Imagine walking into a room – and realizing your toddler has escaped out the front door and is now in the parking lot of the church across the street. All parents can relate to real stories of kids' mishaps. And while you were probably in panic mode during at the time, now? It's pretty funny.
Jon Ziegler knows this well. And, in his humorous self-published book The How-Not-To Guide to Parenting and Marriage, this tree-trimmer/pole-climber and dad of two teen girls from Davison (near Flint) offers 207 pages of sidesplitting anecdotes. And, in this Q&A with Metro Parent, he offers his fatherly two cents on a variety of topics.
Most of the stories were pages right out of Ziegler's own life – just exaggerated a tad for comedic purposes. "The book is intended for parents and spouses, (highlighting) times to be serious and times to laugh about some of the things that go wrong," he says. Readers seem to relate with his stories, as the book earned 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon from some 28 reviewers (as of this story's web publishing).
Who is this guy?
Jon Ziegler is the "average American dad." A born and raised Michigander, Zeigler lives in Davison with his wife and daughters (ages 15 and 17), a rescued Greyhound and two cats. During the day, he works as a tree trimmer and pole climber, which his daughters really like. "I think that they think it's pretty neat," he says. "The youngest one wants to put on the climbing gear and climb up a tree."
Ziegler knew that he was a funny guy. Over the years, he was told that he would make a good stand-up comedian, but felt that he couldn't memorize a stand-up routine. So instead he started a blog, which was the starting point for his book.
The publishing process
Most parents barely have time to read a book, let alone time write one – but after going through shoulder surgery, Ziegler found that he had plenty of time to kill. He chose to self-publish through the CreateSpace. "The hardest part is the learning curve," he says. "And making my own book cover!"
After spending 19 years hitched, a guy tends to gather up a bag tricks and tips to keep things relatively happy and strong. Marriages, Ziegler says, are a lot of give and take. "When both parties give more than they take, they will end up finding their stride." For younger couples, he recommends not worrying about little annoyances – because they will never go away.
On good parenting
"No parent is perfect," Ziegler says. "Kids are aware of their parent's faults. If you try to look like a perfect parent, you look like a sham. Stay in tune to your faults." Every parent will lose his temper with his kids or minimize something important to them. When that happens, he says, apologize. "I try to maintain my role as a parent and let them know that I acted out of line," he says.
On bad parenting
Ziegler describes himself as laid-back parent who's no stickler. "I have always been one that tries to not put too many rules on anything," he says. While his kids have some, of course, he has found too many usually backfires. His choice? Communication. "Whenever possible, I would prefer to reason out things with my girls and teach them how to make good decisions," he says, "instead of just falling back on rules all the time."
What his kids have taught him
Parenting is a two-way street. Yes, you're going to teach your kids a lot – but they are going to teach you too. Including the innocence and wonder that people tend to lose as they age. "Once you get into the adult world, you start worrying about the mortgage and bills. Having kids, especially when they're younger, and watching them experience the world brings me back to being a kid."
Father's Day gifting
We threw out the classic conundrum to Ziegler. What's this dad suggest? Well, it isn't ties. Since his children are now teenagers, he says, they are always running off somewhere – so time together tops his list. "I would like a dinner out as a family," he says, "and maybe a movie."
Check out Ziegler's book(s)
You can pick up The How-Not-To Guide to Parenting and Marriage on Amazon for $8.99 in paperback or $3.99 for the Kindle. A second book, which shares the same title as the first, is in the works and is expected to hit Amazon sometime in June 2014 (about $10 and $6).