Book Review: “Fatherhood” by Bill Cosby (1986)

Bill Cosby has been an unsung hero of mine for a long time. So highly educated, so personally funny, so reasonably honest about society and the family, this guy should be required reading (and listening) for all teenagers and young adults. He helps square off their rough edges, dragging them out of their fantasy worlds and preparing them for real life—in a humorous way, of course. Although there’s no evidence (that I’m aware of) that he’s a believer, he’s a morally upstanding guy and someone to imitate educationally, professionally, and fatherly.

While Fatherhood incorporates many of Cosby’s family-related comedy bits that you’ve probably heard before, it also touches on the how-to of fatherhood. Cosby rails against absentee fathers (those who abandon their kids completely and those who simply don’t perform the proper roles of parenthood, whether present or not) and strongly advocates that men get involved in the lives of their children, that they love them, discipline them at times, and patiently steer them toward a successful human life. Even the “maternal” side of parenting—things like diaper changing and feeding—should not be taboo for a father, for such close involvement is the essence of love and connection and pays high dividends in father-child relationships down the road.

This book being published in 1986, Cosby discusses much the “traditional” and “modern” gender roles within the home. Because I grew up with a house-wife mother and bread-winning father in a world where such “traditional” roles were modernizing quickly, I can understand the qualities of both roles. My own father was never absent, though he was a salesman always on the road. His presence was constantly with us, based not simply on our time together on the weekends or the phone calls while he was away, but even more so on how he and my mother related whether together or apart. Their relationship spoke volumes to me as a child and has shaped my own thinking as a husband and parent, and as I read Fatherhood, I saw so much the same qualities in Cosby’s writing that it simply felt like I was back home again. For a better understanding of husband-wife relationship, by the way, check out Cosby’s Love and Marriage—another fantastic read.

I highly recommend this book to any guy from late-high-school age to father-of-a-teenager age. I’m right there in the middle, so I’m sure this will be a book I’ll read again. Especially when my own kids start asking me to buy them a car.

©2013 E.T.

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