Dad-is-Fat-by-Jim-GaffiganComedian Jim Gaffigan just wrote a book: Dad Is Fat. It’s a not-so-serious (but therefore very serious) book on parenting, and the publisher actually sent me an advanced copy to review here on Mockingbird—hence this post. (Can I just take second to revel in the fact that this is the first advanced copy I have received to review. Thanks.) The book will be released for sale tomorrow, May 7th. You can read my previous ruminations and some helpful background on Gaffigan and his comedic talents here, but you might already know him as “the Hot Pockets guy.”

My overall response is that while most parenting books (i.e., how-to manuals), even the few out there for fathers, are basically works of lawDad Is Fat is a work of grace. Parenting authors tend to objectify parents and children, speaking about and to them, but Gaffigan empathizes with and for us, making light of the absurdities of parenting, careful never to give us more how-to’s, instead entering the trenches with us and helping us laugh about it along the way. He does this by being deeply ironic yet self-deprecatingly honest about his own experiences as a father. Gaffigan, in other words, unmasks all the pretense and tells the truth about what’s really going on in his head and in his apartment full of children—he and his wife live in a two-bedroom Manhattan walk-up apartment with their five (!) children.

I had some trouble choosing excerpts to illustrate what I mean, but after skimming through all my highlights and the stars I drew in the margins, I have whittled it down to a few that resonate most with how I often feel as a father. Plus, I am throwing in some of the best one-liners for good measure (scroll to the very bottom). Really, I could quote this book for days, but you should just do yourself a favor and buy a copy, especially if you are a parent or a parent-to-be—or a human child of parents.

Here is a decent summation of what I see as Gaffigan’s premise for writing the book, and why I appreciate his non-authoritative “authority” as as an author:

Gaffigan-MikeSo now that I’ve admitted that I’m a narcissist, I’d also like to admit that I’m probably not the greatest parent. The last thing I want is one of my kids reading this book in ten years and thinking, ‘That guy thought he was a good parent?’ I don’t know why my children would refer to me as ‘that guy,’ but I’m keeping expectations low. I’m probably not the best parent, but I’m trying. I’ll complain and joke about parenting and kids, but every parent knows it’s a heroic endeavor, and we participants need to laugh at it. After all, suicide is off the table now. (p. 47)

As an ordained minster with two daughters, I am keenly aware that my children are officially PKs (pastor’s kids), so let’s just say Gaffigan’s thoughts on parent-teacher conferences spoke to me profoundly. Especially since my wife and I have our first parent-teacher conference coming up at our two-year-old’s preschool (which is at my church!):

Even as your children get older, the parent-teacher conference is always a strange experience. The conference is supposed to be all about the child, but somehow it ends up with you feeling like you are getting a report card on your parenting. You still want to know your child is doing well and you still want to see their work, but because I am an actor and comedian, it seems that these conferences always lead back to my occupation. ‘Well your daughter/son is very dramatic and loves to talk, which I guess is no surprise, given your occupation.’ I’m not offended, but the implication that all improper behavior is the result of what I do for a living is rather absurd. As if a chatty five-year-old with a librarian mom would be a red flag. ‘We expected our child to just sit behind her desk and sush people. Maybe she needs Ritalin.’ (pp. 156-157)

Finally, here are Gaffigan’s gracious admissions re:the selfish reasons for having more kids (which is actually the title of another book out there). We might even call these thoughts on sanctification-by-parenthood:

I guess the reasons against having more children always seem uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life. I believe each of my five children has made me a better man. So I figure I only need another thirty-four kids to be a pretty decent guy. Each one of them has been a pump of light into my shriveled black heart. I would trade money, sleep, or hair for a smile from one of my children in a heartbeat. Well, it depends on how much hair. (p. 240)

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And here are those one-liners I promised:

I ‘have children’ like I ‘have male pattern baldness.’ It is an incurable condition, and I have it. Symptoms include constant fatigue, inability to sleep, and, of course, extreme sleep disruption. (p. 18)

Parents who want to be considered cool, give it up. Even if you put your three-year-old in a fedora, we all know you are still getting barfed on and wiping noses and butts like the rest of us. (p. 31)

I used to wonder why I had hair on my legs, but now I know it’s for my toddler sons and daughters to pull themselves up off the ground with as I scream in pain. (p. 83)

Playdates are great for kids and most often incredibly uncomfortable for me, given my general dislike of human beings. (p. 138)

Bedtime makes you realize how completely incapable you are of being in charge of another human being. (p. 186)

My love of lollipops is not about eating them; it’s about how quiet they make children … If you ever take your kids to a situation where they must be quiet, bring lollipops. They’re like flavored muzzles. (p. 219)

I have five children, and I don’t even own a farm … Today, big families are like waterbed stores; they used to be everywhere, and now they are just weird. Admit it, whenever you see a waterbed store, you think, ‘Wow. That has to be a front for something illegal. (p. 229)

Kids and disease are the true gateways to faith. (p. 240)

Disney is not a vacation. To me the term ‘Disney Vacation’ is equivalent to the term ‘Chuck E. Cheese Fine Dining.’ (p. 245)

I wish I liked camping. Then again, I also wish I liked running marathons and eating vegetables. (p. 258)

I could say and quote much more, but instead, I will leave you with a clip from Gaffigan’s latest comedy special, Mr. Universe, which came out last year. You should watch it in totality if you can, but this particular bit demonstrates the type of honest insight and refreshingly unique comedy you will find in Dad is Fat: