Queen's University

Licking the minivan, and other toddler sports

If you're a parent, Calgary teacher-turned-humourist Leanne Shirtliffe has written just the book for you.

Suppose one winter day you caught your four-year-old in a full lip-lock with the side of your frosty, mud-splattered, slush-drenched, salt-encrusted car. What would you say to him or her?

“For crying out loud … don’t lick the minivan. Your tongue could fall off.”

Your child would likely turn and stare at you like you’d just grown a second head. And a moment later you’d probably ask yourself, “Did I just say that?”

In so doing, you just channeled your inner Ironic Mom.

Leanne ShirtliffeCalgary homourist Leanne Shirtliffe

The real-life Ironic Mom, also known as Queen’s grad Leanne Shirtliffe Artsci’93, Ed’94, mother of twins and a high school English teacher in Calgary, has just published her first book, which is aptly titled Don’t Lick the Minivan and Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to My Kids (Skyhorse Publishing, May 2013, $28.95). The book is full of those kinds of double-take moments. From birthing class in Bangkok to successfully shepherding her brood through pre-school, Leanne documents some of the truly bizarre things she has said to her ever-patient, level-headed husband Chris and her whirlwind-like kids Vivy and Will.

Leanne, whose life motto is: “If you can’t laugh at yourself, laugh at your kids,” writes about what it’s like to live with lively twins, first in Asia and then in suburbia. Her regular confrontations with bodily fluids of all kinds (usually traveling at high speed) and her ability to manage crises that would make the most dictatorial CEO crumble, earn her full points for creativity, if not for any “Mother of the Year” awards. (And she at least established a college therapy fund for her kids early on.)

Four years ago, Leanne launched her electronic persona at Ironicmom.com (See QAR Issue #2 2010), where many of these stories first appeared. In 2011, Ironicmom.com was voted Canada’s number one humour blog. She also writes for NickMom.com and The Huffington Post, and regularly appears on CBC radio and television.

While she says the primary target audience for her book is young parents and parents-to-be, it’s likely that there are at least two secondary audiences who will also appreciate the edgy humour: the parents of older kids who now can look back on those early years and laugh, and child-free adults who seek comfort in knowing that they made the right decision.

And for those looking for a how-to book, Leanne sprinkles her text with “Parenting Tips” for the uninitiated, the clueless and the exhausted. For example, “Lying is an invaluable strategy for parents. Start practising as soon as you’re pregnant.” Which then leads to, “Never tell your child that the ice cream truck sells ice cream. Tell them it sells vegetables.”

Book cover

Don’t Lick the Minivan is Leanne Shirtliffe’s first book, but it’s unlikely to be her last. Watch for a sequel that will probably be called something like: Get Off the Table and Put on Your Clothes (and Other Stuff my Prepubescent Twins Said to Me After I Downed a Glass of Wine – Or Was it Five?

Queen's Alumni Review, 2013 Issue #2Queen's Alumni Review
2013 Issue #2
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Last updated at 9:35 am EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
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