As Michael Lewis ’82 makes clear in his latest book, Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, he never planned to become a parent. Not that the children with his wife, journalist Tabitha Soren, were a surprise — they weren’t that kind of accident — but he says he never pictured himself taking on the daily chores of changing diapers and bottle feedings. Or, for that matter, caring as much as he now does. Maternal love may be instinctive. But paternal love, he says, is learned behavior.
Lewis admits that he is lucky to be able to turn parenthood into a book, considering that the births of his three children coincided with looming deadlines that he feared might never be met. Quinn, now 9, arrived just as Lewis was racing to complete The New New Thing; Dixie, 7, as he was finishing Moneyball; and Walker, 2, as he was completing The Blind Side. Published by W.W. Norton this month, Home Game contains excerpts from Lewis’ journals, many of which previously were serialized online at Slate magazine, that describe the early days of his children.
Home Game is divided into three sections, one for each child, and is equally a story of parent development and child development. Amid amusing anecdotes — about trying to get his wife to the hospital in Paris when she went into labor, for example, as well as more mundane incidents like dealing with childhood outbursts — he is surprisingly blunt in admitting that it took a while to appreciate how hard it is to be a father. “The first rule of parenthood,” he writes, “is that if you don’t see what the problem is, you are the problem.”
Parenthood has given Lewis a newfound understanding for his own old-school, decidedly hands-off father — a man who could be cajoled into tossing a football after work, but always with a Scotch in the other hand. “I understand why he built that study off the side of the house where you couldn’t tell if he was home or not,” Lewis recalls with a laugh.
Lewis, on the other hand, is a much more hands-on dad, although he tries to keep one hand free for patting himself on the back. “If I change a diaper, I expect a ribbon,” he admits. Yet he argues that his own sense of parental responsibility nicely counterbalances his wife’s. “If I give [my kids] more space to fail and hurt themselves a little bit and take risks, they respond very well to that.” What is a dirty shirt or a few skinned knees, he suggests, next to a child’s evolving sense of independence?
Child-rearing has gotten easier for Lewis as his children have gotten older. There are fewer diapers to be changed and more softball-coaching to be done. And Norton has arranged to promote the new book with family appearances on Oprah and The Today Show — more opportunities for Lewis to revel in his happy accident.