Punk Rock Dad by Paul Stolp

When I first found out I was to become a father, I was curious if there were any good books on fatherhood out there. Perhaps I was a little envious of my wife, who seemingly had a mountain of interesting, truthful, down-to-earth books on motherhood -- The Hip Mama Survival Guide, The Mother Trip, Mothers Who Think, The Big Rumpus, and many others.
I read all of these, but I wanted something of my own, something that talked about fatherhood in the language and experience of the world I lived in. But all I could find was Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood and related titles, and while I don’t have anything against the Coz, he just ain’t my style. He didn’t speak to me.
I don’t think I was the only one out there who felt like this, and now, finally, we dads have a book we can call our own -- Punk Rock Dad by Jim Lindberg. Jim is the lead singer for Pennywise, one of the second wave of Orange County punk bands that became well known with the success of Green Day and The Offspring in the early 90’s, and later through the Van’s Warped Tour (on which Pennywise has frequently played.)
Pennywise, while never achieving the MTV-certified popularity of some of these bands, nevertheless has a successful cult following that persists to this day. Jim has the credentials to call himself a punk rock dad. You don’t have to be into punk rock to enjoy this book. You don’t, I suppose, even have to be a dad (or mom)…but if you are, you will laugh out loud as Jim navigates the twists and turns of parenthood while still feeling (and occasionally acting) like an adolescent himself.
Jim’s love of his daughters is obvious throughout the whole book, even when they drive him crazy. In one episode, he writes of going out to play a hometown gig after an evening of taking care of the kids while his wife is out, and coming back to find that his eldest girl is now sick. He finds himself cleaning up puke at 2 a.m. and feeling like anything but a rock star. He ends the tale saying: “I take off my rubber gloves and start to think of all the free beer, illicit drugs, and cheap sex that’s being voraciously consumed just half an hour’s car ride away, just as daughter number one begins her second round of projectile vomiting next to me. She tries but misses the bucket I’d provided for her and covers the carpet with more hot dog parts and cottage cheese. I sigh and realize happily, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I knew I would like this book as soon as I saw the cover featuring Jim posing with his three daughters, his guitar and his Clash shirt (there exists a photo of me with my firstborn daughter at about three months, both of us decked out in Metallica gear.) Fatherhood changes you, but it doesn’t require you to give up your joys and passions.
You do have to learn to prioritize and multitask, and you will lose some of your social life. It would have been nice to have a book like this when I first became a parent, a book that tells us that we aren’t the first or last to be bewildered by these changes. It is reassuring to hear that other fathers struggle with the same problems—that they are, in fact, universal. In the end, Punk Rock Dad is a book about one person’s journey through the greatest gig in the world, fatherhood.
Jim grows into his role while retaining his core values, values learned through years in the punk rock circuit. His story is a welcome addition to the fatherhood book collection, a collection that is all too sparse. His passion for his children—and his drive to make the world a better place for them—is inspiring, funny, and sweet. I feel a little less alone having read it, and in the end, isn’t that the greatest gift a book like this can provide? Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time to go crank some Ramones and dance with my daughters.
Paul Stolp is an author & father of two daughters currently living in the Pacific Northwest. He likes dancing around the living room with his daughters to the Ramones. And other illustrious bands.