Publish Date: May 7, 2019
“Let me just say that this whole parenting thing isn’t actually as damn easy as it looks.” — Fredrik Backman
Things My Son Needs to Know About the World collects the personal dispatches from the front lines of one of the most daunting experiences any man can experience: fatherhood.
As he conveys his profound awe at experiencing all the “firsts” that fill him with wonder and catch him completely unprepared, Fredrik Backman doesn’t shy away from revealing his own false steps and fatherly flaws, tackling issues both great and small, from masculinity and mid-life crises to practical jokes and poop.
In between the sleep-deprived lows and wonderful highs, Backman takes a step back to share the true story of falling in love with a woman who is his complete opposite, and learning to live a life that revolves around the people you care about unconditionally. Alternating between humorous side notes and longer essays offering his son advice as he grows up and ventures out into the world, Backman relays the big and small lessons in life, including:
– How to find the team you belong to
– Why airports explain everything about religion and war
– The reason starting a band is crucial to cultivating and keeping friendships
– How to beat Monkey Island 3
– Why, sometimes, a dad might hold onto his son’s hand just a little too tight
Fredrick Backman writes about things that I’m normally not interested in, like hockey, and raising sons. But that’s what makes Mr. Backman so talented, because he can take a subject that is completely foreign to a reader like me and write about it in a way that is entertaining, poignant, humorous, and insightful. His writing connects with readers like no one else can.
This is Mr. Backman’s foray into nonfiction after publishing 6+ fiction stories. I love the new perspective of turning his lens inward and writing about himself. It’s a love letter to his son in the form of a book. Right now, his son is so young that he can’t read, but when he reaches adulthood he will appreciate this.
I like the honest parenting insights. There’s an expectation in our society that parenting is a life enhancing, happy experience. No one talks about the hard stuff and social media portrays it as all fun and smiles. Mr. Backman gets real about parenting, poop & crap (lots of it), and all of the ups and downs of raising a child.
The writing is casual, conversational, and less formal than his novels. The tone is relaxed, playful, at times crass, flippant, profane, and occasionally rambling. But, I loved all of the nuggets of wisdom that he shares. We can all learn from them.
My favorite quotes:
“We don’t even need to be ‘good’ parents anymore, I think. We make do with ‘not horrible’ at this point. All we want is for your psychologist to mutter, in twenty years’ time, that it might not be entirely our fault.”
“The stuff you remember from a childhood. They really are the strangest of things.”
“This whole process of getting a child’s outerwear on in the morning is a bit like trying to put an angry monkey who has just been dipped in soap and fed jalapeños into a complete ice hockey goalkeeper’s uniform.”
“Your grandpa was here over the weekend and he installed those little child safety locks all over the kitchen. The result is that it now takes you about fifteen seconds to get into a cupboard. And it takes me half an hour.”
This book is a reminder that nothing prepares us for parenthood and there is no standard formula for success. We just have to do the best that we can in each moment and hope that we don’t screw up our children too much. Parents are well-intentioned but flawed.
This is a quick read that I finished in a few hours. It’s the perfect gift for Father’s Day or a soon-to-be new mom or dad, written in Fredrick Backman’s signature style that will make you laugh, cry, and feel every emotion in between.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.