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The Passions of Fatherhood

by Dr. Sam Osherson
Book review Copyright © 1995 by Bert H. Hoff

Dr. Sam Osherson, The Passions of Fatherhood. (New York, NY: Fawcett Columbine, 1995). Order on-line


Passions of Fatherhood
by Dr. Sam Osherson
Order on-line

A couple of months ago I reviewed David Blankenhorn’s Fatherless America (order on-line) and raised the question whether Seattle M.E.N. and the men’s community were doing enough to celebrate and support fatherhood. David Ault’s article in this issue focuses on some specific steps we can take. This theme is picked up again as one of the threads in Andrew Kimbrell’s The Masculine Mystique, (order on-line) reviewed in this column. In this book, Dr. Sam Osherson, who is known to many of you as the author of Finding Our Fathers Order on-line and Wrestling With Love, Order on-line offers us a more personal book on what it is to be a father. While he draws on his knowledge and clinical experience, ultimately this is a book about the challenges and rewards that he has experienced in his own life as the father of a young boy and girl.

Why do we need this book? Because we may well idealize how we’re "supposed" to feel as a parent, and be reluctant to talk about the hurt and frustration that arises. The feeling in this book is the same feeling you experience in Wisdom Council—as a man stands to speak his story, you realize that you aren’t the only one in the universe who has experienced that. Osherson provides an example in the book. He was an "expert" co-host on a TV show about fathering. The fathers spent 20 minutes talking about how wonderful and cuddly kids were, and what a joyous experience fatherhood is. Get real! Finally, Osherson couldn’t stand it anymore, and blurted out, "Don’t any of you get angry at your kids?" It was as if a dam broke—the studio flooded with honest emotion. On balance, the joys far outweigh the hurts, the frustrations, the challenges. But if we can’t talk honestly about the difficulties without feeling we are somehow "inadequate" dads, then we’re missing the tools we need to be good fathers. Osherson does an excellent job in this book of opening up and stimulating the dialog, by sharing his own experiences, feelings and emotions with honesty and integrity.

Osherson says, "Throughout I try to attend to the passion and power of fathering, the intense feelings that children arouse in men … and how we attempt to live well with these passions. My goal has been to penetrate the loneliness I often feel as a parent, a loneliness mothers may well understand, but perhaps all the deeper for fathers because it is surrounded by the ordinary silence that so many men take for granted in their lives." This book will be as influential with those of you who are fathers—or who share it with sons who are themselves young fathers—as Finding Our Fathers was with men grappling with issues around their own fathers.

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