Father’s Day and the New York Times Part V

The fifth contributor to the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” series on fathers in the parenting conversation is Jed Rubenfeld: a law professor at Yale, an author, and the husband of Amy Chua, who authored Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom. His is by far the shortest column.

I need for someone to tell me that this really is meant to be humorous. That was my first impression, but when I came to the end, I got the impression that he was serious. But surely I am misreading it. For if he is serious, he is not helpful and paints a picture for fathers which is harmful for both them and their children.

He begins by saying that dads should stop complaining about women doing most of the work because that is the “last best bastion of patriarchy that we have left.” That was where I was first sure this was a humor column.

Next he gives three simple steps for dads to follow, and when they accomplish these three, they can “hang up the spikes.” Each of these needs to be accomplished when the kids are young (I am assuming pre-school age and younger). 1) Be all powerful so your kids feel safe. 2) Be all good so they know right from wrong. 3) Give them a sense of the deep magic (are we in Narnia?) and joy of the world before they start learning.

That’s it. Feel better dads? I didn’t. Do I want my kids to feel safe and know right from wrong and have an awe and joy in life? Sure. Is this the way to go about it? Definitely not. And to top it all off, he says when your kids get older, they will see through this facade. But that’s ok, because the truth makes them stronger. Right, this has to be a humor column, doesn’t it?

He finishes by saying that “…if, to be a good father, you have to start as a god but end as a man, I’d still call that a bargain—the best I ever had.”

So what about when they’re seven or ten or sixteen? As long as I start well, does it not matter how I finish? And we wonder why some people don’t think men should be engaged in the parenting conversation. This from someone who admits that his wife does all the work.

Surely, surely, he intended this for humor. Maybe he should read some Dave Barry.


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