A collection of humorous, sometimes poignant essays from an award-winning writer and happily divorced father who confesses to hating kids’ music but loving Barry Manilow tunes.
Schwartzberg (The 40-Year Old Version, 2009) returns with another mostly lighthearted ensemble of short reflections on life as a zany but loving dad trying to raise kids after a divorce. Except for a few f-words and some milder expletives, the humor in this easy beach read is almost squeaky clean. Most parents can relate to “Lost In Space,” about the author’s heart-stopping ordeal when he temporarily loses his son in an electronics store. Readers who have endured the trials and tribulations of selling Girl Scout cookies will chuckle at “Tough Cookies,” a series of tongue-in-cheek office memos in which Schwartzberg harasses co-workers to purchase more boxes. In “Football Redefined,” he creates silly definitions for football terms; for example, in a parent’s world, “Good Field Position” is a “shady picnic spot in the park that’s far from dog poop.” Although most of the essays are fun but shallow dips in the family pool, a few are more somber and affecting, such as the story of a teenage accident victim in “The Girl Who,” and touching reflections about his father and grandfather. The author’s self-effacing humor also reveals some insecurities, particularly when he ponders his role as a dad who no longer lives in the same house as his children. In “Dad to the Bone,” for example, he wistfully details the luxurious amount of time his kids’ stepfather can spend with them: “This man sees them in the morning and at night, takes them out to dinner, wakes them up, helps them with their homework, and tells them to brush their teeth. He sits with them in toy-filled waiting rooms, argues with them, jokes with them and even disciplines them.” In the end, however, Schwartzberg realizes that as his kids’ biological father, he will always hold the most special place in their hearts.
Many parents, divorced or not, will see reflections of themselves in this pleasant collection.