Book Reviews

Questions From Dad

by Dwight Twilley
Review by Patricia Schiff Estess

It's this emphasis on creative communication that "Questions from Dad" by Dwight Twilley picks up on. Twilley is a rock star and travels a great deal. If he was going to stay in touch with his daughter, Dion, he had to develop a more creative approach than calling and asking her how her day was. Anyway, he wanted to know more about her - what she likes to et, what grosses her out, what she's scared of, what she dreams of doing in the future, if she needs to talk to him about something important. Those seem like small things, but they're really not. They're the threads that stitch the parent-child relationship. And he doesn't want her to forget that she is part of his life and his family's heritage as well as her mother's. He wants her to know he exists and isn't just the guy who sends stuff on holidays or birthdays.

Twilley's "cool." On an intuitive level, he understood his 13-year old daughter's reticence to talk, especially to someone she didn't see every day and probably felt deserted by. So he devised a way of communicating that melted her reserve. He asked questions - in writing. He called the sets of questions, "Dad's Tests," but suggests that if the notion of a test turns some kids off, call them "Secret Questions for Sarah" or "Dad's Amazing Crazy Quiz Game" instead. He sends Dion a "Test" three or four times a year, mostly by snail mail with a postage-paid self-addressed return envelope so that she has privacy and independence in filling it out and can mail the package back (maybe even with a drawing or two) without any adult supervision. But you can do something quite similar via e-mail if a child is old enough and has access to the Internet.

Some of the questions are silly ("How many freckles on your nose?") Some contain messages (Yes or No: "Do you think if I didn't live so far away I wouldn't miss you so much?") Some aren't really questions at all ("Draw a picture of your dog reading a book"). Some are straightforward - "My favorite snack is…"; some are imaginative -"What would you wish someone would invent now?" And some heart-warming answers to the question: "At what point do you think you'll be too old for the Dad's Test?" (Dion responded "204, give or take a year.")

He stays away form questions like, "How's your mom?" which could inspire hope for a reconciliation or cause mom to think he's prying. He admits he made a mistake when he asked the question, "Would you ever like to come live with your dad for a while?" because it put Dion in a position to make a choice that she really doesn't have now. And he stays away from any questions that might be interpreted as preachy or teacher-like.

Twilley says the "tests" have opened up conversation between father and daughter so much that they now see each other often and yak on the phone frequently.

The message I came away with after reading this book is that with persistence and creativity, divorced dads can often maintain close ties to children they don't live with - even if they're far away from them or remarried and living with stepchildren.

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