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How Can You Be A Children's Book Author, and Not Like Kids?!
I was having coffee with a new acquaintance, who is a single mom, and we were talking about children's books. She mentioned she was interested in writing children’s books, and I just so happen to teach people how to write children's books.
As we were talking, it came up that I am childless. She asked me why I didn't have any children, and when I planned on having some. I get this question a lot. My answer is always the same: never.
“I've never wanted to have kids. I don't really like kids.”
I’ll never forget the look on her face. I can’t forget it, because I always get the same series of faces when I say this to people. Rage followed by disgust. Imagine walking up to an animal rights activist and saying, “Baby seals suck. Club them all.” That’s the reaction I get every single time.
She looked me dead in the eye and said, “how can you write children's books and hate kids?”
I corrected her very quickly and said that I don’t hate kids. I have 13 nieces and nephews (true story), and I love them all.
I just don't like being around kids. They stress me out. I prefer child-free environments.
People often confuse my nurturing nature with “motherly nature”. It’s not the same. It’s different. I am a teacher, and this is often confused with being motherly even though I teach adults exclusively. Though, funnily enough, none of the male teachers in my life have ever been referred to as fatherly for being a good teacher… Curious.
She protested, “But if you don’t like kids, why do you write children’s books?”
I have a couple of reasons.
One - I've always wanted to write big, thick books. I want to write things that move people. I want to write fantasy, nonfiction, fiction. You name it, I want to write it. I just love to write, and in the beginning, writing a children's book was a quick win for me.
It didn't take a lot of words, and it took me a long time to write my first one, but after that, it was really simple, and it was a quick win for me. It’s proof positive that I can have an idea, write it, and publish it. I can do that, and the world will not explode.
The other reason is children's books literally shaped me into who I am.
I have a very clear memory - sight, smell, sound - of what it was like to go to the library at my elementary school, and look for the same books - Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney and The Ox Cart Man, which was illustrated by Barbara Cooney.
When I was in my early 30s after a lot of Googling, I purchased these books for myself. I had them delivered to my mother’s house. I sat at the kitchen table, opened the box, and cried.
These books were so powerful to me as a child, and upon rereading Miss Rumphius, I can see how that book completely molded my mind and my life. I flipped through the pages of Miss Rumphius remembering all the hope and adventure I felt as a kid.
This book shares the story of an adventurous, intelligent woman who lived a fascinating life and made the world more beautiful. She traveled alone, met interesting people, and left behind a legacy of beauty and knowledge.
It is no wonder I was the first member of my immediate family to travel by plane or go anywhere!
Children's books shape adults. Children's books are an opportunity to influence the world.
I told my coffee companion this, and I don't know if she’ll ever understand. It isn’t for everyone to understand us all the time.
You don’t have to be a parent or grandparent to write children’s books. You just need the desire to contribute to the future of humanity. That contribution may look like the sharing of joy through fart jokes or the introduction to critical thinking through philosophy.
I do not have children, and I don’t want any of my own. I do, however, want to inspire future generations to be curious and be excellent to each other, so I write children’s books.