06.17.11

Happy F**king Father’s Day

Adam Mansbach, author of bestselling rage-filled picture book 'Go the F**k to Sleep,' talks to Tony Dokoupil about child-rearing, staying sober, and his Father’s Day plans. 

Among the many ways for Moms and Dads to feel guilty, there is now Go the F**k to Sleep, a potty-mouthed picture book, complete with cherubic toddlers, slumbering animals, and generously dropped F-bombs. Since going viral last month, the sweetly expletive-strewn narrative—“The cats nestle close to their kittens now / The lambs have laid down with the sheep / You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear/ Please go the f**k to sleep”—has turned novelist Adam Mansbach into a reluctant ringleader for Bad Dads everywhere. His message is mostly a relief. It’s a public admission that raising small children can be a horrible slog, and that the usual remedies—the watery bromides (“it won’t last forever”), the bad jokes (“you’ll know its toddler time when you’re ready to get a separate apartment”), the asinine suggestions like “go for a walk when it all gets too much”—are paltry compared to the problem of bending children to your will.

But who wants to admit that their own tots are little vampires too? Apparently, everyone: Go the F**k to Sleep debuted this week atop The New York Times advice book bestseller list, as well as atop Amazon’s sales ranking. Badass Motherf**ker Samuel L. Jackson has given voice to the audio book version. And Fox 2000 scooped up the film rights. So in time for Father’s Day, we sought out Mansbach in search of a little succor for newly minted, sleep-deprived parents, especially dads. He opens up about helicopter parents, the sometimes rage-filled response to his book, and how he stays sane. But be forewarned: Mansbach really, really likes to cuss.  

How is your daughter sleeping these days?


She’s 3 now, so we’ve turned a corner. But at the moment I’m not in the same city as my daughter, which is mostly a bad thing. I tend to miss her when she’s not around.


You’re not thinking, hey, I can get a drink tonight?

Yeah, there is that. Except I’m so f**king tired from doing interviews that all I want to do is pass out. When you suddenly find yourself fielding all these crazy media requests for a book you wrote in, you know, like two hours, all bets are kind of off. 



What do your own folks think about your book?

They’re thrilled with it. They think it’s hilarious. My mother is really the person I learned to curse from. She discourages me from saying that in interviews. But it’s true.

Are today’s parents more ambivalent about kids than their own parents ever were?

I don’t know. There is certainly more preciousness around kids now. We have eight million parenting blogs and websites and everyone thinks the world cares about their particular struggle or their recipe for creamed corn or whatever the f**k, you know? But I have tons of older people who are writing me and saying that their kids are thirtysomething now but they remember so clearly that this is what they went through.


You mean the same domestic sorrow?

Yeah. Now, to some degree, our parents' generation or our grandparents' generation didn’t coddle their kids as much, and really did let their kids cry themselves to sleep or just lock them in the barn or whatever, and didn’t go through this because they didn’t have time for that bullshit. And they were drunk. 


The only solution I have is to continue to laugh about it. I mean, it’s not that f**king serious.


So how have you remained so sober?

The thing is, this wasn’t something that ruined our lives. We had a kid. The kid was awesome. She didn’t fall asleep easily. We complained about it. We got frustrated. But we didn’t look for an out. We just accepted that this was part of parenting. 



Except you didn’t just accept it—you wrote a book about it, a book critics have labeled “the mainstreaming of vulgarity in American culture.”

If this is the secret monologue of millions of parents, then why shouldn’t they be allowed to talk about it?

So what advice do you have for the weeping father?


The only solution I have is to continue to laugh about it. I mean, it’s not that f**king serious. One of the things I’m getting is like this really crazy unmitigated level of rage. People who are like: “I got your sequel. It’s called I’m Going to Throw You Off a F**king Bridge. And I’m like, that’s not what I said, dude. I actually love my kid, like, get the f**k away from me.


Father’s Day plans?


I’ll actually be as far away from my daughter as possible, still being on the same continent.

Hey, that’s great. Lucky you.


I really do miss her.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)