They don’t want to be like their fathers.
Unfortunately, knowing what you don’t want to do isn’t enough.
I wrote Sober Dad — The Manual for Perfectly Imperfect Parenting, to be published by Hazelden this Tuesday, as a guide to parenting for men who, like me, wanted to get fatherhood right, but didn’t know how.
You can read the first chapter at michaelgraubart.com.
I’m publishing the book as “Michael Graubart” in order to preserve my anonymity and speak freely about my experiences in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Why should anybody want to read a parenting book by someone who is not a nationally acclaimed parenting expert?
Because those books assume that their readers are sane.
That wasn’t me.
I needed to be slapped upside the head and told, “This is how you do it.”
Before I could be a role model and guide our four kids, I myself had to grow up.
So that’s what Sober Dad is all about— guiding guys to become men, because it takes a man, not a guy, to be a father.
It takes a while in the book before you find any actual parenting advice, and that’s by design.
I had to get my relationship with my Higher Power straight, and then have a healthy relationship with myself, before I could enter into a successful bond with another human being (a.k.a. my long-suffering wife), and finally be the father my kids had every right to expect.
So Sober Dad is as much about the internal journey of the father as it is about the experience of parenting.
The Big Book, the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous, reminds us that “we are not saints.”
Quite the opposite. When we’re drinking, we alcoholic men are hardly candidates for sainthood. We are often just happy to stay out of jail.
It took a lot of molding, attending seminars and parenting classes, work with therapists, books, seminars, and all sorts of other learning experiences, not to mention the 12 steps, to become a decent father.
Did you ever break anything in your house when you were a kid? I did, and it felt like the wrath of God was coming down on my head because I dropped a mug or a plate that smashed in pieces on the floor.
My advice to new fathers: give each child a $5,000 deductible.
Kids break stuff. It’s not worth getting upset over. If you employ my $5,000 deductible, the first $5,000 worth of stuff they break — don’t worry about it.
After $5,000? Hey, kid, get a job.
What about those moments when you and your wife are not exactly on the same page? Not only could it happen, but it’s guaranteed to happen, once your rules and her rules about raising children raising children come into conflict, as they surely will.
Sober Dad offers fathers the hard learned lesson I learned — when you fight with your wife, if you win, you lose. If you tie, you lose. And if you lose, you certainly lose.
I offers readers strategies to resolve differences with their spouses. These approaches are radically different from the shouting matches my sisters and I endured growing up in our alcoholic home.
What about when your child asks you about your past, your alcoholism, or what that God thing is all about? It’s all in Sober Dad, thank you very much.
Everybody says, “When it comes to parenting, there’s no manual.”
In one sense, that’s true.
Every child is different. Every day is different. Every home is different.
But there are some basics that cut across every family, and some advanced stuff, too.
My hope is that Sober Dad takes everything that I’ve learned in a quarter century of sobriety and almost 30 years in Al-Anon, not to mention my years as a parent of four uniquely interesting and different children, and turns that experience into something that can benefit every father.
Becoming a parent is the one irrevocable decision a man can make. You can leave your wife, quit your job, or move to another country. But once you become a father, you are a father forever.
So why not get it right?
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