As the father of two teenagers, ages 15 and 14, I never thought I’d say this, but one of the greatest joys of fatherhood has been washing their laundry. Before you call your local child services agency, let me explain. Let’s rewind about 10 years.
UPDATE: Local writer, teacher, and jockey Patrick Smithwick won last week the Tony Ryan Book Award for his memoir, Flying Change: A Year of Racing, Family and Steeplechasing. The $10,000 prize and a custom-designed Irish crystal trophy were presented to Smithwick on April 10 during an evening reception at Castleton Lyons farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
See our interview about the book and racing with Smithwick below. Congratulations Patrick!
Originally published on April 5, 2013 – Local writer Patrick Smithwick’s book, Flying Change: A Year of Racing, Family and Steeplechasing has been named a finalist for the seventh annual Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, a prize for the best of racing literature. Flying Change, about Smithwick’s decision — and the impact on his family — to get ready in just nine months to ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup, followed Racing with My Father, which was also a finalist for the Tony Ryan Book Award, about growing up with his father Paddy Smithwick, a famous steeplechase jockey.
The $10,000 first-prize winner will be announced on April 10 at Castleton Lyons, a Thoroughbred facility near Lexington, Kentucky.
With My Lady’s Manor, the Grand National and The Hunt Cup a few weeks away, we thought we’d catch up with Smithwick, who heads the English department at Harford Day School in Bel Air, to learn more about the acclaimed book.
What compelled you to set the nine-month goal for yourself?
Not to erase the afterglow from moms’ special day yesterday, but the Wall Street Journal reports in a story about fathering that more and more dads are taking on the child care role traditionally reserved for moms.
Even a casual observer of American family life knows that dads now drive kids to more doctors’ appointments, preside over more homework assignments and chaperone more playdates. Research confirms the rise of co-parenting. A recent U.S. Census Bureau report found that 32% of fathers with working wives routinely care for their children under age 15, up from 26% in 2002. Popular culture has noted the trend, too. Involved regular-guy dads are now commonplace in commercials. In one AT&T ad, a dad diapers his baby while talking sports on his phone with a buddy.
Whether it is because today’s men were raised amid the women’s movement of the 1970s, or because they themselves experienced the costs of that era’s absent fathers, there is little question that the age of dads as full partners in parenting has arrived.
The topic of fathers’ roles will be the subject of a conference titled Fathers and Fathering in Contemporary Contexts to be held next month at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda.
What about you? Do you see more Baltimore dads taking on the primary caregiver role?
Read Are Dads the New Moms? at the Wall Street Journal online.
Get for next weekend’s Maryland Hunt Cup with Patrick Smithwick’s latest book, “Flying Change.” The memoir tells of the Gilman alum and Hopkins grad’s decision to get himself and his horse ready — within a nine-month period — to ride the Maryland Hunt Cup.
The demands of Smithwick’s return to racing pull him away from his family and his writing, creating major conflicts. Nonetheless, Smithwick, who wrote about growing up in the world of racing with his Hall of Fame steeplechase jockey dad “Paddy” Smithwick in “Racing My Father”, strives to carry on traditions from his upbringing and apply them to raising his three children. He discusses the book in more detail in the video, above.
The author will appear tonight, April 25 at the Ivy Bookshop from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. for a reception, reading and book signing. He will continue on his local book tour with signings and readings at Harford Day School on April 29, Gilman on May 11 and at Greetings and Readings on June 2.
See event details at Baltimore Fishbowl Events
A recent long-term study measured testosterone levels in men when they were young and single and then again when they were older. Some of them had become fathers; some of them had not.
Here’s what it found, and, guys, you have to hear me out on why this is okay: the men with higher testosterone levels initially were more likely to have children, but the men who became fathers saw rapid declines in the hormone. The more active the fathers were in raising their children, the steeper their declines.
Thank God. If you ask me, men have been worshipping testosterone for far too long. High levels of the stuff are linked to more hair on your back, less on your head, and an increased risk of prostate cancer.
And as a new father myself, the testosterone drop couldn’t come fast enough. Let’s just say that fatherhood is a very different scenario, for which previous hormone levels would be inappropriate.
That a man’s hormone levels respond to changes in his behavior (and not just the other way around) is an empowering thought. If a man thinks of himself as not cut out for parenthood, he can take comfort in the fact that an earnest effort to be involved will pay off in biological changes that will adapt him to the job.
And, oh man, I cannot wait until the next time someone tries to tell me that men are not really suited to being parents. You bet I’m going to cite this study, and I will absolutely do it in a less belligerent way than I would have if I were single and childless.
I always know it’s almost Mother’s Day when the grocery store stocks up on lilies and starts to prominently feature sentimental greeting cards featuring watercolored flowers. Father’s Day? I always forget it. (It’s Sunday, June 19 this year, in case you’re wondering.)
Fathers often get short shrift when compared with mothers; despite our best intentions, we still seem to be operating under the old-fashioned idea that mothers are essential, while fathers are peripheral. But cultural attitudes better start playing catch-up. Dads are playing an increasingly important role in their children’s lives — and in a growing number of families, they are the only parent around. For the first time ever, the number of single-parent households led by men grew more quickly than those led by women in Maryland over the past ten years.
In fact, nearly a quarter of Maryland’s single-parent households are led by men. Experts point to a host of social trends that underlie this increase — for one, many courts used to favor the mother almost unquestioningly; these days, joint-custody arrangements are increasingly popular, and custodial laws favoring mothers are on the wane. For another, increased career options for women mean that in some situations, dads just make more sense as the custodial parent.
Certainly, there’s still a long way to go before single dads aren’t treated as somehow less-than their female equivalents — either by the courts or by the culture at large. But as families change, our attitudes will have to change as well.
Do you think single dads parent just as well as single moms?