Author: Jim Gaffigan
Type: Fiction, non-fiction, humor, memoir
I read it: July 2014
Why is Jim Gaffigan an appropriate author for a comedic memoir about parenting? Because he has five children and his family lives in a two-bedroom apartment in New York. The premise fits Gaffigan’s dry style particularly well. It’s also an exhausting premise when you consider what his life must be like, so instead of letting the idea of that reality overwhelm me, I read it with the “At least I only have one kid. Can you believe this guy?” mindset. This turned the book into breezy bedtime relief.
Each family is their own universe unto themselves, with various similarities and differences to other families. As such it’s a pleasure to read about Gaffigan’s stories of home birth, or religious services, or other things that I haven’t dealt with in my own parenting story. In fact, apart from the chapters on babies, there is a lot of yet-to-be explored territory for me, so some parts were more of a humorous warning guide.
Take for example reading about when my toddler will find out that the toilet paper roll is the best toy, or setting up playdates and having to “discover that the only thing that I have in common with that parent is that we have a kid the same age.” Gaffigan is often at his best when writing about food (the subject of his next book apparently) so the restaurant tales are great (I just don’t want to take my toddler to one ever), or when he describes lollipops as “flavored muzzles.”
There are parts that seem a bit overworn, such as the whole vibe of Gaffigan being a clueless caveman dad who is helpless before the weight of parenthood. As an explanation for how they survive, he lifts his wife up as a goddess of capability. Those might be accurate descriptions of the two, but they are not universal archetypes. On the flip side, it’s easy to see how he feels like a barely surviving shell of a person given that living situation. The parts about describing the layout of their apartment, how bedtime is managed, and what to do when potential renters are looking at the unit directly below theirs are among the best. It’s only at the end of the book that he tries to address the always-asked “Why so many?” question, about which he says the reasons generally seem “uninspiring and superficial” but will admit that “each one of them has been a pump of light into my shriveled black heart.” It’s Gaffigan’s low-key way of saying, that’s just how it is, man. This is our family.
Overall, here is a quick, funny read about the life of a unique, modern dad. It’s one I bet only parents can appreciate (I know, I just typed those words–but they just seem so true), and one I will appreciate more as my own kid pulls me upward and onward to the next thing.
Thanks to Laura for getting me this one for Father’s Day. I don’t read comedy very often, but always enjoy it when I do. Much love.