David Hart has long observed that that when fathers get together at parties and barbecues and other functions, they are very likely to talk to each other about sports, music, or current events. Meanwhile, the mothers at the very same events will be talking about the many issues around being a parent and raising a child.
“I’ve noticed this many times in my own experiences. The women talk about meatier issues including parenting, child-raising, discipline,” Hart says. “When we sit down as men, we’re talking about music or sports. We never come together in fatherhood and in parenting. We’re just not having the discussions to the extent that we need to be.”
Hart’s goal is to get men talking again about the many aspects of fatherhood that they should be talking about. His recently published book, “Doing The Dad Thing,” is now available online at Amazon.com and the print edition will be coming soon. The cover art is a beautiful portrait of “Father & Son” done by local artist Jerry Jordan.
“The book is something that I have been working on for a while but I felt the time was right to release it electronically,” Hart tells The Madison Times in an interview at Jade Mountain Café on Madison’s near east side. “I am looking forwad to the print edition, too. I love going to the bookstore and getting my hands on a physical copy of a book, although sometimes my boys look at me a little crazy when I bring hard copies of books home. They’re like, ‘What is this all about?’ because they have their I-Pads and Kindles and stuff.”
About four or five years ago, Hart started to collect notes on his many fatherhood experiences with his sons. He also uses his own personal experiences as an attorney, a leader of a jail ministry, and experiences with other fathers. With the publishing of the book, Hart hopes to initiate a dialogue between and among fathers, by talking with them, not at them. In his book, Hart explores fatherhood with a unique, non-judgmental approach.
“The whole deal is not [to be] preachy…. I just want to relate my experiences ... just things that I’ve observed,” Hart says. “We can start the dialogue about fatherhood. We can start the dialogue about being active in our kids’ lives no matter where we are. I’ve had a diverse mix of fathers read this book and there are things that resonate with all of the fathers from young to old, black to white to brown, to various socioeconomic backgrounds.”
As Hart says in the prologue of “Doing The Dad Thing”:
There are many notable people who have written books of advice for fathers of color. Their advice is simple: stop being a bad father and be present in the lives of your children. Be a good father. This is not that kind of book. I believe that every father wants to be a “good” father. I don’t believe any man who has children wakes up each day intending to make mistakes, or intending to do harm to their children. But, many fathers don’t know what being a “good” father means.
So, “Doing The Dad Thing” is not a preachy “how-to” book…. It’s much more of a meditation to begin the discussion on where we need to begin talking about fatherhood constructively
“Doing The Dad Thing” helps provide reassurance and insight for all fathers …. and maybe some mothers, too.
“It’s something for all young dads. There are pieces in there that are universal and speak to single mothers, as well,” Hart says. “There are just so many taboos about fatherhood and the bottom line is that we are just not talking to each other and we’re not sharing our common experiences about how to parent.”
Hart remembers his own father, who has since passed, as a very good father in the period that he was fathering. But, like many men of his era, he wasn’t much for establishing an emotional bond with his son. That’s just the way it was in those days.
“My dad worked his tail off. He would get up and go to work. He would hustle on the weekends. He would come to my football games and sporting events, but I don’t remember a whole lot of discussion taking place between he and I,” Hart says. “I feared my dad as did many men of my age. But we’re doing things differently now. I don’t want to be my sons’ buddies but I want to have a different relationship with them than I had with my own dad.”
In the process of writing the book, Hart made the observation that his kids didn’t fear him like he once feared his own dad. But, he’s OK with that. “I don’t want them to fear me. I feared my father because he was the disciplinarian,” Hart says. “Sometimes, I’ll get up from the living room and go get something to eat and my son will come and sit down where I was sitting. To sit any place that is designated as the father’s place would be unbelievable for me to think about.
“But you can get respect without fear and you should have respect without fear in 2013,” Hart adds. “We weren’t doing a lot of questioning of the world when we were kids. We never ever questioned our parents. But now, I have these 10-minute battles with my sons. They need a sound reason why. It can’t just be ‘because I told you so.’”
Hart has been doing jail ministries for years and he remembers hearing men who were really down on themselves because they didn’t feel like they could provide and they weren’t out on the streets to be there for their kids.
“You don’t have to be in the home to be active in your children’s lives. That’s a point that I have made repeatedly,” Hart says. “There are a lot of things I hope people will get from the book, but I think that it’s important that men know that they can be a great father wherever they are and in whatever socioeconomic class you are in and whatever relationship status you might have. There are things you can do — even from jail. You can read to your kid, start a book club with your child, talk to them. They need you so much.
“Fatherhood is one of the greatest joys in your life,” he adds. “Enjoy it. The pay off is amazing.”
The electronic version of the book "Doing The Dad Thing" is available at www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00CEN33OG/ref=redir_mdp_mobile
For more information about the book, contact David Hart at firstname.lastname@example.org.