An ode to the contradictions of fatherhood, "the perfect oxymoron," in the form of a collection of sometimes rueful, always loving essays and commentaries.
Lewis (literature and Writing/Empire State College, New Paltz) and his wife, Patti, are the parents of seven children, ranging from Elizabeth Bayou-Grace, now 8 years old, to Cael Devin, 27. Lewis begins with reflections on his own father, his Brooklyn Jewish background, and tales of his courtship of Patti, a New Orleans "patrician." Once their passion flared it never died, although it did move from "X"-rated to "G" and back again during the course of Patti's pregnancies. Moreover, as the responsibilities of fatherhood have multiplied, says Lewis, "my inner life has paradoxically become simpler and quieter." Zen-like paradoxes are explored in chapters covering such parental trials as being a Brownie troop leader, giving birthday parties, exercising discipline, and coping with teenagers (male and female). Also examined are more serious topics like birth, children leaving (or not leaving) home, and the challenge of caring for a child with congenital health problems, including a diagnosis of leukemia. The diagnosis, happily, was reversed and the child, Elizabeth, went on to tap dance after undergoing multiple hip surgeries. As well the stresses of parenting seven children ("How can they eat forty-six dollars worth of fruit in an afternoon?"), Lewis must face disapproval from friends and strangers on allowing himself to indulge in such a large family. "More is less is more," is his Zen-like response.
A good choice for fathers of even one child, with lessons in the yin of pride and the yang of humility--often arising at the same time, as any experienced father will attest.