Many parents have vague memories of their children’s early years, and some have a hard time remembering them anything from newborns and toddlers. But not me! I remember the summer when my daughter turned two and my son was born like it was yesterday. Every night I felt like I was preparing for battle. My husband would crouch on the living room couch so he could sneak out the door at 3am to text and host a called morning news show Way too early. Our toddler was segregated in a bedroom (whatever happens, don’t wake toddler).
I was nestled in the next room with a newborn suffering from colic, surrounded by a makeshift changing table, snacks, water, tank tops and spare one-piece suits. My mission: get enough sleep to face the morning and keep my eyes open long enough to keep everyone safe. Every night I felt like a failure.
To top it off, our growing baby needed the one crib we owned, forcing our two year old to switch to a toddler bed path too early. It was fun choosing a cute little mini bed with an Elmo duvet. Tucking my daughter in only to watch her jump right out and saunter into the kitchen just as we were about to open the sesame chicken delivery was a whole new bedtime nightmare. One frantic night, I remembered the progressive muscle relaxation technique I learned in a high school health and wellness class and began—beep! – turning off my toddler’s small body parts one by one.
A year later, still not sleeping through the night, I waved the white flag and took a break from corporate life after 15 years of writing for TV, PR, marketing and branding jobs. Suddenly, the creative energy I brought to work every day had nowhere to go. Bedtime in our apartment, hours at the playgrounds in New York City, and trips to preschool and baby gym classes grew into stories and characters that danced around in my head. When the kids were three and five years old and both in school five days a week, I decided to write them all down.
My books have all grown out of my “N of 1” experiences raising two little people in New York City and the challenges we faced at each developmental milestone.
Like children, each picture book has its own unique personality and DNA. Sure, to be commercially successful, your story must appeal to as many young readers, parents, teachers, and librarians as possible. But your inspiration has to come from you. Your story, like any invention, should fill a void in your own life. My books have all grown out of my “N of 1” experiences raising two little people in New York City and the challenges we faced at each developmental milestone.
The first manuscript I wrote Buddy’s bedtime battery, meets an exuberant, imaginative buddy looking at his new robotic jammies in the mirror, and follows him through a bedtime routine that picks him up where he is (in a three-year-old’s imaginary world, where he only answers Ro-Buddy ). and helps his very patient parents guide him through an age-appropriate process of “switching off” his body. I wrote this story because I needed this story. Has it always worked? Of course not. Did it help? Yes.
My second manuscript Sorry adults, you can’t go to school!, was triggered by the seemingly insane amount of time I put into emotionally preparing my kids for breakups, from preschool to music and gym classes. The summer my daughter turned three, it was a summer camp for toddlers near my in-laws’ beach house. Our propaganda campaign began weeks before the camp.
Everyone (even the dog!) begged to go to camp, was dramatically rebuffed and sobbed as we watched my daughter strut around the house adding essentials to her Dora backpack. On the first day of camp, the backpack weighed more than her and she walked out the door without a wave of goodbye. This technique became my favorite tactic for handling new situations and changing the drop-off dialogue from “Don’t be sad” to “Hey, why can’t I come?!”. This story was just missing from our library. So I wrote it.
In fact, in the fall of 2012, I wrote about ten manuscripts in a creative “sprint.” It took me two years to get an appointment with a publisher (thanks, Random House), and another two years before that Buddy’s bedtime battery was published. Another three years later Sorry adults, you can’t go to school!, debuted at number 4 The New York Times bestseller list. While exciting to be published and achieve commercial success, I honestly see my books as a golden ticket to spending time with imaginative little people across the country and freezing time while my own children grow bigger and bigger than me .
Fast forward to 2022. Our family moved and opened a new school last year. Even though my kids are all grown and getting through 9th and 6th grades, over the past year we’ve still experienced “all the feelings” as we said goodbye to best friends, started a new school, met new friends, and accept the unknown. my new book Buddy’s new buddy finds Buddy in the 2nd grade feeling a little lost after his best pal moves all the way through town. With the support of his always helpful big sister Lady, who knows a lot about these and other things, Buddy sets out in search of a new friend. All it takes is finding something they have in common. I wrote this manuscript in the fall of 2019 and could never have imagined how much we would need this message in 2022.
Somehow – Phew! – my toddler is now 15 and her little brother is 13. We welcome each new chapter as it comes and write the playbook as we progress. I’m happy to report that until they learn to drive I’ll be sleeping through the night like a baby.
Christina Geists Buddy’s new buddy is now available from Random House Books for Young Readers.