Orlando Science Center is so excited to host “parenting snarkologist” Norine Dworkin-McDaniel, the award-winning writer behind the humor site Science of Parenthood, at our first-ever Parent’s Night Out that we had to sit down with Norine ahead of the event to talk about parenting, science and why humor is an essential survival tool.
For those who may not have found you on the web, what’s Science of Parenthood all about?
We are all about making parents laugh, because honestly, we can’t think of anyone who needs to laugh more. Jessica Ziegler and I started Science of Parenthood about four years ago as a humor blog wherein we use real math and science concepts and twist them around to “explain” the stuff that puzzles parents every day. Things like…
Why do kids grow up so fast, but Candy Land drags on so s-l-o-w-l-y?
Why do kids sleep perpendicular to any adult sleeping next to them?
Why are broken cookies “ruined?” Or cheese sticks opened “all the way” inedible?
How can kids not hear commands to clean up their toys, but able to hear the ice cream truck five miles away?
Our humor lives in the space (or chasm) that exists between our collective hopes and expectations of what parenting will be like … and the brutal reality of what parenting actually is. After your tot has gotten the top off a jar of Vaseline and smeared every surface within reach—which happened to my friend Gail—or tried to “help” paint a room and ended up covered, head to toe, in blue paint–which happened to my sister Shari—you have to laugh. You have to. Or else you’ll end up sobbing, wearing one of those fancy white jackets that buckles up in the back. Humor is absolutely a parental survival tool. Laughing keeps you sane.
So, where did the idea for Science of Parenthood come from?
That was actually my son Fletcher. He’s 10 now, 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 response, so I started posting other parenting “observations” and 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 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 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 before long she was all in. 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 ended up doing. We developed our material and built an audience for our humor on our blog. 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!”
Is any of the book autobiographical?
I always say that the reason writers is have kids is so that we’ll never run out of material. And I think the reason fans tell us that we really nail the parenting experience is because we’re waist-deep in the parenting trenches just like everyone else. So, yes, the book definitely reflects our experiences as parents. Take the piece “Experimental Gastronomy: A Study in Potatoes” from the Chemistry section. It’s written like a scientific paper about an experiment in which a researcher tries to determine if a preschooler who likes French fries will eat mashed potatoes. The piece is 100 percent based on my own struggle to get Fletcher to take even a single bite of mashed potatoes when he was 5. The kid will eat eel. But to this day, it’s no go on the mashed potatoes.
Why science? Are either of you scientists?
Actually, no. Neither of us are scientists. We’re moms dealing with the same kind of crazy-making stuff other parents are. Science just makes a particularly good metaphor for telling these universal stories about parenting. Like scientists, we parents are always searching for answers, wondering if we’re on the right track, second-guessing our methods, dealing with blowback from our peers and unlikely to be appreciated for our work till we’re old, gray and possibly dead.
For even more parenting fun, please join us at 6:00 p.m. on November 7 for a special evening with Science of Parenthood’s Norine Dworkin-McDaniel. The self-styled parenting “snarkologist” will do a reading followed by a Q&A and book signing.
To attend, RSVP to Member Relations at 407.514.2158 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited so RSVP today!
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