Parenting blogger David Vienna has some simple advice for all the frazzled fathers and mothers out there: Chill out.
In his new book “Calm the F*ck Down: The only Parenting Technique You’ll Ever Need,” Vienna outlines a helpful yet humorous approach to coping with picky eating, potty accidents, temper tantrums and other disasters. The book, which features whimsical illustrations by Erica Salcedo Saiz, is being published by Venice, Calif., company Knock Knock, which specializes in gift products and books.
“Even the most prepared person is not prepared for parenthood. It’s such a unique experience. There’s no boot camp for it,” said Vienna, the father of 6-year-old fraternal twin boys Wyatt and Boone. “Just to know you’re not alone sometimes can be incredible helpful.”
A screenwriter, playwright and journalist who formerly worked for The Tribune and New Times, Vienna moved to San Luis Obispo in 2000. That’s where he met his future wife, actress and producer Larissa Collins.
Vienna and his family now divide their time between Pismo Beach and Valencia.
Local theatergoers may recognize Vienna’s byline from a trio of shows produced by San Luis Obispo Little Theatre: 2011’s “This is Rock and Roll! The Alan Freed Story,” 2012’s “My Generation” and 2013’s “Watergate (and Other Solid Gold Hits).” He also wrote the screenplay of the 2012 indie comedy “More Than Stars,” which was filmed in San Luis Obispo.
But Vienna is best known to moms and dads as the blogger behind The Daddy Complex, which he started after his sons were born.
“I was going crazy raising twin infants” as a stay-at-home dad, he said, while his wife went back to work. “I’m not kidding — I think I had the equivalent of a psychotic breakdown once or twice a week.”
When his father and his wife suggested writing about his experiences as a parent, Vienna decided to give blogging a try. “Over the course of a year and a half, I really found a rhythm,” he said.
Vienna said the inspiration for “Calm the F*ck Down” grew out of anger and frustration about the various trends trumpeted by parenting bloggers, writers and other experts.
“It was a reaction to all those parenting methods that get thrown at you,” he said, ranging from laid-back minimalist parenting to demanding Tiger Mother mommyhood. “You have this life in your hands and you’re terrified you’re going to screw it up, and people prey on that.”
In a June 2013 post on The Daddy Complex, he jokingly offered another alternative: “The CTFD Method.”
“Upset that your child doesn’t show interest in certain areas of learning? Calm the (expletive) down. Stressed that your child exhibits behavior in public you find embarrassing? Calm the (expletive) down.” he wrote in the tongue-in-cheek post. “Yes, using the CTFD method, you’ll find the pressure lifted and realize your child loves you no matter what, even if they’ve yet to master the alphabet.”
“The CTFD Method” quickly went viral, and Vienna’s agent suggested that he turn the blog post into a book in the vein of Adam Mansbach’s “Go the F*ck to Sleep.” (That bestselling book, published in 2007, proved so popular that it spawned two sequels: 2012’s “Seriously, Just Go to Sleep” and last year’s “You Have to F*cking Eat.”)
“Calm the F*ck Down” goes on sale online this month and will hit store shelves in March.
The 111-page volume is broken into eight sections, some focusing on age groups (“Infants and Newborns,” “Preschoolers”) and others dealing with more general areas of concern (“Behavior,” “Development,” “Parenting Skills and Styles”).
Within those sections, David confronts scenarios ranging from “My Baby’s Poop Shoots Out” to “My Toddler Bites Other Kids” to “My Preschooler Is Fascinated with Guns.” “I take that scenario, take it to the worst possible situation and (then) explain why it’s not going to happen and (say) ‘Don’t freak out,’” he explained, adding that basic common sense can help parents navigate most situations.
While writing “Calm the F*ck Down,” Vienna consulted with two professionals: Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross, who specializes in clinical psychology and organizational management, and Heather Harrison, assistant director of evidence-based practices at UCLA’s National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.
“It’s been vetted. I can wipe my hands of any blame,” he quipped.
Vienna doesn’t claim to be an expert himself, just a dad with plenty of experience changing diapers and bandaging boo-boos.
“If my kids are alive at the end of the day, (I know) I’m doing it right — or as close to right as I can be,” he said.