Parenting magazines are great if you want to know how to cook something, or make something, or buy something. And, certainly, as parents, we do all those things: cook, make, buy. But we do a lot of other things too. We read, and think. We help our children, but we also help ourselves. If we don’t, then we should. We know that we’re part of the equation, and that just like our kids, we also have a life to live. That’s what this magazine is about.
If you were to build a parenting magazine just for you, what would it look like?
If you were to build a parenting magazine just for you, what would it look like? Would it be silly with some serious stuff, or serious with some silly stuff? Would it swear? Would it appeal to your baser instincts for meat, cigars, and pictures of models in swimsuits? Would you answer that question differently if you’d like to read the magazine in front of your family, leave it about the house? That’s not saying that you should hide those things, but rather asking if you feel that those interests are the primary ones that you’d like to present to your child. What is it that you’d like them to know about you?
Those are more important questions than you might think. Lads mags appeal because they infer that youth — the spirit and the desires that we have when we are young — can be extended into adulthood. Our fathers grew up, yes, but we don’t have to. We can read articles about whiskey rather than politics; we can discuss cheeseburgers as if they were haute cuisine.
But the fact is, frankly, you can’t stay young. You do have to grow up. Or, phrased differently, you have the opportunity to grow up. Why wouldn’t you take it? Letting yourself grow up allows you to think bigger thoughts, about things beyond style and fashion. It means that you can take advice from people who are older than you. People who know things about something. People who are worthy of our attention not because they look good or were in that movie, but precisely because of the things they know. It means that you can become one of them, and respected for what you know and how you impart it to others.
Growing up affords the opportunity to take yourself seriously. We shy from that word “patriarch” because it sounds oppressive. “Patriarchy” as a description of our culture gained traction because of the authority — misguided, bigoted — that it was used to describe. We don’t want a patriarchal society any more than we’d like to create a monarchy guided entirely by the rule of primogeniture. But society isn’t a person, and a person isn’t a society. Within a family a “patriarch” can be a person that knows something. Someone who has an authority, applies it properly, kindly, because of this: kids need it. No, not all authority should or could come from men. But some of it should. The fact that most of us wouldn’t promote the concepts of mens magazines to our sons says something about that gap between who we are allowing ourselves to be, and who we think we should be. That might be a problem.
The man you’d like your daughter to marry likely isn’t to be found in the pages of Maxim, Esquire, GQ. By the same token, the man we’d like your daughter to marry isn’t likely to be found in the pages of any of the popular parenting magazines. There men are tangential, absent.
The man you’d like your daughter to marry likely isn’t to be found in the pages of Maxim. We’d like this magazine to chart, perhaps, a different territory. One where fathers can palm a quarter and ask the kids to pull their fingers, but also have something meaningful to say and can accept their authority to say it. One where fathers can be present, and where a desire to be better — just better — is continually validated.
If there is a children’s book which could serve as our touchstone, it would be Jane Yolen’s My Father Knows the Names of Things. Yolen has said:
When my husband David was desperately ill with the cancer that finally killed him, I began to write this little rhymed story as a memorial to him and the fine father he had been to our three children. And a brilliant grandfather as well.
The children and their cousins all called him “The Man Who Knows Everything” because of his fierce and wonderfully ranging mind that encompassed computers, natural science, birdsong, ecological disasters, politics, history, philosophy, poetry, languages—and so much more. He was in more than one of my books: as the Wind in THE GIRL WHO LOVED THE WIND and most famously as Pa in OWL MOON.
The publisher told me that when he and the editor took the manuscript to the publishing committee and read it aloud they broke into spontaneous applause.
Perhaps that’s because they saw in the book a man who was truly worthy of their attention. He didn’t win any medals, or create companies. He just knew the names of things, and he used them as a reason to interact with, and spend time with, his child. He just knew the names of things, and he used them as a reason to interact with, and spend time with, his child.
He points out
everything we see
And teaches all
the names to me.
–Jane Yolen, My Father Knows the Name of Things