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Blogger Greg Pembroke reveals the insane reasons why kids cry
Greg Pembroke wakes up to find hundreds of pictures of strange kids crying in his inbox. There are crying kids on his Facebook wall and in his Twitter mentions and Tumblr network. For most normal people this would be a living nightmare, but for Pembroke it’s an everyday routine.
In the spring of 2013, Pembroke started the blog Reasons My Son is Crying to document the baffling reasons for his child’s temper tantrums – ranging from being given a cup of water to a stick of cheese being snapped in half. Within a week it was receiving millions of hits and he had been invited on to Good Morning America to discuss it. A few months later he had a publishing deal.
After two years Reasons My Son Is Crying is still going strong, now populated by contributions by other confused parents and curated by Pembroke. We caught up with the blogger to discuss his website’s incredible success, going viral and the best way to deal with a hysterical child.
Firstly, how did you come up with the idea?
When my youngest son was born, I began to stay home with the boys, part time. I went from working full time at a radio station to being all alone with a new born and a 22 month old and it was quite a shock! As the years progressed and both my boys were old enough to start throwing tantrums, I was surrounded by crying boys all day. I began to snap quick photos of the more irrational moments and share it with friends on my personal Facebook page in a new album that I titled “Reasons My Son Is Crying”. After a few days, friends suggested that I start a Tumblr blog so they could share the photos with their friends and ReasonsMySonIsCrying.com was born.
Your blog grew really quickly. Why do you think it struck such a chord?
How did it go viral initially? Were there any notable spikes in traffic?
At first it was just family and friends. After one or two days I started seeing some reblogs and shares from people I didn’t know… and then on the 5th day one of my brother’s friends posted it to Reddit. That is when things went CRAZY. It climbed the rankings and became #1 on a Sunday night. Tens of thousands of people we’re on the blog each second.
So many people posted the link to my website on Facebook that the automatic security precautions on the site kicked in – and scrubbed every single link overnight. On Monday, tech blogs started investigating and asking why Facebook is banning this baby blog. Facebook was forced to issue a statement that the site was banned in error and reinstate all the links. That is when every other website started posting it – from Huffington Post to Yahoo to MSN. Even though the blog was completely anonymous, TV shows hunted us down – my wife started getting calls on her cell phone from the Today show. We were invited to fly to NYC to go on Good Morning America and we accepted because we thought the kids would get a kick out of a quick trip and by then millions and millions of people from all over the world were finding the site.
How did the book come about? Did you approach it differently to the blog?
Because of the popularity and visual nature of the site, publishers and literary agents began contacting me almost immediately. A week after we were on Good Morning America, I drove myself back to NYC to meet with the agents that had contacted me. It was a stressful decision but I selected Byrd Leavell of Waxman-Leavell because of his experience with creating very funny books out of blogs (Shit My Dad Says, T-Rex Trying, Drew Magary, White Girl Problems, etc). We worked for few weeks on the book proposal and it went out to publishers at the end of April 2013 – less than 3 weeks after I started the website. I now have agreements with 8 publishers to release the book in 7 different languages. So, it’s all completely insane and very fun.
How many submissions do you get from other parents? Did that element surprise you?
I get hundreds of submissions a day through email, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. I have thousands of unread emails – and I keep finding new hashtags that people are using to trying to get my attention. I feel terrible that I can’t stay on top of it and reply to everyone that submits but it is literally impossible to keep up with it all – especially while staying home with the boys and working part time at a radio station.
Is there anything you’ve learned about parenting since starting the blog?
I’ve learned to just try and enjoy every moment – even the terrible tantrums. It’s all part of the experience – and it’s completely unavoidable, so why not try your best to enjoy it all?
What has been your most popular post to date? Any other personal favorites?
Strangely enough, some of the most popular posts on my site now aren’t photos of crying children – but the conversations that I have with my boys. Kids are just so funny and I spend all day laughing at what they say that I felt like I should share that part of my day as well. The most widely shared post so far is of a conversation I had with my son about his perceptions of gender, and it’s actually one of the least funny posts I’ve ever written!
One of my favorite and most widely shared photos on the site has to be the one of Bill Murray (above). That picture was actually shown to Bill during a taping of the Graham Norton show, but unfortunately that segment didn’t make the final episode!
What’s the best way to deal with an irrational crying child? Other than taking their photo…
I think many times a child throwing a tantrum wants a good reason to stop, but they feel too committed to turn back. It’s the same with adults, honestly. So I typically try to find some way to distract them or make them laugh long enough that they can move on from it while still “saving face”. Sometimes picking them up and turning them upside down helps too, but I wouldn’t recommend that for adults.
Have you ever hesitated or had doubts about putting photographs of your crying son online?
Well, the site was really just meant for family and friends so we had no real thoughts about it. When it began to be so widely shared it gave us pause, but we felt the comments and laughs we were creating far out weighed any unlikely negative feelings later in life. I just can’t imagine how or why having these photos online will ever bother my boys when they get older – and if they do, it will be more of an indication (or condemnation) of how they feel about me as a parent than it is about the photographs themselves. I think they will love to look back on all the conversations, especially. It’s in some weird way turning into their baby book. I just share it all with 370,000 followers around the world, too.
Who is your personal internet hero?
Brandon Stanton from Humans of New York. His website has the power to explode your perception of the world and how you see and think about others. It’s an empathy laser beam and if it doesn’t melt your heart on a daily basis, you might need to reexamine what you think it means to be human. I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with him after we met up at Tumblr’s NY Headquarters on the first crazy day my blog was going viral. We’ve stayed in touch ever since and he’s one of the nicest people I know. Also his books are pure beauty and I’m jealous as hell of his vision and dedication.
Have you got any plans to expand the site any further? Another book? Video series?
Haha… videos of crying kids are slightly less funny and MUCH more annoying, but I’d love to make another book! I actually just did a really fun Christmas project where I collected stories from parents all over the world of all the crazy things that their kids are asking from Santa for Christmas. I gave the top 12 answers to a graphic designer and he made really charming images. After the images were done I really think they would make a fun Christmas book for kids. But who knows – that’s really all up to my publishers and Byrd. Is there anything more insane in this world than a part-time-stay-at-home-dad with an agent named Byrd?