Monday, April 30, 2007

Daddy Needs a Drink: Q&A with Robert Wilder

Robert Wilder, author of Daddy Needs a Drink, is akin to David Sedaris for the parenting set. His collection of essays, subtitled, “An Irreverent Look at Parenting From a Dad Who Truly Loves His Kids – Even When They’re Driving Him Nuts,” is light, honest and entertaining. And Wilder was kind enough to field some questions from me about the book, writing and dads:

Boston Mommy Blog: What prompted you to start writing essays about your two children, Poppy and London?

Robert Wilder, author of Daddy Needs a Drink: I’d been a writer and teacher for fifteen years here in New Mexico but I mostly wrote fiction. As I watched my kids grow, I saw dramatic things happen to them and me both internally and externally so I started jotting them down in my notebook. I thought that the stories I wrote would be for them when they grew up or maybe my dad but as I shared them with friends, I saw that others enjoyed them as much as I did or they were just being nice or drunk (or both).

Boston Mommy: You’re really honest about your parenting here. You wrote about your truly awful – though hilarious — experiences dressing up in costumes to please your children (as well as using said costumes to exact comedic revenge against a former pain in the neck student of yours). You dedicated a whole chapter to your son’s use of a colorful word and another on how you used to subject friends and family to your daughter’s singing and dancing routines. Were you ever concerned that people would criticize you or your choice of topics?

Wilder: I think if you choose to write about anything — lost love in Lapland or bodily fluids in Boise — you open yourself up to criticism. Part of being a writer is taking that risk so I suppose I was ready in a sense. My goal in writing the book was to try to accurately represent all the emotions (good, bad, and ugly) that go into being a parent. I think being a parent of young kids and a teacher of teenagers prepared fairly well more since I’m used to some sort of criticism on a daily basis. Mostly it’s about my haircut or bad fashion sense but my skin is pretty thick (and smooth because I just shaved).

Boston Mommy: Your chapter on traveling solo on an airplane with your children prompted this question: Do you think that fathers get more or less slack than moms when it comes to this parenting business? Why?

Wilder: I think we are attracted to the exotic. There are far more moms than dads out there being roadies for their kids so people notice more. We don’t gasp when we see a hamburger on a menu but we would if we saw braised horsemeat. I’m not saying that dads don’t work hard at being decent parents (I’m also not equating dads with horsemeat), but sometimes moms don’t get the respect they deserve because we’re accustomed to them in that role. That being said, I also think dads don’t get respect for things they do well like providing, barbecuing, and purchasing large flat panel televisions.

Boston Mommy: You were brutally funny about a friend’s pair of boys Mark and Mikey, one of whom you likened to a mini Telly Savalas. You spun tales of these two terrorizing other children, pooping on a slide in the middle of a backyard birthday party, running down kids with a motorized kid car and ransacking a sacred burial ground during a family vacation. Are their parents now your former friends, or did they find your pieces entertaining? Or do they not know about those essays?

Wilder: The family in that story are still our friends, and they see those tales as comic representations of that time in all of our lives. Let’s face it: some kids are wild enough to eat glass but that doesn’t mean they’re bad kids. My brother and I sent each other to the hospital more than once, and we’re both fairly decent citizens. I think a lot of parents look at their life and parenting as a work-in-progress and that’s okay. We’re all trying to do our best.

Boston Mommy: There was a dust-up earlier this year over a pair of “Today Show” segments about “cocktail playdates,” the name the news producers gave to gatherings where parents have an adult beverage while their children play. Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay," and Suburban Bliss blogger Melissa Summers were criticized for going on national television and admitting to imbibing alcohol in front of their children and while taking care of their children. Aside from the title, your book features a cocktail with a teddy bear stirrer and refers to beer as “12 ounces of liquid Prozac.”

What’s your take on the “Today Show” flap over parents and drinking? Do you think this was a tempest in a teapot?

Wilder: Even though we’re not related, Stefanie Wilder-Taylor represented Wilders well by looking great on television and making a funny joke that cracked the studio up. I think the whole issue is to be an adult about any of those issues whether it’s drinking around kids or letting your toddlers watch The Wiggles until their eyes glaze over. If you’re at home and not driving, it’s fine to have a beer outside with your kids as they play “Bratz in da White House” and you watch the sunset with your friends. Parents are under enough pressure without someone saying they can’t have a glass of wine around children. Does anyone tell dads not to dress up like football players on Sundays or use power tools around the kiddies? Hell no!

Boston Mommy: Anything else you wanted to mention?

Wilder: People can check out the “news” section of for more information on my “Daddy Needs Your Stories” Father’s Day contest or read the new ridiculous reading guide I wrote for the paperback version of Daddy Needs a Drink. Cheers!

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