A lightweight but clever look at the sometimes comical, occasionally grievous, trials of modern suburban fatherhood. Epstein, who pens the ``Dad's Eye View'' column for several parenting magazines, has little to say about daughter Marie's first year. ``A drooling, incontinent little troll,'' she ``didn't really captivate me until she started talking and toddling.'' Like any father, Epstein has imaginative fears for his little girl's safety- -but his turn up in his dreams, including one in which ``Marie is cooked by hoboes.'' Despite his daughter's lack of enthusiasm, Epstein builds a playhouse (clapboard siding and all), thinking she'll one day express overwhelming gratitude. Covering Marie's first five years, he addresses issues such as the birth of a sibling, toy guns, death, boredom, the surfeit of stuffed animals, bratty neighbors and ``hitting back,'' babysitters, Santa Claus, Halloween (do kids pick costumed ``identities that reflect qualities they possess or qualities they lack''?), difficult questions, and punishment in a ``No-Spanking Household.'' In one of his more interesting passages, Epstein notes the proliferation of ``well-known motherless protagonists'' such as Peter Pan, Heidi, Pinocchio, the Hardy Boys, Cinderella, and Luke Skywalker, not to mention ``just about anyone...portrayed by Shirley Temple.'' He theorizes that this is because good mothers keep ``things from happening...the best writers, from the Brothers Grimm to Mark Twain, know that if you want things to get...out of hand, subtract mom.'' Despite an occasional lapse of good taste, Epstein's humor is engaging and his observations, though shallow, are sharp.