I love Science Meets Things I Already Have To Do (eat, be on the internet, parent my kid) so I netgalley’d this pretty quickly. I’m always so dubious when books are advertised as brilliantly witty or hilarious or whatever, because my standards!
My standards for humor don’t encompass mentioning people’s race a lot (but only when they’re not white), and extremely inane narrative digressions. Like, he’s having lunch with his Italian friends and the little Italian kid knows all these mathematical formulas, so to make himself (Conley) feel better, he offers up some logic problems, which his own kids are super good at, in order to…e-ARCs are always really stern about you not quoting or reproducing the book until it has gone to press, so I’m not going to quote what he says but he uses a word that means to humiliate, and is in fact that exact word. Which, I guess that’s the humor? Har har, I’m such an insecure badass that I have to show up a CHILD, whom I will later refer to as this guy
because he’s good with numbers, not because his parents are both economists, but because he’s obviously a little autistic. Also, HAHAHA autism. And Italians. And humiliating children.
Ok, so that’s the type of humor, and I’m already a little uncomfortable with it because, besides being insensitive, it’s the same brand of humor that a lot of female memoirists use where they’re like, HAAAA HA I’m such a bitch and treat my husband so badly and own so many shoes. MEEEE! Conley is playing it a little too Oh I’m such a galoofing parent, look at all these misguided things I did but also I secretly think they’re great but I’m going to frame it in this manner so that you can’t call me out on it, because I’m being deprecating! You don’t understand irony!
And THEN, the point I was GETTING at with all this, is that halfway through this story he describes how he paused, mid-logic-puzzle, to deal with having burnt his mouth on his pizza. TWO WHOLE SENTENCES spent on And then I huffed air out of my mouth to cool it down, because relevant. Or just another stroke to his Portrait of a Bumbling Dad? I DON’T KNOW, I DON’T UNDERSTAND HUMOR.
This ambiguity makes me unsure whether I actually disagree strongly with his parenting practices (I do, sooooo so much) or whether he’s enlivening certain anecdotes for the sake of lulz. He does at least provide a rationale for certain decisions, like letting his kids swear at him in private but making them speak respectfully to him in public (to educate them on the idea of public vs private personas) but I doubt the efficacy of such endeavors, and his field reports on his kids don’t do much to sway me. Also, if you’re trying to protect your kids from a false sense of self-esteem, there are better things to call them than ‘retarded.’
And surprising number of chapters end with him being like, And then I realized that I hadn’t read the study right, or a new study came out, and totally disproved the thing I was trying to do, but whatever! That’s a wrap on THAT chapter! So I don’t even feel like I’m LEARNING things.
Who knows? Maybe he Shyamalan’s you at the end and is all, AS THOUGH I really believe any of this stuff. I was just modeling what not to do.
But I doubt it. I’m only halfway through, but I would be much better served to go read Nurtureshock again, which was exactly the same as this only AMAZING and informative and professional without being stodgy, personal without being immature. Man, Nurtureshock was such a great book.
As for this?
I’m out. 2014 reading track record, I can’t even look at you right now.