The Help You Don’t Need

I’m reading a book, which is kind of wonderful all by itself.  It was a Father’s Day gift from my wife (wonderful, again).  It could have been an insult, as it is called “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” by Meg Meeker, M.D.  When you’ve been a parent for 6 years, three of those years with two kids, and your wife hands you a book about how to be a better dad, well, a fella could assume a thing or two.  I did not.  I did, however, view it with skepticism.  I view all self-help type books with skepticism, though less so since having a son.  He’s driven me to at least three different volumes in search of solutions or suggestions to rearrange some undesirable behaviors into tolerable ones.  We can make anything laudable from there.  But generally I view the self-help genre as a racket.  For one thing, it isn’t self help at all.  The only thing you’re doing yourself is buying the book. And the only reason the book was written is because someone knew you would buy it.  You’re nobody’s friend in this game, you’re their target.

In this case, the cover of the book set me to distrusting it as well.  It’s effeminate.  My first, immediate reaction was that this book wasn’t written for Fathers, it was written for Mothers to give to the Fathers of their children.  But that’s obvious marketing, too.  The Fathers that this book wants reading it are not at the bookstore looking for help with anything.  It isn’t likely to sell nearly as much unless women are buying it for their husbands.  So I can forgive it for that.

And it’s a good thing that women do buy this for their husbands.  The 4th page of the introduction (yes, you have to read the introduction) changed my mind about the usefulness of the book.  This paragraph:

“Most of you out there are good men as well, but you are good men who have been derided by a culture that does not care for you, that, in terms of the family, has ridiculed your authority, denied your importance, and tried to fill you with confusion about your role.  But I can tell you that fathers change lives, as my father changed mine.  You are natural leaders, and your family looks to you for qualities that only fathers have.  You were made a man for a reason, and your daughter is looking to you for guidance that she cannot get from her mother.”

What I take from that paragraph is that this is not a therapy book.  Not a book designed to repair damaged relationships or make a bad dad into a Good Dad.   In short, this is not a book written to answer desperation.  It’s kind of a book written to help people who may not even need it.  Meeker is the daughter of a capital ‘F’ Father, who was a capital ‘M’ Man, and she’s ecstatic about it. If my daughter can come out of the other end of this thing feeling that way, then we’ll call it a victory.



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