Thursday, December 9

WORDS OF PATERNAL ADVICE FOR NEWBIE FATHER, JOE, FROM "THE COZ"

On the joyous occasion of Austin Burgess Higgins' birth, I found myself pulling from the bookshelf in my library a small tome entitled, "Fatherhood," by one of America's favorite humorists, Bill Cosby. It was published in 1986 by Doubleday & Company, Inc., and that year just happens to be the year when our family moved from southern California to the Dallas, Texas area -- Trophy Club, to be precise. Our newly-minted father, my son Joe, was but 8 years old then, and his older brother, Jim, was just 10. My fuzzy memory is such that I cannot recall if the book was a gift (there is no inscription inside the cover to indicate that) or if I had purchased it. That said, in re-reading "The Coz," I'm finding such delightful pearls of wisdom and insights that I cannot help but share them with two of my sons (Jim being the proud father of a 5 1/2 year old and Joe, of course, being just a "rookie" at this fathering business). So here goes, Fellas!

  • Poets have said the reason to have children is to give yourself immortality; and I must admit I did ask God to give me a son because I wanted someone to carry on the family name. Well, God did just that and I now confess that there are times when I've told my son not to reveal who he is!
  • Immortality? Now that I have five children, my only hope is that they all are out of the house before I die.
  • In spite of six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck -- and, of course, courage, because you'll be spending many years in fear of your kids.
  • There is something about babyness that brings out the softness in people and makes them want to hug and protect this small thing that moves and dribbles and produces what we poetically call poopoo. Even that becomes precious, for the arrival of a baby coincides with the departure of our minds.
  • There is no wisdom I can give you fathers more profound than: you are NOT the boss of this house that you want the children out of within thirty years and you are NOT allowed to give them permission for anything. When one of them comes to you and says, "Dad, can I go explore the Upper Nile?" your answer must be, "Go ask your mother."
  • Having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit.
  • Raising children is an incredibly hard and risky business in which no cumulative wisdom is gained: each generation repeats the mistakes the previous one made.
  • So you've decided to have a child. You've decided to turn your sofas into trampolines, and to abandon the joys of leisurely contemplating reproductions of great art for the joys of frantically coping with reproductions of yourselves.
  • Even though all the millions of births are pretty much alike, what will set your child apart from the others is its name. Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell, the name will carry. If you must put consonants in your child's name, put them in the middle ... as long as there's a vowel at the end. My own father violated this rule by giving me a name that ended in "t." He called me "Jesus Christ." My brother also had a name that ended in a consonant: "Lookdammit."