Finding the Fun in Fathering
Author Interview with Tim Herrera, Dad, You Are NOT Going Out Wearing That!
By Lisa M. Hendey
Having grown up with one of the world’s most fun Dads, I have always had an appreciation for men who can look at their parental vocation with a sense of humor. Author Tim Herrera has turned his fatherly foibles into an art form. His latest collection of humorous essays, Dad, You Are NOT Going Out Wearing That! (iUniverse, June 2006, paperback, 120 pages), chronicles his advancement to middle age fatherhood with a house full of teenagers.
Dad, You Are NOT Going Out Wearing That! is Herrera’s third collection of parenting outtakes. Like his two previous books, this volume is great for an extended belly laugh session or a “pick me up” when your kids are driving you crazy. Now that I have a high school student living in my own home, I appreciate more than ever Tim’s ability to go with the flow that is the parenting of teens. Don’t think this is just a book for fathers – anyone who has parented or been parented can’t help but laugh out loud at some of the timeless scenarios played out in the pages of Dad, You Are NOT Going Out Wearing That!
Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Tim Herrera about his book, his fashion sense, and his life as a “middle aged” father.
Q: Tim, we last interviewed about two years ago following the release of your last book. Can you bring us up to date on the Herrera family since then?
A: The past two years have flown by so fast! I’ve spent that time working on this latest book, looking at possible future writing projects and watching my kids grow up and get smarter than me.
Q: Aside from your fashion faux pas, what are some your other fatherly blunders that make it into the pages of Dad, You Are NOT Going Out Wearing That!?
A: My biggest fatherly blunders mostly involve being totally unaware of today’s hottest stars, hot contemporary music and popular television shows. It slows down the conversations at the dinner table when I have to stop one of my children mid-sentence and ask, “Okay, now are we talking about Jessica the singer, or Jennifer the actress? And why should I know who this person is?” I guess I need to subscribe to hip fan magazines just so that I can keep up with the conversations. (Do people still use the word “hip”?)
Q: How does "middle age" fathering differ from being a new father? What words of wisdom do you have for aging fathers?
A. In many ways, “middle-age” fathering can be more confusing than new fathering. When we reach middle-age, we think we should have more answers, not necessarily all of the answers, but at least more of them. When our kids are older, we are dealing with intelligent, cunning, and highly emotional “near-adults.” It makes parenting more challenging. When I was a brand new dad I could rationalize my mistakes by saying “Well, I’ve never changed a baby’s diaper in a moving car before. Cut me some slack!” Basically, what I’ve learned now that I’ve reached middle age is that I really don’t seem to know much about anything.
Q: Why are you compelled to write and what have you gained spiritually and emotionally from your writing?
A: I write because it’s just something that I really enjoy. Some people like gardening or woodworking. I enjoy writing. It relaxes me. For me, writing is therapeutic and it helps me express myself. I’ve always said that photos and videos are great because the show how people look. But writing is better, especially personal writing, because it shows how people feel.
Q: I heard you recently sent a son off to college - how was that experience and will we read about it in a future book?
A: Sending my son to college (he’s a freshman at Notre Dame - what a great place!) was a really grown up move, for me. It’s helping me understand, even more, my responsibilities as a father. It also helps reinforce my belief that my wife and I seem to be doing a pretty good job as parents… so far.
After I hugged my son at his dorm and walked away, I had tears in my eyes. I call it “combination tears.” I cried knowing how much I’ll miss not seeing him every day, but I also cried because of feeling so proud of what he’s already accomplished as a young man.
As far as a future book… maybe. There is that pesky little tuition bill to pay, you know.
Q: My favorite story in this book is "Smile and Say 'Our Parents Made Us Do This'" - do you have a favorite in this book?
A: I have a few favorites: the title essay “Dad, You Are NOT Going Out Wearing That!” and “My Red Power Ranger Confession.” I think these essays show me at my worst, and my best, at the same time. I always say that I think people like reading my stuff because it makes them feel better about themselves because of my goofs. I don’t write self-help books. I write “cry for help books.” After reading my work I think people feel the need to offer ME advice.
Q: Who are some of your favorite writers? What do you love about their writing?
A: I have several favorite writers. On the humor side, I like Dave Barry and Erma Bombeck. Their work is the funniest around. They have a way of making readers laugh that few other writers can. On the serious side, I enjoy Pat Conroy and Anne Tyler. I’ve been tinkering with several novels for the past several years, but after reading something from Conroy or Tyler I tell myself: “There’s NO WAY I can write anything anywhere near that good.” So, then I go and root around in the fridge for a snack and move on…
Q: Your faith and your incredible sense of humor shine through in your writing! How can these two traits be helpful tools for parents?
A: Without a sense of humor parenting can be very hard. It’s that simple. Parenting is serious business, but if you take yourself too seriously and don’t sit back to laugh at yourself then you will go mad. You also need strong faith. You have to believe that you are raising your children the right way and hope that the values you’ve raised them with are permanently inscribed in their hearts and souls.
Q: What's next around the Herrera household? Can we anticipate the next book?
A: Actually, I’ve taken a brief turn and done something a little different. I’ve written a book on basic media relations for small businesses, non-profits and community organizations and am searching for a publisher. It’s kind of a do-it-yourself for organizations that can’t afford to hire full-time media staff. However, I’m sure there’ll be another family-friendly humor book somewhere down the road.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers?
A: Parents need to realize that they are probably doing a better job than they think. They should just have faith that they made the right choices (most of the time) when raising their children and that some day those children will look back at them with love and respect… and hopefully some laughter too!
For more information on Dad, You Are NOT Going Out Wearing That! visit http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0595400027/catholicmomcom
Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites, including http://www.catholicmom.com and http://www.christiancoloring.com, and an avid reader of Catholic literature. Visit her at http://www.lisahendey.com for more information.