The world may not need another memoir by a Dad about being a Dad, but if the genre is going to expand, this is not a bad addition.
I am a stay at home Dad. Previously I was a nanny for my nieces for 5 year until they started school. I am not particularly a fan of ‘Dumb Dad’ jokes or sitcoms or books or other media that highlight idiots with male genitalia that happen to have fathered children. I am also not a particular fan of ‘super-Dad’ books.
Either side is about a stereotype and not a real person. Real parents love their kids, make mistakes, want to do better, still screw up but are not complete idiots.
Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat borders on the ‘dumb Dad’ genre, but Gaffigan is a real Dad. You can tell he knows what he is talking about despite the fact that he makes fun of himself (although it was more about the jokes than the cohesive narrative.) Michael Lewis (Moneyball, the Big Short, etc) also wrote a memoir I read in the last year that I didn’t enjoy as much. Lewis also made fun of himself but highlighted incompetence and his ‘dumb guy’ credentials a bit too much.
Drew Magary is writing from the same basic background. Like Lewis he is a writer and sports enthusiast. Like Gaffigan he prefers watching sports to playing them. Magary is not writing a first time parenting book here, he and his wife have three children, although the end of the book is bringing the third home.
There is a lot of standard material here, parenting is hard, a Dad’s life is not really his own. You are not a bad Dad because you want to get out of the house. Kids are both amazing and maddening. Our own anger at the little tiny humans that we have complete power over is both shocking and humbling. But the standard material is told well, with lots of humor and humility.
But it is not all humor. The opening and closing of the book is about the birth and early life of his third child. He was premature and had some biological issues that required a long stay in the ICU and a major surgery to repair his bowels when he was 9 days old. (This is not dissimilar from Carolyn Weber’s birth sections in Holy is the Day, although this is not at all a Christian look at parenting.)
The seriousness of that part of being a parent, of not being able to control all that happens to your children and not being able to protect them from everything gave more weight to the story than either Lewis or Gaffigan’s books. Magary seems more open about his own emotional life than the other two, there are a lot of descriptions of him crying in the book. But the crying is a the appropriate times.
The title of the book led me to believe that he would spend a bit of time talking about the problems of over protecting children. It is one of my pet peeves and I certainly tend toward the Free Range Parenting side of things. But this title was just misleading, there is some description of the over-protective parents, at least in comparison to the issues of previous generations, but it is really not explored as much as I would if I were writing a memoir of being a Dad.
As a warning, if you are offended by swearing, you might want to skip this book. There is a lot of swearing in the book.
The book isn’t long, but it was enjoyable. Magary reads it himself, which I always like with memoir. I listened to the audiobook from Scribd and continue to enjoy the subscription service.