In the Beginning ... There Were No Diapers: Laughing and Learning in the First Years of Fatherhood

by Tim Bete

Published by Sorin Books

189 pages, 2005



Father Didn't Always Know Best

Reviewed by Mary Ward Menke


If you are a parent, plan to be a parent, or know anyone who is or does, you have to read In the Beginning ... There Were No Diapers: Laughing and Learning in the First Years of Fatherhood. This is the first book by Tim Bete, an award-winning humor columnist ("Where I Live") who has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Dave Barry. Read the book and you'll understand why.

From the miracle of birth to the "little miracles of daily life -- when your child finally goes potty in the toilet, eats a vegetable, or finds first base," Bete describes the universal challenges of parenthood from his unique and very funny perspective.

Look in any library or bookstore and you're bound to find myriad parenting books. Many are serious, some are humorous, fewer still offer up a combination. Bete succeeds where others have failed by infusing his descriptions of common "life with children" experiences with subtle spiritual references. The chapter about the Ten Commandments alone makes the book worth reading:

Like most scripture, the Ten Commandments need to be interpreted for our time. That's why I've expanded "Honor your father and your mother" a little by adding 672 clarifying sub-rules. ... First there is the greatest commandment for children: "Stop that." All other commandments are derived from "Stop that." The commandment "Quiet down" can be translated "Stop that noise." "Sit still" can be translated as "Stop that fidgeting." Even when you are not in the same room with your children, it is useful to yell, "Stop that!" every fifteen minutes or so. Nine out of ten times, your children will respond, "Okay," which just proves that they were up to no good in the first place....

Bete even compares feeding children to a religious experience. In the chapter titled, "Five Loaves, Two Fish -- What, No Tartar Sauce? (Or, My Son Ate a Vegetable -- It's a Miracle!)," he gives his own interpretation of the story of Jesus multiplying the five loaves and two fish to feed more than 5000:

There must have been a thousand children present. By my calculation, immediately after the miracle, 400 kids would have said they "didn't like fish." Three hundred and fifty children would have complained that their "bread was touching their fish," and therefore they couldn't eat it. One hundred and fifty kids would have whined that the fish was "inedible without tartar sauce." Seventy-five would have asked for "fish sticks instead of the whole fish." Finally, twenty-five children must have dropped their fish on the ground and cried because it was dirty, even though they never would have eaten it in the first place.

Don't let the biblical references deter you. You don't have to be a member of a particular religion or have specific religious beliefs to enjoy In the Beginning ... There Were No Diapers. All you need are a sense of humor ... and a belief in miracles. | March 2005


Mary Ward Menke is a contributing editor to January Magazine and the owner of WordAbilities, LLC, providing writing and editing services to businesses and individuals. Her work has been published in The Toastmaster, Dog Fancy and Science of Mind magazines, in the Suburban Journals (a weekly St. Louis community newspaper) and on