Failed Attempts At Spanking And Other Tales Of Fatherhood

Audie Cornish talks to Drew Magary about his new book on parenthood, Someone Could Get Hurt.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

I'm Melissa Block, and this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

CORNISH: Since Father's Day is upon us, let's assume you might be making that last-minute dash to the department store for that paisley tie/toolbox or grill apron that says World's Greatest Dad. We're going to turn to a guy who is trying to earn that title in his own life. Drew Magary, a correspondent for GQ and the sports news site Deadspin, also blogs about being a parent. It's safe to say that Magary doesn't take himself too seriously - what with his willingness to talk about everything from his failed attempts at spanking to a DUI.

His new book is called "Someone Could Get Hurt: A memoir of Twenty-First Century Parenthood." And, Drew, welcome. You've got a family of five, right?

DREW MAGARY: I have - it's a family of five. We were hosed at the restaurant...

(LAUGHTER)

MAGARY: ...because I tried and put five people at the four top, and then you're just - you're wedged in, and you're miserable.

CORNISH: And give us the rundown of names and ages.

MAGARY: Ah. I don't give my kids names in public because I write online. And when people know your kids' names, they say I'm going to find your baby, and I'm going to eat it, so...

CORNISH: Right, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

MAGARY: So I - but my kids are 7, 4 and 1. The oldest is a girl and then two boys.

CORNISH: All right.

MAGARY: Yes.

CORNISH: Well, recently, you wrote a post titled "A Hater's Guide to Parents."

MAGARY: Yes, other parents.

CORNISH: Other parents.

MAGARY: Other parents because other parents are the worst.

CORNISH: Exactly. And you outlined the various types of the worst, some of which I actually hadn't heard of. One is that lady who drops her kids off at the playground and then goes for a run.

MAGARY: Yeah.

CORNISH: Do people do that?

MAGARY: People do that, and it's like, you know what, if your kid's like 14, that's all right, you know? But I'm talking about, like, a 6-year-old, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

MAGARY: And so they'll go, and they'll just drop them off and like, whoo, yay, free-range parenting, let them discover. But you know what happens is the kid starts punching my kid, and then I have to discipline this other kid, but I'm not really his parent, so I can't really discipline...

CORNISH: No, you can't really do that.

MAGARY: ...because it's the 21st century.

CORNISH: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

MAGARY: It's not "Mad Men." I can't, like, slap them for spilling my cocktail, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: OK. Well, another one is people who have extended fights with their kids in public.

MAGARY: Yeah. Like I have fights with my kid, and if I do, I make sure that other people can't see because I don't want other people to see and know that I'm the worst parent on Earth. So I always make sure to drag them out of the store, kicking and screaming, and we'll get it...

CORNISH: And not just pull them to another aisle...

MAGARY: No. We'll get into the...

CORNISH: ...which my mom did...

MAGARY: That's right. We'll...

CORNISH: ...where people can still see you.

(LAUGHTER)

MAGARY: Yeah. We'll get into the van so that we can yell at each other, and that's fine. But like, if you're just having it out, if you're just like, all right, gauntlets thrown, let's do this...

(LAUGHTER)

MAGARY: ...like right in the - right in the frozen pea aisle, I don't approve of that.

CORNISH: All right. I'm going to call you out on this because...

MAGARY: Sure.

CORNISH: ...in the book, you do actually describe a time that you had a fight with your son. It was a battle at a hotel pool.

MAGARY: Yes.

CORNISH: And I don't think you won that one.

(LAUGHTER)

MAGARY: I didn't.

CORNISH: In a nutshell, tell us what happened.

MAGARY: He had to go to the bathroom, and he made this sort of I have to pee-pee dance and, like, sort of stepping around, and I'm like, oh, you have to pee and, like, loud enough so, like, the lifeguard could hear it.

CORNISH: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

MAGARY: So now, everyone knows that he has to go to the bathroom, and I'm standing there like I just gave away the whole plot. And so now, I really do have to get him out of the pool because everyone is waiting for him to start urinating into the pool. And I'm like, please come out, and he goes no. And I'm like, come on, please, please, just do this for me. No. So I had to pick him up while he was sopping wet, and he's kicking and screaming and presumably urinating. And everyone is watching me, and it was terrible.

CORNISH: Now, the book, obviously, is written in the spirit of humor and - but it actually grew out of this very serious issue in this kind of painful moment for you as a parent where your youngest child was born premature and was in intensive care unit and had to go through surgeries, and we should say that he is fine and healthy now.

MAGARY: Yes. Not to spoil the book, but yes, (unintelligible) .

CORNISH: Yeah, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: But at one point, you talked about your own father comforting you.

MAGARY: Yes.

CORNISH: And what did that experience kind of teach you about him or about fatherhood?

MAGARY: I mean, it was just - you always have your petty grievances with your parents, but, you know, when I needed my dad, he was right there. And sometimes it was just - it was nice for me to not be the dad for a second, right? Once in a while, it's nice to flip the switch and be the one who is comforted instead of the one who's doing all the comforting. And so I appreciate what my parents have done for me. I admire them to be able to raise me in the era that they raised me in. And I hope I do as good a job as them. I don't know that I am, but I appreciate them.

And after the ordeal I went through with my youngest son, I actually appreciate my other kids more because like they say, like the fatherhood changes you thing, that's not true. Like, you'll have a kid, just - you'll be the same idiot who wants to watch TV and stuff like that. But when the kid almost dies, that changes you. And, you know, at some point, you know, I'm going to pass away, and we're going to deal with the whole cliched circle of life thing, but it really, truly - it makes your life seemed a lot more epic in scope because you're somehow inexplicably linked with this other life form, and the sum total of their 70 or 80 years of existence will be tied to your sum total of 70 or 80 years of existence.

CORNISH: Drew Magary, his new book is called "Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First Century Parenthood." Drew Magary, thank you for coming in.

MAGARY: Anytime.

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