A Parenting Manual for Men Freaked Out by Pregnancy
If you're old enough, you'll likely remember the series of commercials, televised in the late '80s, for cars such as the brand-new snazzy Cutlass Supreme. Each advertisement ended with the words, "This isn't your father's Oldsmobile."
That tagline, slightly modified, aptly describes Christian Piatt's new memoir, PregMANcy: a Dad, a Little Dude, and a Due Date (Chalice Press). From the first page—indeed, from the first line—readers gather that this is no conventional Christian book on fatherhood such as the guides offered by Josh McDowell or John Fuller. Whereas McDowell's The Father Connection begins with the famous apologist's idyllic recollection of holding his infant daughter for the first time, the first sentence of Piatt's book is: "Screw it."
This isn't your father's parenting guide.
Piatt, the author of several books, including Banned Questions about the Bible and co-editor of the WTF? (Where's the Faith) series for young adults, is the epitome of a postmodern Christian man. He co-parents his two young children with his wife, a pastor, in Portland, Oregon. He shrugs off the usual tacit prohibitions in Christian publishing against such things as using the verb "to doink" for sex or admitting that he "hardly has his s--- together." He describes himself as an "author/speaker/antagonist/God nerd," and a "father, son, holy heretic." As a believer, he is far more likely to speak about "reconciling human brokenness in love" than to triumphantly proclaim that "we are more than conquerors."
In PregMANcy, along with his witty, sometimes coarse, always candid descriptions of his experience of his wife's second pregnancy, he offers genuine spiritual reflection. He writes, for example, about his discomfort with the theology being taught at his son's Christian school, which seemed to offer a gospel more based in judgment than the tolerant approach to which Piatt and his wife had exposed their son. In guiding his young son in his own Christian journey, Piatt asserts that "the best expressions of faith are not taught rhetorically," but that "kids learn more about loving our neighbors by watching us being loving toward them than by what we tell them."
"It's great to talk about Jesus to your kids, but it's more important to be Jesus for them," Piatt writes. "Big shoes to fill, I know, but lots of people call God 'Father' for a reason. Until they can understand the real one better, we're playing God in our kids' lives."
That Piatt is estranged from his own father adds gravity to this memoir. In the chapter titled "Daddy Day Conspiracy," he reveals how his wounds over that loss (Piatt told me that his father doesn't answer calls or emails) "boil up" one Father's Day.