Thursday, June 14, 2012
New book encourages storytelling, paternal positivity on Father’s Day and year-round
By Alex Forkner
In a society saturated with negative portrayals of fathers, Dr. Tom Mahan believes it’s important to celebrate the good ones. That’s just what his book, “Top Drawer Dads,” co-authored with Marjie Aldom Smith, aims to do.
Mahan, CEO of Top Drawer Dads and chairman of The Work Institute, a workforce and workplace research company in Nashville, has noticed the media tends to offer a one-sided view of fatherhood.
“Typically when we’re reading about dads, we’re reading about dads who are absent, alcoholic, divorced, broken psychologically or in some kind of identity crisis,” Mahan said. “Rarely is the popular or professional literature in anyway reinforcing to regular fathers. The purpose of “Top Drawer Dads,” from my perspective, is to fill a void for a book that celebrates the normal things that dads do day-to-day. I want to start a movement to pay attention to the good things that are going on.”
Incompetent fathers often steal the spotlight because that’s what piques people’s interest, Mahan said. It helps to have some “buffoons” for fathers to compare themselves to and come out favorably.
“I think the reason that we pay attention to the negative stuff is because it’s newsworthy, and we haven’t gotten to a place of looking at the good news as newsworthy, the good news being the regular dad. There’s a lot of good news in dads, and it’s not represented in Homer Simpson or “Family Guy” or Al Bundy.”
The book is founded on the concept of a dad’s top drawer, that special place where children discover artifacts symbolizing the men that raised them.
“I’ll bet 90 percent of the guys I’ve talked to over the years, when I ask them about their memories of their dads’ top drawer, they kind of go inside, and they kind of get this fond smile on their face. They start talking about the things that are in this either literal or figurative top drawer. It might be in the garage, it might be in the basement, it might be the bottom cabinet, but it’s that place where the penknives are and the baseball cards and the old coins, the kid’s teeth from the tooth fairy.”
“I just realized over the years that there’s this generational theme, this commonality amongst normal dads that they all seemed to share. It gave me an opportunity to use it as a theme to start getting out some of the good news.”
In addition to the book, sons and daughters can visit topdrawerdads.com and share memories of their own fathers, upload photos and create a “Dadboard,” a printable framed photo and quote glorifying fathers. Cataloguing meaningful memories is an important part of his mission to show that “normalcy is exceptional,” Mahan said.
“That’s really what I’m hoping to do here, is share stories. On the website, kids and others are putting more stories on there everyday. I want them to get to a place—this weekend especially—of celebrating those stories, celebrating the strength of the ordinary dad.”
When Father’s Day arrives this Sunday, it will bring with it positive depictions of papas. Some may be fictional characters; others may be cheering on their sons in a golf tournament or baseball game. No matter the medium, Mahan hopes fathers will take notice and put what they see to use.
“We’re going to see some models of good fathers on television on Sunday. There’s a lot of a celebrities out there who really are good models for us to start paying attention to. Let’s start paying attention to them and see if we can make it cool to be a dad and to share the good news so that people might be able to mimic and copy and reinforce the good stuff going on.”
“Top Drawer Dads” is available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, as well as topdrawerdads.com.