Monday, February 18, 2008

Article in the Tidings about the book

You can find the original article (and a photo) here

February 2, 2008
Raising Baby: A Dad's guide

By Julie French
Ashland Daily Tidings

When James di Properzio had his first child, he intended to be a perfect father. He thought his plan was working, until a trip to Paris when his oldest daughter, Hesperus, was 18 months old. His dreams ended abruptly in the metro station when he attempted to heave the stroller over the turnstile with his daughter still in it. She tumbled six feet onto the concrete floor and cracked her skull.

"All of my ideas about being the perfect dad were shattered along with her skull," he said. Still, he has made a noble effort over the years to be more connected to his children than the generation of fathers before him, and two more children, Athena, 6, and Etani, 4, have joined Hesperus, now 8, who survived the fall with no lasting injuries.

Di Properzio and his wife Jennifer Margulis, both freelance writers in Ashland, recently completed "The Baby Bonding Book for Dads," due out in March, to help those not-so-perfect dads develop relationships with their newborns.

"In our twenties, most of us had the same idea," di Properzio said about his male friends. "Sure, maybe we wanted to have a kid someday ... once you move from there to actually having a kid, you can see you're sort of under prepared and apprehensive."

As di Properzio learned after his daughter's brush with disaster, parenting doesn't require perfection, and any time spent with baby is better than none. For those dads at a loss for what to do when they are spending time with their child, the book offers suggestions such as "baby wrestling," reading and talking, no baby babble required. Babies will pick up on the sound of their voice no matter what the subject.

Fathers are also encouraged to integrate baby into their life, taking them to sporting events, even hiking or fishing trips. Spending time with baby doesn't mean fathers have to be stuck at home, di Properzio said.

Taking a baby along might even up their popularity with the opposite sex.

"They're such a good chick magnet because any guy with a baby is going to attract every young woman around," Margulis said.

Although it might be hard, moms have to step aside and let their husbands make a few mistakes for the best bonding, Margulis said. She recalled one friend who complained her husband never changed their baby's diapers, then quickly explained that he wouldn't do it right anyway.

"They're going to put the overalls on the kid backwards, and the diaper won't be perfect, but it's not like you always do it right," she said.

Men are also at a significant disadvantage when it comes to bonding with infants, she said, because they lack the hormones that drive women to love their babies despite their scrunched faces, acne and constant crying.

"It's easy for men to leave themselves out, and that's exactly what we don't want," she said.

Margulis has made sure di Properzio has enough time with his children. Six weeks after her first child was born, she was back to work, teaching literature at Emory University.

Last year, the family lived in Niger, a French-speaking African country, and di Properzio stayed home with their kids and wrote the baby bonding book for fathers while Margulis was teaching at the local university through a Fulbright fellowship.

This is the couple's first officially co-written book, although they have always served as each other's first-string editors. Margulis has published three previous books, including "Why Babies Do That," a short guide to 40 mystifying behaviors of newborns. She is also a Tidings columnist, and is working on a proposal for a book about the family's year in Africa. Di Properzio is working on his first novel about a man trying to create a musical instrument as perfect as the human voice, set during the Italian Renaissance.

The couple have not ruled out more parenting books, however, and may follow up with books on the behaviors of toddlers or older children as their own kids age.

Although "The Baby Bonding Book for Dads" is full of local work, from the authors to the photographs by Christopher Briscoe with many local models, it will be distributed nationally.

There are tentative plans to sell the book in hardware and fly-fishing stores, Margulis said, and she hopes to reach fathers who might otherwise never pick up a parenting book.

"There are not enough books on how to get dads involved and interacting with their child," Margulis said. "The misconception is that only women-only moms-buy books, and only women read books. I'm on a crusade to change that and so is James." Even if a father's children are well past the infant stage, her message is it's never too late to start bonding.

"You don't need to bother reading any books at all," Margulis said. "You just need to spend time with your child."

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or

1 comment:

Sue said...

I'm looking forward to reading the book! I just ordered a copy. I just found out my cousin is pregnant - this seems like a great present!