“It's mostly just a matter of common sense,” Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry says of parenting. “Of course, I don't have any common sense, so ... don't ask me for any pearls of wisdom on parenting.”
Pearls of wisdom you might not find in Dave Barry's newest book You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About. You will find, however, little pearls of humor that'll make you chortle, chuckle, guffaw, laugh or perhaps even snort.
Barry, a celebrated humorist most known for his syndicated humor column for The Miami Herald that ran from 1983 to 2005, knows a little something about parenting though. He has a son and a daughter. He's also gone to a Justin Bieber concert. “Painful,” he said in a phone interview, forlornly, like he wishes he could go back and time and not go to a Bieber concert. Or, at least erase it from his memory. “I was about one of eight dads there. We’re all deaf now because of the shrieks. Oh … the shrieks.”
Oh, what parents do for their kids.
The differences he's noticed between his Bieber daughter (she's swiftly moved on from Bieber) and his son? “ER visits.” ER visits, it seems, are far greater in frequency with a boy than a girl. “He seemed to just keep falling out of trees. Broken bones. Teeth. Lots of blood.” His daughter, on the other hand, has “always been physically mature so no ER visits but try visiting a computer store with her looking for a particular cable I may need. Forget it!”
His son is older now. His daughter is now 14. But he still remembers those early days before the babies came. Barry didn't read any baby or birth manuals, he says, but he remembers the birthing classes. “Birth classes were sweeping the nation. All of us baby boomers wanting to learn about breathing and all that. I was just continually horrified that a human would be coming out of my wife. A human being inside my wife would be coming out of my wife.”
His new book highlights those human babies of his that have continued to grow. His daughter, he laments, is now popular among the boys in her school. “The problem I am facing now,” he writes," are boys, [who], biologically, are nothing more than short men. My daughter's school is infested with them. Lately they have taken to hanging around our house.”
“What really bothers me: Sometimes they get inside the house.”
He proposes in his book that he might carry a firearm to spook the boys. Also, trap them, humanely, and release them in the wilds of the Everglades unharmed.
Asked what would happen if someone picked up his book as a guide for parenting, Barry says, “If you picked up the book at an actual bookstore with actual money, nothing bad could happen. If you used this book as a guide for parenting, nothing good could happen.”
Barry is, of course, not the first humorist to write a parenting book. “If you're a humor writer the federal government comes by and requires you to write a parenting book,” Barry says. Jim Gaffigan recently wrote Dad is Fat. Bill Cosby wrote Fatherhood. Paul Reiser wrote Babyhood.
“You should buy my book over all the others," he says. "For one thing, I'll get money. If you buy Paul Reiser's book, he gets money. So buy my book. It's much fresher than those others since it just got published. It's made up with fresh new made up stupid advice. I'll also get money.”
“It just happens automatically,” Barry says when asked whether he embarrasses his daughter by simply being a parent. On the way to soccer, he drives his daughter and her girlfriends. “I don't speak. Heaven forbid I speak.” It’s loud in the car, Barry tells me. They’re all singing, on their phones chatting, chatting amongst themselves. At the same time. It's loud. A kangaroo could be driving the car and they wouldn't notice. Barry's completely ignored. An alien. “If I say something they stop for a split second” — as if something happened to their space time continuum — “and then they're right back at it without a word to me.”
At least, now that his kids are older, he doesn't have to worry about kid stuff like picky eaters. “If you give them no alternatives, they're bound to eat ... or else they'll die.” Or, kids television: “What hallucinogenic drugs were the creators of Teletubbies on?”
He can instead continue to write inane (that is to say, funny) books. Topics in his newest book include how to survive if you are lost in a forest and night is falling, Viagra, the use of adverbs, and pallbearers. That is to say his latest book often goes off in tangents. “Wait,” he asks, “do I ever NOT go on tangents?”
As for parenting, he'll keep doing it. He'll keep making mistakes. He'll keep embarrassing himself. But he'll do it all with love for his kids and family. He'll also be deaf. “Listening to Bieber is like some kind of compartment of hell.”
Oh, what parents will do for their kids.