There is that special moment for a father to see his first child be born. For many, it’s when we are in our mid-twenties or early-thirties and are still in the process of figuring out our lives. For Thomas Bell, he became a father at nearly 50 and his memoir, My Dad Is a Freak highlights his wild ride on the New Dad Express.
I found many of Bell’s stories in My Dad Is a Freak to be humorous. For example, after the birth of his son he begins to calculate the amount of time until he can play catch with him. He writes, “The fact remains that those days of pitching balls with junior are at least six years away from opening day. From the second that he is squeezed onto the field with a final push and a primal scream, you’ve got 72 months, or over 2000 days to fill with every inane game you’ve ever heard of, imagined, and dreaded”. So, Bell devised an interesting series of games with his children including, “Tag, You Sit!” where the rules require “a one-time investment of physical effort to pretend-run around the room for no more than 30 seconds, just long enough to build-up to the dramatic climax when junior catches you and shouts, TAG! YOU SIT! and feels like he accomplished something. At that point, your job is done since the rules require you to sit on a comfortable chair or couch until the big hand on the clock completes a full circle, and then you switch sides.” While this brought a chuckle to the reader, Bell’s sister Tish berated his innovative games after watching his kids and learning most of these games end up with a nap or the parent resting.
Bell’s sarcastic humor and detailed stories about parent/teacher conferences involving food hoarders to him getting pulled over by a cop after a keg of beer exploded in his face at the bar he owns are downright hilarious.
He does add some clarity to his frazzled fatherhood world in a tale about a family trip to Florida. Using “foreign aid” (aka bribe money), Bell and his family upgraded to a luxury suite thanks to a C-note featuring crystal chandeliers and marble hallways. However, Bell’s kids liked their other ordinary hotel room better. “”I like the elevator buttons. There’s no buttons in this room”, said his son. His daughter confessed “I like the other room. I like the little seahorse” (referring to a plastic Kleenex holder in the bathroom of the other room with an embossed seahorse). Bottom line, children’s priorities in life are “blissfully simple and prudently correct”.
I found My Dad Is a Freak to be an entertaining read as I am a relatively older first-time father. While I may not necessarily take Bell’s advice on parenting (i.e. being totally fine with his son eating a piece of candy that was lodged in his sweaty sock), I applaud his wry wit and chaotic recounting of the trial and tribulations of the first few years being a new father. My Dad Is a Freak is a great book to pick up this summer and read at the beach while your kids try and see who can bury your feet in the sand first.