Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Book Review: 'Dad Rules', by Andrew Clover

(Published on babyworld, October 2008)

They say 'first impressions count', but in all honesty I'm not so sure.

In 1863 the Chicago Times said ""The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States." - about Lincoln's Gerrysburg Address. Seventy years ago, Mr Chamberlain thought that a former Army Corporal was a reasonable man Britain could do business with. Ten years ago, I met a bloke who, quite frankly, I wanted to punch within about 30 minutes of meeting him. I'm glad I didn't - he's still my best and closest friend.

The fact is, first impressions can be - and frequently are - completely erroneous. So it was with 'Dad Rules' by Andrew Clover.

The first time I tried to read this book, I managed to get about a third of the way through it before giving up in frustration. I hated it. I detested this name-dropping, self-absorbed wannabe celeb bemoaning having to do childcare instead of writing 'comedy' that, quite clearly, nobody wanted. I eagerly awaited writing this review, looking forward to the savaging I intended to give it. I dreamed of somehow getting corporal punishment back on the statute book, so I could call for the public flogging of the author, the editor and anyone involved in the publication of what I felt, strongly, was turgid, self-reverential and irrelevant tosh.

And then I read the book again. And I discovered that I was wrong.

'Dad Rules' isn't really a parenting handbook. Andrew Clover just tells you what worked for him. Yet despite disagreeing with some of his ideas (he's a little too much of a rabid 'Guardianista' when it comes to the children not having sweets, for example), what works for him is what tends to work for me with the boys.

The first part of the book, describing his fear of having kids and so on, I could live without - but once he gets going as a parent Andrew Clover brings his relationship with Grace and Cassady to life, and you end up sharing in the pleasure he gets from his girls. He gives us the secret that has worked for him - playing with his children, and learning to enjoy life the same way they do by sharing their world.

Clover shows us how playing with the kids at every opportunity has helped with every aspect of their development, even eating and food. His experiences are good suggestions for us all, and an object lesson in the use of diversion tactics to offset tantrums and the like.

On Saturday, we were out with Josh, who has apparently learned about frogs at school.. and I found myself frog-hopping along with Josh through Oxford's covered market, 'ribbiting' as I did so, completely oblivious to the stares of adults and conscious of little other than the joyous giggling of my froggie son.

And I thought - Andrew Clover gets it. He really does. This is what being a parent should be about.

On second reading, I love this book, and I give it a solid five stars as both an enjoyable read and for the advice it contains. And trust me - if you hate it the first time, go and mess about with your kids for a while, and read it again. You'll change your mind.


Shelleyftr said...

How apt Dungeekin.

I am always trying to interact with my children who are 20,14 and 4! I feel being part of their life, rather than them being an add-on to mine is the way forward. I loved reading your comments and found myself feeling quite proud that you would change your mind once acting on suggestions which ended up giving great results. Being open minded is a must for any parent, but all too omitted in busy lives of parents in stressful climates such as today. But to practice being open minded can be such a stress reliever! I enjoyed the write up and feel compelled to make a purchase I think.

I am always misunderstood on first meeting, but I am like a tree, I grow on you!

Shelleyftr xx

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you ended up with the correct verdict.

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading Andrew Clover's column in the Sunday Times and I've had a link to his site on my blog from the very beginning.