moms with their kids, and babies love that (as long as you're not too rough, of course. But chances are you'll drop the baby -- James did and our daughter's skull got slightly fractured when she was 18 months old but she was fine -- their bones are like green branches, they just bend but don't usually break, and they are made to bounce ...) We also suggest dads get into the picture instead of staying behind the camera. It's easy to stay on the sidelines, especially when your kid is little, and we want to encourage dads to be right smack in the middle of the game.
As far as music for the off-day, I thought of the Talking Heads demos for the Little Creatures album -- the song "Stay Up Late" in particular ("he's just a plaything/we wanna make him stay up all night"). But it turns out that song is not among the demos I have. But we'll go with Talking Heads anyway.