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'Someone Could Get Hurt': Q&A with Drew Magary

By Kat Kinsman, CNN
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Mon July 8, 2013
Having a child almost die has made
Having a child almost die has made "Someone Could Get Hurt" writer Drew Magary far less cynical, he admits.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Drew Magary is known for his rants as a contributor for Deadspin and GQ
  • Magary has written a parenthood memoir called "Someone Could Get Hurt"
  • He says he's matured and calmed down in the course of becoming a father

(CNN) -- Drew Magary is an angry guy -- or at least he plays one on the Internet. The Deadspin, Gawker and GQ contributor and sci-fi author has amassed a large, rabid fan base for his sharp, smart, acidic rants on subjects ranging from the coaching abilities of Bill Belichick and the uselessness of scab referees to his hatred of scarves and the punchability of Justin Bieber's face. He's got opinions.

But all that ire and energy were of little use as Magary and his wife watched their prematurely born child cling to life in a neonatal intensive care unit as a result of a condition known as intestinal malrotation. Luckily, the youngest Magary survived, and the ordeal inspired the father of three to share his parenting experiences in a new memoir, "Someone Could Get Hurt."

CNN spoke with Magary about the peaks and pitfalls of being a dad in an often dangerous world. An edited transcript is below:

CNN: There are a lot of dad stereotypes out there, from doofus to "Father Knows Best." Do they have any impact on you?

Drew Magary: They suck. Dad is clueless, bumbling and useless, or he's a hippie who's trying to breast-feed his kid. That can dictate behavior that you think you're expected to live up to.

CNN: Fear is a prevalent theme in the book. What's the difference in the fear you felt before and after you had your kids?

Magary: Every guy thinks, "The kid is here, life's not going to be fun anymore." There's a dread of not having the world revolve around you. I'm over that, and I'm more than happy to be a lameass who goes to bed by 9 every night.

Once you have kids, you have all kinds of other fears: the kid getting hurt, or worse. You fear that everyone is watching you fail -- that there will not be another human being at the playground who is a worse parent than you are. It's all very self-inflicted and self-involved.

I get too concerned with looking like I'm doing a good job rather than parenting well. You have to get past that layer of self-analysis, and that's very hard in this day and age.

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CNN: How do you think the Internet has affected how people parent?

Magary: Your mistakes, admissions and fears are much more public. In that way, it's very good because there's more information for you to draw on and parents to commiserate with. It's really important for parents to have an outlet.

Every time I've gotten advice on parenting, it might not have worked, but at least I felt more secure, not completely helpless.

The downside is that people are d****. On certain mom forums, people are very supportive -- you present a problem and people will rush in with answers. But then there's a news story about a mom giving her kid a vegan diet, and it's 300 comments about "You're a horrible person." It's all amplified: The judgment and the support are more out in the open.

CNN: What did your own dad teach you about fatherhood?

Magary: He's a good dad, but he's a different kind of dad. I always expect things to work out for me the same way they worked out for him. When I'm not as effective as he was, I get really pissed off and frustrated, and I feel like I'm failing him.

CNN: Are you having parenting discussions with your friends who are fathers?

Magary: No. When moms get together, they'll talk shop a lot. Guys just would rather talk about anything else -- sports or something. There really isn't as much help or sounding boards for dads. There's no one who is like, "Hey, come here, I'll help out."

Guys won't sit down and open a handbook; you get it all from the mom. She'll read something or make you read it (and you read half of it). The other useful person is the pediatrician. Still, you can ask if your kid is barfing too much, but you can't really ask, "How do I get my kid to listen?"

Modern fathers face new expectations

CNN: In the book, you shared a story of getting so frustrated with your daughter, you worried about what you might do. What did you take away from that?

Magary: I reacted poorly. You feel so awful for being angry at your kid, and you can see the precipice that you're on. Down one avenue there's a nice relationship where you're mutually respectful of each other, and down the other is abuse or just antagonism all day long. It's terrifying to see that and visualize a future where the fighting never ends. I'm getting better at it.

CNN: Is it hard to let your kids have free rein to screw up?

Magary: I was allowed to go outside unsupervised when I was 8 or 9 and explore the way you're supposed (to). It's good parenting to let kids figure out things on their own.

But it's more difficult now because the world is more dangerous. The Internet has lots of terrible s*** on it. My neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks, so it's not amenable to walking. There's Lyme disease in the backyard. It's not the safe meadow it used to be, so that makes it a little bit of push and pull.

CNN: You're known in your writing for having very strong opinions about how things should be. Do you set that perfectionism aside at home?

Magary: I do a pretty good job in real life about not having huge expectations of my kids going to X school, having X job or making X amount of money. That's very old-fashioned, and it's going away.

The things kids say and do are unlike anything you'd think of, and that's the fun of being a parent. When it's not fun is when they're acting in a way that presents a problem you don't know how to solve. They're screaming their heads off for three hours, and you have this fear that they'll keep screaming forever.

You're trying to get your kid to the bus stop, and really, they don't have to go if they don't want to. What are you gonna do about it? That's a terrifying thing to realize -- that only they have the control over what they're going to do, and you just have to try to guide them in the right direction. That's the difference between being a good parent and a helicopter parent.

CNN: How do you pick yourself back up from a bad parenting day?

Magary: I have a glass of wine and go to bed. When my wife and I know the day is going badly, we'll just cut our losses, go to bed at 8 and wake up with a fresh slate. It usually works. You don't usually get two bad days in a row. Of course, all the parents of teenagers tell me it gets worse. They all look shellshocked; it's terrible.

CNN: When you were a teenager, did you think that manhood included being a dad?

Magary: No, I was like any other guy, "I'll get married when I'm 50 and I'm gonna make movies and snort cocaine. ..." All guys are like that, and then they undoucheify.

A lot of what we do at Deadspin is debunking the bro thing. Men should get more credit than that. When guys write to me, they have fears and hopes and imaginations. They're a lot more interesting psychologically than just being douche bags who want to go clubbing.

CNN: Did you have a moment when you saw that transformation in yourself?

Magary: Probably when my third kid almost died. I was more grateful for existence -- I wasn't quite the cynical ass I'd always been, and that's permanently the case now.

CNN: What did facing that teach you about the kind of man and father you want to be?

Magary: You can have kids and not fundamentally change -- you just get to do more stuff. People say they change your life, but you're still pretty much the same person, but walking around grumpy because you don't get any sleep.

I'll still get frustrated with my kid when he's crying his ass off, but I'm happy he's here. I have a fundamental understanding of how ridiculous it is to be annoyed at him -- because I'm happy he's not dead.

I tell my kids I love them every day. I hug them and kiss them and all that, probably more than they want. I'm not the stoic dad, where you're fighting for 50 years to hear your dad say, "I love you" once.

CNN: What advice would you give to a first-time dad?

Magary: Know when to walk away. Not from parenting, of course, but from meltdowns and conflicts. It's not worth it.

Follow Kat Kinsman on Twitter and Google Plus and CNN Living on Facebook.

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