I never studied (or learned, according to my wife) basic child-rearing skills. It’s just as well; she’s outstanding at it. We have three amazing children as evidence. But, being a man I am cursed with the hubris to think I can contribute from time to time, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
So, when my 12-year-old daughter seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with fairy tales, how did I handle it? I decided to write a tween fantasy novel about a girl who sees faeries everywhere using my daughter as inspiration, and invited her to be my co-author. See? This parenting thing ain’t so hard.
I think I may have sailed off the map, here.
Let me tell you, there are no How to Write a Semi-autobiographical Urban Fantasy Novel Using Your Own Family as a Model, for Dummies books out there. I’ve been told, “Write what you know.” Check. I’ve also heard, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Can’t argue with that; if I wrote about my actual family … well, I’m not sure there’s a section for that in the book store.
That’s okay. I still had a lot of left over hubris to convince myself I could create an amusing fictional family with all of the wonderful quirks and qualities of my real family, that would be just right for a middle grade audience. And the characters just came alive on the page — practically wrote themselves — because I already knew them so well. I felt like a freaking parenting genius.
I realized my navigational error about the time the typhoon hit. My daughter read the first draft of chapter one.
How to Alienate Your Family For Fun and Profit doesn’t say how to explain that the quirky girl in the story is only based on your daughter — she isn’t what you think of your daughter. I wasn’t prepared for the tears.
But I think I managed some actual parenting, somehow. After a long talk in which I told her how beautiful and smart and talented I knew her to be, the two of us made it out of the storm and back in sight of dry land.
Our book is going to be great. Even if it doesn’t sell, my daughter loves the story and her fictional twin, now. And we’ve bonded in a way that is special and magical and totally our own. Plus I’m now clear why I should leave most of the parenting to my loving and infinitely more savvy wife.
I should probably tell her that before she reads our book.