Author Norine Dworkin-McDaniel has parenting down to a science– a funny science. From her own experience and that of others comes Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, a book that highlights the moments that just about any parent can relate to. Dworkin-McDaniel spoke to PLAYGROUND Magazine about the book ahead of her live reading at Orlando Science Center on November 7th (more info on that below!) Here is what she had to say about her work:
PLAYGROUND: What sparked the idea for Science of Parenthood?
Dworkin-McDaniel: That was actually my son Fletcher. He’s 10 now and in middle school, but when he was in second grade, he came home from school talking about one of Newton’s laws of force and motion. As he explained over dinner that An object at rest stays at rest unless acted on by an external force, that instantly made me think about him with his video games. He’d sit on the couch and play Minecraft all day if I let him. I quickly jotted down, Newton’s First Law of Parenting: A child at rest will remain at rest until you want your iPad back. A little while later I posted that on Facebook. It got a good laugh from my friends, so I started posting other parenting “observations,” giving them a math or science twist, like Sleep Geometry Theorem: A child will always sleep perpendicular to any adult sleeping next to them.
Friends were telling me that they really liked the posts. But I knew that these “observations” would be even more fun if they were illustrated. At the same time, I was dialing back my magazine writing and looking for something else to do. I called my friend Jessica Ziegler in Denver and asked if she wanted to illustrate a book of these science-y observations. Now when Jessica tells this story, she says she spent much of that phone call trying to figure out how to say No way because it sounded like a lot of free work and no actual money. But as we talked, she says, she could see the cartoons in her head. And by the end of the call, not only was she was all in, but she’d secured our URL, our Facebook page and Twitter account. In fact, it was Jessica’s idea to start a blog and Facebook page first, and then come out with a book. Which is exactly what we did. We developed our material and built an audience for our humor on our blog and Facebook page. And four years later, here we are. And we’ve been blown away by the response. We love it when people see one of our cartoons or read one of our satires, and say, “Are you in my house? Because that just happened to me!”
P: Who is this book written for?
D: Parents: Expecting parents. New parents. Veteran parents. Step-parents. Single parents. Grandparents. Our humor really resonates with parents of every stripe. If you’ve ever changed a sodden diaper or despaired of ever sleeping, showering or digging your living room out from layers of plastic toys again, you’ll find a lot to laugh about in our book. It’s also great for teens. Research shows our book is 99% effective as a contraceptive.
P: This is not your average parenting manual. How is Science of Parenthood unique?
D: We didn’t actually set out to write a parenting how-to manual. We set out to write a book that would make parents laugh, but in the process we created what several reviewers described as one of the most honest parenting guides out there.
Our humor lives in the pretty sizable gap between what our expectations about parenting are (think about those lovely Pampers commercials) … and the brutal, smack-you-in-the-face reality that parenting actually is. But what makes our book, our humor, unique is our spin — we use math and science concepts to “explain” the ridiculous situations otherwise capable adults find themselves in as a result of having kids. And, like our blog, our book is heavily illustrated. Interspersed with the writing are our trademark cartoons along with flowcharts, pie charts, Venn diagrams, crazy-looking algebraic equations that calculate things like when you’ll get your grownup social life back and bar graphs. My favorite graph is the Beverage-To-TV Index that illustrates how much booze it takes to get through various preschool TV shows and movies. For instance, you can get through anything by Pixar with a glass of water. But by the time you’re watching Caillou, you’re pounding tequila shots.
P: How is the book laid out?
D: We had so much fun with this. The book is laid out like a snarky textbook of sorts. We have four sections, representing the core sciences — biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics — and within each section we cover the parenting topics that appropriate for that particular science. So, in our Biology section, for instance, we’ve got satirical pieces on the “evolution” of Mom’s Sex Drive and the “classification” of different types of moms while in our Physics section, we’ve got humor on explosive toddler tantrums and our Math section is filled with humor about all the money parents spend on kids. One of the nice things about the book — and this was absolutely intentional — is that it’s filled with quick reads, quick hits of humor, that you can pick up and put down and not have to worry about reading in order. We know moms and dads don’t have a lot of time for themselves. Everything can be read in the time it takes to quickly pee, before the kids come banging on the bathroom door.
P: What do you want readers to take away from Science of Parenthood?
D: Look, we love our kids, we love being moms. Parenting can be wondrous and exciting and delightful and awe-inspiring. But it also comes with graduate level frustration and hefty doses of public humiliation. One of my son’s favorite stories about when he was a baby happened when he was about 9 months old, and I was trying to make like I had it all together as a new mom while we were in California for a cousin’s wedding. We’d gone down to the pool at the hotel, and I had him in a swim diaper to take him in the pool. That’s when I discovered that swim diapers are not absorbent — at all. I went to lift him out of the stroller and he was sitting in a puddle of pee. Then when I went to change his diaper, he peed all over me, spraying like a firehose. I was waving my arms, trying to block the spray. All around me, my cousins are dying, they think this is so funny. At the time, I did not. But now, it’s a hilarious story, one that my son loves to hear and I love to tell.
They say comedy is tragedy plus time. For parents, I’d change that to comedy is humiliation plus time. So why does this matter? Because there’s a lot of anxiety for this generation of parents. Parents are afraid that they’re doing it all wrong, that they’re screwing up their kids and, at least for moms, we hear a lot of anxiety that everyone else has it all figured out while they are failing miserably. And it’s just not so. Some days we all have it figured out. And some days we all are failing miserably. But we’re none of us alone. We’re all going through the same things and we have the same self-doubts and fears and frustrations. When we can share those things, parenting becomes less daunting. Every parent is pretty much in the same boat, and knowing that can help us take some of the stress off ourselves. And being able to find the humor in the frustration makes it a lot easier to get through. We have a cartoon in the book called Toxic Shock Syndrome: A parents psychological state on discovering that her tot has gotten his diaper off and smeared the walls, crib, bedding and himself with poop. That actually happened to me — twice. In one day. In the moment, it was an absolutely disgusting mess. Now, I can riff on my son’s “artistry.” “Look at those bold strokes! We call this his Brown Period,” I say when I’m reading. It always gets the biggest laughs.
See a live reading of Science of Parenthood!
- When: November 7th, 6 p.m.
- Where: Orlando Science Center – Digital Adventure Theater
777 E. Princeton Street, Orlando
- What: Live reading of Science of Parenthood with co-author Norine Dworkin-McDaniel.
- Event is open only to Science Center members. Not a member? Click Here for info.
About the Author:
Longtime freelance writer turned “parenting snarkologist,” Norine Dworkin-McDaniel has written for just about every women’s magazine you can buy at the newsstand. She is co-creator of the blog Science of Parenthood and co-author of Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations (She Writes Press), winner of the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Gold Benjamin Franklin Award for Parenting & Family and Foreword Reviews’ Silver IndieFab Award for Humor. Named one of TODAYParents Funniest Parents of the Year, Norine’s humor is routinely featured on Huffington Post as well as on Upworthy, Bored Panda, POPSUGARMoms and RedbookMag.com. She’s a contributor to several humor anthologies, including Have Milk, Will Travel: Adventures In Breastfeeding (Demeter Press). She lives in Winter Garden with her husband and son. Follow her on Science of Parenthood, Facebook and Twitter.