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Author: Joshua McDowell

Publisher: Xlibris

ISBN: 978-1-4535-4201-9 (HC); 978-1-4535-4200-2 (PB); 978-1-4535-4202-6 (Ebook)

Every high school freshman boy should read this book. Most English teachers won’t like it, but it could be life altering, the most important advice a boy will ever get. This autobiographical “how-to” is the gift of a man who fought for three years to get custody of his son, a child conceived when he was in a teenage romance. Finishing school in the top 60 of 430 classmates, working minimum wage, he emerged into manhood fighting what he calls “baby mama drama” and bias of the courts. He was determined to give Alex the parent who really wanted him. He faced down dirty tricks, was jailed three times, and had a mental breakdown. He regained strength and faith and won his case. Then, without his own computer, and with very little money, he wrote about his experiences to help other men.

Aside to English teachers: Joshua was diagnosed early with a “learning disability,” but that hasn’t kept him from wanting to teach. The text of this self-published book is ungrammatical and repetitive; words are misspelled and punctuation unchecked. But if you can get past these flaws, which are superficial, you will recognize how well Joshua McDowell communicates raw truths, and how welcome his words will be to many young men who pass through adolescence without the benefit of parental guidance.

This book could have been titled more accurately, “Pulling Yourself Up by Your Bootstraps with a Baby in Your Arms.” McDowell came to high school as a boy trying to find his way to manhood, having been neglected by his birth father. He had hoped to own a karate school some day, and thought the Air Force would be the first step. Then he discovered sex. When his baby was born, he thought he had an ever better reason to build a good life. Sadly, the baby drove the mother and father farther apart. To put the best face possible on this situation, the mother was not ready to be married and raise a child, but she was granted full custody. Joshua was stunned by her immature behavior, and he loved Alex with all his heart.

Denied opportunities to see his son (at one point for four months), he fought first for shared custody, but soon recognized that the mother was not going to comply with court orders. He then fought the battle that causes so many fathers to “vanish into thin air.” Joshua insists there would not be so many “dead beat dads” in this society of only they were given a fair chance. The assumptions made that the men are the villains and the women the “natural” parents have skewed justice to the point that only 5% of fathers gain sole custody of their children in a divorce.

Joshua won because he was willing to face up to a lot of abuse. He was inspired by his determination to be a better father than his own, and faith in his ability to give his son a better life. He also had a mother, brother, and stepfather by his side.

Some of the best parts of this book are those that define a good parent, including 50 ways to have a better relationship with your child. He is humble. He knows it cannot be done alone. He also discusses what a good relationship between mother and father might be. More than anything else, he reminds the reader of how important it is to focus on the child, to always give love.

McDowell’s practical advice about getting through the court system may seem obvious, such as “always be on time” or what items to bring to the hearing, but they are great tips for someone who has no prior experience in court. He helpfully explains court costs, the benefits of Guardian Ad Litem, and variations on child support. Still, it’s the preventative advice – how to distinguish love from lust – that may be the most important and the kind of frank discussion you will not find on most books on parenting or divorce – or in textbooks.

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