So I have this annoying friend.
He’s also ambitious and prolific. Which is what makes him so annoying. He’s constantly writing and drawing and illustrating and just generally striving, mostly in between mind-numbing meetings at his high-powered job. All that’s on top of living with two kids and what simply has to be a really understanding wife. Like, supernaturally understanding.
This Renaissance man’s name is Joel Bernard, and he recently completed one of his many projects! It’s a children’s book he wrote and illustrated himself. This endeavor took two years, and if the following post is to be believed, a fair amount of hand-wringing. But he did it, and he’s just now starting to put it out there into the world.
He’s written a guest post (he somehow doesn’t have a blog of his own) about this new book, why he wrote it, and why he’s so annoying and stuff. Check it out; not only is his post funny and probably meaningful (I haven’t actually read it), there’s a chance for you to win a signed, hardcover copy of his new book at the end!
The Irrational Fears of Children (and Men)
by Joel Bernard
My daughter sure acts tough for a kid who’s afraid of “Air Bud”.
Kids have many irrational fears. But don’t we all?
For the first 3 months of my daughter Claire’s life, I can barely recall a time when she wasn’t crying. My wife and I huddled together in the doctor’s office, rocking back and forth like escaped mental patients with sleepless, crazed looks on our faces. Through breastmilk-curdling screams, we barely managed to make out the doctor saying with confidence, “Ohhhh she just has colic.” OH GOOD, we thought. She’s been diagnosed. This will all be taken care of. A quick prescription and we’ll be on our way. Little did we know that “colic” basically means, “Yeah we’re not sure, good luck with that.” Incurable crying. How is that even a diagnosis?
My theory is that babies with colic are just scared. Think about it relatively: being a baby is like an adult being carried around by a 30 foot tall, 5,500 pound, 900 year old giant speaking in tongues. Of course she cried. She spent 9 months not even having to breathe, and now some ogre is forcing her to flail around on the carpet like a dying fish for a pediatrician-mandated torture session called “Tummy Time”. So yeah, I’d be scared too. All these giants passing me around. Robotic swings. Purple dinosaurs. Objects popping in and out of existence. Being immobilized in what is essentially a roofless cage while the giants taunt you with jiggling car keys. And the nursery rhymes, oh the nursery rhymes! The London Bridge has been destroyed and Rock-a-bye babies are falling from trees, cradles and all? Horrifying.
The first time we sat Claire on the lawn she screamed in terror. She was afraid of grass. AFRAID… OF GRASS.
So yeah, my daughter was a bit skittish. But as she grew, she became the most outgoing kid I’ve ever seen. Before she was 2 she told her daycare teacher, “I’m constipated. I need stool softener.” One day when filing a prescription, the pharmacist saw us coming and ran in the back. She said, “Hey everyone! Come quick! It’s the talking baby!” By 3 she was carrying on conversations like a 30-year-old and interviewing for the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Kids have many irrational fears. When my daughter tells me she’s scared, my default response is, “Statistically, you should be more afraid of texting and driving,” which doesn’t work quite as well as you’d think.
Claire is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. But like most kids, she is afraid of the dark. Such a funny thing to be afraid of, the dark. The dark itself isn’t threatening. Dark is only the absence of light. The unknown. A mystery. An anti-thing. I think those who are most afraid of the dark are those with the best imaginations. Those with an ability to create fear out of something that isn’t really there.
Kids have many irrational fears. Adults are no different. The silly fears of monsters and the dark eventually give way to sillier fears of not fitting in or not being accepted, and those fears transform into still sillier fears of recessions and layoffs, receding dreams and receding hairlines, rejection and loneliness.
Inspired by this concept, I did what any well-adjusted 30-something father does: I wrote a children’s book featuring my daughter as a main character. I’m only slightly afraid I may be creating the antagonist from Gone Girl.
Kids have many irrational fears. I’m no different. Creating a children’s book? But how? I can’t draw. 2 years of daily practice later, I now arguably pass as an average illustrator.
But writing a book? What if no one reads it?
Mike from DadandBuried.com (Editor’s note: That’s me!) asked me, “What gives you the hubris to think anyone would want to read something you’ve written?” (Editor’s note: I’m a nice person and a supportive friend.)
My response, “You’ve tapped into my deepest sub-conscious and unearthed that which frightens me the most. You’ve asked the question that reverberates through my mind at night when I can’t sleep or in the morning when I don’t feel like rising. This question is the antithesis of motivation, joy, and fulfillment. If answered truthfully, it logically leads to the quantification of the tangible amount of finite time and energy I’ve wasted. Thanks for stopping by, Mike!”
My biggest fear as a writer? To be boring and uninteresting. To fall flat. To fail. My biggest fear as a parent? To not live up to the aspirations I set out for my children.
But if I’m going to write a book teaching kids to be brave and face their fears, then I need to do the same. Here goes nothing. Hit the light-switch. Let’s do this.
Win a copy of Claire and the Beast below!