There aren’t enough children’s books reflecting what Megan Cottrell’s son experiences in their shared parenting household. Until this one.
When I first heard of Janine MacBeth’s Oh, Oh Baby Boy, a children’s book about engaged fatherhood, it made me stop and think.
My 18-month old son loves books. He’ll walk to a stack of books on a shelf and bring them to you one by one, saying “read!” and climbing into your lap.
He also loves his papa. My husband, Jeff, is a nurse and works full-time in three 12-hour days a week. The other days, he’s home with our son while I work. Jeff does everything I do. Well, except the breastfeeding. But he’s an incredibly hands-on dad, both because that’s how we wanted to parent and that’s the way our professional life shakes out.
So, where are the dads in Teddy’s books? There are plenty of moms. Moms who sing lullabies goodnight or take babies to the store. Moms who play peekabo or hide and seek. Moms who cook and clean and take care of the kids. Honestly, the only dad in the dozens of books Teddy has was one who waves goodbye when he leaves for work.
Perhaps a book with a more hands-on dad would be a good addition to our home library, I thought. I ordered Oh, Oh Baby Boy for Jeff for Father’s Day. The book, published by Blood Orange Press and funded through a Kickstarter campaign, depicts a young boy growing up with an active and engaged father taking care of him.
Can I just tell you how beautiful this book is? The pictures are beautiful, lovingly drawn by MacBeth to depict a happy, active little boy growing from a baby all the way until he becomes a father himself. The words are simple, but powerful. A father holds a tiny newborn in his hand. A toddler boy stirs a bowl in the kitchen while his dad cooks on the stove behind him. On my favorite page, the words read “Strong and kind baby boy,” while the main character, now a young man, helps an elderly man off a bus. It’s the kind of book where the words are few and the pictures are simple, but they speak volumes about what it means to be a man and a father.
So, obviously, I like it. But what about the boys in my life? They love it too. It’s been read at bedtime nearly every day that my husband has been home since it arrived. Teddy loves to page through it, both with his dad and on his own.
So often, dads are portrayed as either absent breadwinners or an incompetent substitute for mom. If we want more fathers to fully engage with their children, we need it reflected in what we read and talk about in our homes. This book shows fatherhood as a masculine, worthwhile pursuit – full of dignity, gentleness and strength.
Honestly, it’s made me look at my husband differently. As I watch him taking care of our son, I’m reminded of the power of a father to set an example for his son. My husband is both strong and gentle, masculine and caring, present and engaged. Here’s hoping that, just like in the book, my little guy grows up to be the same way.