Father’s Day typically gets outshined by Mother’s Day, at least if you compare the two days based upon consumer spending. A Father’s Day gift you may want to consider is the new nonfiction book, “Pops”, by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Michael Chaban. “Pops” is a collection of seven essays on fatherhood, each of which shines a light on moments revealing the plight of the modern father.
The book began life in 2016 as an article in GQ Magazine for which Chabon was dispatched to write about Paris men’s fashion week. He took his youngest son, Abe, with him on the assignment as a bar mitzvah present. Abe was 13 at the time and, thanks to his older brother, was already deeply into clothes, though he had long superseded his sibling in terms of style, knowledge and enthusiasm. In the essay, Chabon takes the role of Abe’s “ponderous old minder”, amused at what he saw at fashion week as models prowled the catwalk in shaggy yellow Muppet pants. By the end of the week, he was none the wiser about fashion, but he was much wiser about his son’s obsession.
Chabon in his essay writes:
You are born into a family and those are your people, and they know you and they love you and if you are lucky they even, on occasion, manage to understand you. And that ought to be enough. But it is never enough. Abe had not been dressing up, styling himself, for all these years because he was trying to prove how different he was from everyone else. He did it in the hope of attracting the attention of somebody else—somewhere, someday—who was the same. He was not flying his freak flag; he was sending up a flare, hoping for rescue, for company in the solitude of his passion.
You were with your people. You found them.
As a parent you hope your sons or daughters will find an obsession to consume them. The trick is attempting to let your children find their own way.
At the end of the essay, Chaban’s son admits that of all the fashion shows they attended during their week in Paris, his favorite was the one that he went to alone. He tells his father that the best part was the people. “They get it.”. Abe had found his tribe.
As the father of five children, I originally believed that our job was to have our children learn from us. In reality, our job may simply be to learn from our children. Happy Father’s Day to all the dedicated fathers.