Interview with Dr. Lara Zibner – If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay

Fatherville: What motivated you to write If Your Kid Eats This Book…? In other words tell us a little bit about the vision behind the book.

Dr. Lara Zibners: This book is an expression of years of frustration over parents rushing to the ER, frantic about something that was actually quite insignificant. While I am always happy to reassure, it can be exhausting to try and care for the truly sick or injured when the waiting room is jam packed with kids, most of whom are just fine. Not to mention how sorry I felt for both the parents and kids who had lost sleep and suffered unnecessary stress. The actual idea to put my knowledge into words, however, came from my husband, after countless dinner parties that devolved into discussions about the truth and myths about illness and injury (and what is just normal) in kids.

Fatherville: How long did it take to write this book?

Dr. Lara Zibners: I was given a year to deliver the manuscript after signing with my publisher. I managed a steady procrastination ratio of approximately 3 weeks of “thinking” to every 3-5 days of writing. But when I actually sat down (after buying a new desk chair, cleaning the house, sorting my closet), I was putting out thousands of words at a time. It was like hitting a playback button in my brain of every conversation I’ve ever had in the ER.

Fatherville: How did you decide on the title for the book? I mean why that name?

Dr. Lara Zibners: If I remember, the title came from a late night conversation with some friends and colleagues. It probably started with variations of horrid sounding emergencies that weren’t a big deal, such as “If Your Kid Takes a Swig of Bleach,” of “If Your Kid Has a Fever of 104,” and finally I hit on even eating the book isn’t a big deal. Once I found the name, it stuck and I never looked back. The whole point of the book is to remind parents that most of what they think is a big deal, really isn’t, including eating a few pieces of paper.

Fatherville: Is your book only for parents of newborns? Who is the target audience?

Dr. Lara Zibners: The book is mostly aimed at parents of smaller kids (under 5), although much of the information can be applied to older children as well. I included a separate chapter on the newborn because the fresh ones are their own little species. The rules about fever, vomiting, dehydration and falls are slightly different than those for their older counterparts. Plus, I wanted a chapter where we could just go head to toe over a new baby, since it’s not uncommon that a sleep deprived parent “suddenly” finds something “new” on the infant at 2 o’clock in the morning. For the rest of the book, whenever the situation changes based on the age of the child, I made note of that.

Fatherville: In your opinion what are some of the biggest challenges that parents face today?

Dr. Lara Zibners: Preserving their kid’s innocence. Keeping kids from growing up too fast. Parents closing their ears to the individuals in the world dispensing utter nonsense via the internet. I know a lot of parents who are having trouble defending their decision to listen to their pediatrician as opposed to jumping on whatever anti-medical establishment bandwagon is driving through. There is so much false information out there, especially in the internet, that it is difficult for parents to be able to tell legitimate fact from quackery. Parent’s should feel free to question their pediatrician and bring up new ideas but also stop to listen to what he advises.

Fatherville: As you think back over the writing process what was the biggest surprise? What was something you never anticipated in the writing process?

Dr. Lara Zibners: The biggest surprise was simply the whole process. When I conceived of this idea, I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t know I needed an agent or how to write a proposal. I didn’t know that most nonfiction books are written after, not before, a publisher agrees to a deal. This has been a great adventure and I have learned so much about a world that I didn’t understand at all before I entered it.

Fatherville: Who were your childhood heroes?

Dr. Lara Zibners: I still have a crush on Donny Osmond. I wrote my 5th grade career report on becoming a comedian and pasted the cover with pictures of Rich Little and Bob Hope. My dad is a doctor and while I always admired him, there was no way I was going to follow in his footsteps!

Fatherville: Who are your heroes today?

Dr. Lara Zibners: My parents, who are now great friends and who I think did an excellent job of raising all 3 of us and who make supporting us without judgment a priority. My husband for having achieved the things in life he has through sheer planning and determination. Many of my teachers and colleagues who seem to work harder than I ever could. Anyone who stands up against adversity and finds a way to make their life a success, in whatever way success is defined to him or her.

Fatherville: Dr. Lara, would you say you are living your dream? Even though you are a doctor by profession did you always want to be an writer? Are you planning other books?

Dr. Lara Zibners: I would say this feels like a dream, although I wouldn’t say I always knew it would end up like this. I always liked writing but preferred science because fact was fact. If I messed up on a math test, I could understand what I’d done wrong. But if I got a “B” in English, I took it personally. Now I’m older and have enough accomplishments behind me that I can approach writing as a scientist and (hopefully!) use my humor and writing skills to explain medicine to the non-medical. I am so grateful that writing has given me a way to use my medical knowledge and possibly help kids even when I’m not able to work in the ER on a regular basis. This has been such a wonderful experience and I can definitely say that there are ideas for future books rattling around in my head, especially given the flexibility and control over my own schedule that writing gives to me.

Fatherville: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Your passions, hobbies, goals for the future.

Dr. Lara Zibners: I left my full-time clinical job in 2006 to follow my now-husband to the United Kingdom, which was a complete leap of faith. But it worked out and we’ve been married over 2 years. Food and cooking are our passion, as is travel and we try to combine these hobbies whenever possible. Currently our most pressing goal is having a family. After over 2 years of struggling with infertility, we have thrown ourselves completely into the game, working with both an adoption lawyer and a surrogacy agency simultaneously. If everything goes as planned, we will be parents by the end of the year. Anyone who has struggled with infertility knows that it can take over every aspect of your life, so we’re just waiting until we come out the other side to see what else life brings us.