By Curtis Austin, Black Books and Reviews
For anyone who has ever experienced the awe of becoming a father, or the anguish of having grown up without one, the collection of celebrity essays in “Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge” offers a kaleidoscope of feelings and opinions that will either elicit a knowing smile or the wince of a painful recollection as men of many different races, professions and backgrounds weigh in on the importance of being daddy.
Thomas, a veteran NBA player, most recently with the Atlanta Hawks, teams with Nick Charles, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author, to explore the world of fatherhood through the lenses of such celebrities as Isaiah Washington, Howard Dean, Will Downing and Ice Cube to name a few.
The essays are threaded with Thomas’ own philosophy of fathering and his memories of how having a Dad he saw only once a month created waves of anger and frustration that took him years to let go.
If there is a common thread that runs through all of these pieces it is that for good or ill, fathers leave in indelible imprint on the lives of their offspring.
The book also clearly shows that whether we hail from the heart of the Hamptons or a stone’s throw from Harlem, loving fathers often share the same concerns.
Consider the essays from Howard Dean, former Vermont Governor and Democratic Presidential nomination contender who was reared in East Hampton, NY, the son of a wealthy art appraiser and stockbroker; and the piece from jazz and rhythm and blues artist Will Downing, who grew up in Brooklyn about 17 miles outside of Harlem. Their views mirror each other on the subject of whether our kids are really listening to us. Here’s Dean: “My favorite story about parenting took place when my daughter was in middle school. Believe me, the horrors of middle school parenting are not exaggerated. … We were in the car driving somewhere when my daughter started complaining about her math homework.
“I gave her a lecture that included the phrase, “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. She gave me a lot of sass in return. …A half an hour later we got into another tiff. In her most sarcastic tone, she repeated the entire lecture from a half an hour earlier. I started to get mad, but then I realized she must have listened to every word of it if she was able to repeat it verbatim. I smiled and shut up.”
Here’s Will Downing take on the same subject: “They (kids) hit a certain age and they think they are adults. …. You just have to keep advising them until they get it. … You wonder at times, ‘Are they ever gonna get it? Are they listening? You talk with them and they look at you as if you’re speaking a foreign language. But then one day it happens. They do something that you’ve been trying to get them to understand and it is a feeling like no other. …”