The new book Dad is Fat, by Irish-American comedian Jim Gaffigan, is a perfect blend of hilarity and wisdom about parenting a large Catholic family. Gaffigan hides parenting advice amidst the jokes in the same way some moms try to hide pureed zucchini in their chocolate-chip cookie recipes -- and he's probably way more successful. Gaffigan says it best in his own words, so following is his advice on everything from home birth to bedtime. Enjoy!
1. On how to handle five kids. "Many times people say, 'I don't know how you handle five kids. I have one kid, and I can barely handle it!' Well, guess what? One kid is a lot. I could barely handle having one kid. I guess it's kind of like that science experiment with the frog in a pot where you slowly turn the heat up on the water, degree by degree, so the frog doesn't figure out what's happening until he's boiling and it's too late. Well, I am that frog."
3. On welcoming a new baby into the family. "I try to be a compassionate dad. I always sit our other children down and explain that the new baby does not mean we love them any less, but we will have to let one of them go."
4. On leaving the house. "It is probably easier to land a quadruple jump in ice-skating than to get my five children to depart our home in a timely manner. Everyone knows leaving anywhere with a large group is extremely difficult. I don't know how Moses did it. 'Does everyone have their shoes on? I wanted to leave Egypt for the Promised Land two days ago!'"
5. On going to church. "Kids are way too noisy for church, and everyone reminds you of that while your children are acting up by turning their head around to look at you. This in turn makes everyone else turn their head around to look at you. As if looking at you is somehow going to make your kids behave instead of just making you feel horrible. No matter how much talking or singing there is at church, kids always find that brief moment of silence to make a loud announcement. 'Michael did a poop in his diaper!'"
6. On finding the right babysitter. "In any small business, like parenting five children, it is necessary that you place the right people where their assets can be most useful in order to run a successful operation. Sometimes all the training a babysitter needs is having been a good mother herself. I don't care if some early childhood education grad student has taken twelve infant CPR classes, it will never replace the experience of a sitter who has raised her own well-adjusted children."
7. On bedtime. "With five little kids, there is no ending to bedtime. There is always one awake. Like they are taking shifts. I imagine they have scheduling meetings. 'All right, I'll annoy Dad from midnight to two. Who wants the three-to-six-a.m. shift? Now everyone lie down and practice kicking Dad in your sleep.'"
8. On sleep training vs. attachment parenting. "There are two philosophies when it comes to getting young children to sleep. There is 'sleep training,' which basically involves putting your kids to bed and listening to them scream all night, or there is 'attachment parenting,' which essentially involves lying down with your kids, cuddling them, and then listening to them scream all night."
9. On spilling drinks at the dinner table (this one is mostly for my mom and dad, who think it's so cute when one of my six kids does this). "A little kid spilling a drink at the dinner table is as reliable as the female lead falling down in a romantic comedy. It's inevitable. The moment you forget about it or think it won't happen, it happens. To be fair, one time our two-year-old went for an entire dinner without spilling her drink. She spilled mine instead."
10. On having a fifth kid. "All of a sudden, four kids seemed a lot more normal. We immediately started getting compared to people with absurd numbers of children. 'My great-great-aunt had sixteen kids.' Well, tell her I said hi. 'Are you trying to catch up with the Duggars?' Yes, we are. We only need fourteen more children and we will win!"
To the readers who are also parents of big families, you are all winners. Especially if you are able to see the humor in the big family life that God has given you.