This is the bio of one of the most dangerous people in modern parenting:
Harry H Harrison Jr. is a New York Times best-selling parenting author with over 3.5 million books in print. He has been interviewed on over 25 television programs, and featured in over 75 local and national radio stations, including NPR. His books are available in over 35 countries throughout Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Norway, South America, China, Saudi Arabia and in the Far East.
The fact that there are more than 3.5 million copies of his parenting books in print – books that today’s parents might use to shape their children – is very scary.
I had never heard of Harry until yesterday when I stumbled across his article, “Dads Are From Mars, Moms Are From Venus,” and at first I thought it was a satirical article akin to the kind you find on “The Onion.” After all, what else was I supposed to think when I read the following about how men and women are changed by the challenges of parenting:
“The father is no longer the gentle caring new age male she fell in love with, but instead a caveman who believes his kids are sucking him dry and would toss them to the wolves at the first opportunity. The mother is no longer the sexy thing he married, but a delusional, gullible, mother hen who believes her poor 18-year-old baby can do no wrong, even if he’s in handcuffs.”
A caveman who would toss his kids to the wolves? I don’t think so, pal. And “a delusional, gullible, mother hen?” I needn’t explain to anyone how shockingly sexist that is.
I read on, thinking things could only go up from there, but, well…
“Dads want their children, especially their sons, to grow up. It’s a mom’s tendency to hand out money and comfort to children like it’s candy, whereas a dad will demand his children go to work. Like he did. When he was 10.”
Oh, you silly, little women, coddling your babies forever! Also, working at 10, Harry? Where did you grow up? Dickensian England?
Then there was this gem:
“Moms feel sorry for their kids. They are convinced their children are working too hard in school, that teachers don’t understand them, that they risk social harm because they don’t have an iPhone and they cannot possibly get a part-time job as that would mean life would be totally un-fun and so you, Dad, need to raise their allowance.”
As well as this one:
“Moms don’t believe in discipline. That’s why their greatest threat to their kids is, “I’m going to tell your father,” and often her kids can talk her out of telling Dad anything. She will be upset when you lay down the law because you clearly have no understanding how wonderful your child is, despite the fact she was caught cheating by three teachers.”
And let’s not forget:
“Moms say ‘yes’ to everything. This is why kids will always ask their mothers instead of their fathers for money, for a gold card, for a $1,000 new purse, or for a later curfew. The only time Mom will say “no” is when her husband begs her to quit saying ‘yes.’”
Man, you silly girls are impetuous! It’s like the world is filled with nothing but millions of Lucy Ricardos! How do we men ever deal with you?
Upon finishing the “article” I saw the bit about Harry’s having “3.5 million books in print.” A chill went down my spine. Could there be 3.5 million parents out there raising their children based on this pap? I clicked over to Harry’s website to do some more investigating and quickly found this description of good dads:
“But number one, they were men. They didn’t act weak or wimpy when it came to making difficult decisions. They had no compunction about laying down rules, dress codes, study hours, grade requirements, behavior policies. They stood up to a sympathetic mother. They brooked absolutely no back talk, language or arrogance from their daughter. They stood up for teachers, they let boyfriends know really bad things would happen to them if something happened to their daughter, they demanded the best out of their daughters – and wonder of wonders, they got it. Their daughters were actually afraid of their fathers’ wrath.”
That’s right, men! To be a good dad you better stand up to those darned “sympathetic mothers.” As for the bit about a “father’s wrath,” puh-lease, Harry. I want my daughter to respect me because I am just and wise, not because she is scared crapless of me.
Lastly, there was this:
“Our kids depend on us to make them laugh. I’m sorry but moms are not known as being entertainment centers. As one girl told me, ‘There’s nothing funny about mom, but dad cracks us up.’”
Ah! The women aren’t funny myth! Good for you, sir! You have left no sexist cliche unturned. Perhaps we should tell this guy Amy Poehler is a mom, and that she’s pretty funny. So is, for that matter, my wife and the vast majority of the other women in my life.
Here’s the thing… Harry believes that, deep down, we men and women are unchanged from our caveman ancestors and always will be. But I like to give us more credit. I believe we have evolved since those caveman days (heck, we have evolved since our parent’s generation), and we are better for it as men, women, and parents. Harry surely would disagree, but after clicking around his website it’s pretty clear he doesn’t believe in evolution of any kind.
Harry may think he’s got things figured out – and it is scary to think how many people may have bought his books and took his words as gospel – but what Harry doesn’t seem to understand is that the only result of his antiquated style of parenting will be a new generation of macho, distant a-hole men and frivolous, unfunny women who can’t be trusted with the checkbook or to lay out any discipline. And you know what? That might be the world Harry wants to live in, but it sure isn’t mine.
Reading this crap masquerading as how-to-be-a-dad advice makes me so upset because it only reinforces stereotypes that limit a man’s potential as a father. It is so important that modern Dads like myself get out the message that we can be more than just Ward Cleaver. We don’t have to turn in our “man card” if we are emotionally available to our kids or help around the house (just as there is nothing wrong with a mom who brings home the bacon or is the disciplinarian). In my home Heather and I are equals, both in making money and taking care of Annie, and we want her to learn that there is nothing she can’t do because of her sex. We have evolved. Today there are many different types of parents doing a great job (including married, single, straight, and gay), and all of our kids are lucky to have us.