My old Guardian column

I recently called time on a two-year project during which I wrote a weekly column about childhood for The Guardian newspaper. The column was called “Down With The Kids” and it was intended as a gentle and humorous take on parenthood. You can read every episode here – I hope you’ll enjoy them. And please do leave comments and share your own stories – I find those are often better than what I come up with.

I’m currently thinking about whether I should publish the collection of columns as a book, or whether I should rework into a novel the very intense experience of being a columnist.

35 Comments

  1. I only discovered your writing today and have to say that I plan to read everything you have written. I had been trying to find some “extracurricular” reading as I am in school online and am always reading books that have been assigned to me (it takes so much of my time). Therefore, any time I have left is precious and I would like to thoroughly enjoy whatever I have chosen to read.

    Thank you for making that choice easy.

  2. Dear Chris,
    I got surprisingly emotional upon seeing that your column will be finished. I have enjoyed your column each week for well over a year and have enjoyed each and every new surprise and laugh. My best wishes to you and your family! Thank you for making me smile so often.
    -Kamaren

  3. Dear Chris

    I thoroughly enjoyed Down With The Kids, it was brilliant, funny and touching, interesting and unpretentious – and this couldn’t be said about the other “family” columns […]. I often started reading the Saturday Guardian from you and Lucy Mangan (another “real” person), so I will miss it now, but at the same time I really respect your decision to stop it. It is for me yet another confirmation of your integrity (shining through the whole series).

    I feel that having now discovered your website, and your books, it is time for me to start reading them.

    Kind regards

    Zofia

  4. I have enjoyed your column so much – it brought back so many memories of when our kids were young (our kids, who are older than you – when people ask me if we have children, I try to remember to say “no, we have 4 adults”, but I don’t always manage it )

    I hope you’re planning to put the whole lot together in a book – it should be required reading for new parents – or possibly people who are thinking of becoming parent…

    Thanks once again,

    Gin

  5. Dear Chris

    No doubt you will have had hundreds of comments about your wonderful column. The Saturday Guardian will not be the same from now on, but how in keeping with the whole tone of your articles to put your children’s interests first. Over the weeks you have put into words the feelings I had for our own children and now have for our grandchildren, and I shall miss you very much. Thank you so much for a great deal of pleasure.

  6. Dear Chris,

    I know you must be hearing this a lot, but I just wanted to say that when I realised – just like Kamaren – that it was your last column I was suprised at how emotional I felt! Somehow, invisibly, I had become attached to dropping in on your family each week through your observations. Such beautiful writing and such fantastic source material!

    All good wishes for your brood, and thanks for all the columns.

  7. Your column was a brilliant, funny, touching read – in terms of genre, it was of interest to read about children from the perspective of a father, à la Phil Hogan, Jon Ronson, Tim Dowling – but above and beyond that, you have such an idiosyncratic approach, interweaving/crowding so many thoughts and emotions into one well-worded, thought-provoking sentence.

    Though, or because, I’m not at all scientific, I always marvelled at how you incorporated technical/engineering/scientific terms and concepts, and a great and challenging vocabulary, into your observations about family life.

    The last line about enjoying it when your children laugh did predictably make me almost cry… The Guardian series should become a book – yes, a meta-book about the writing of the column would be interesting/postmodern.

    Hats off to an entertaining, compassionate, amusing, compelling columnist – I’ll miss reading you weekly.

  8. I didn’t realize you were the writer of the column about your children – but best wishes with whichever project you decide to embark on. In fact, I think it would be interesting to know more about the dilemmas of being a journalist; though I expect too much honesty might compromise one’s career prospects. Maybe that’s why humour is generally the vehicle which makes such accounts acceptable. Is it possible to do otherwise without adopting a persona that must surely become tiresome at the very least ?
    I’m not assuming this is what you do at all: am currently reading about Little Bee – and suddenly felt curious to identify the writer.
    I find the juxtaposition of Little Bee’s experience with those of Sarah and Lawrence very appropriate. Thank you for that. Quite apart from anything else, it feels like an attempt to consider our access to information and the responses that are evoked. We (ie the fortunate of us) have as much as we care to find and I suppose we make judgments according to what we are inclined already, to believe. Weaving the ‘two’ worlds together forces Bee’s story to become personal. To be considered alongside; without the separation or distance of the stated facts in another harrowing interview or article. Both come into our homes and grieve or galvanize us accordingly, but a book can show us truths and give life to someone’s story precisely through the intelligent manipulation of the writer. I’m sure am not writing anything new and maybe haven’t really described what’s been evoked by the reading of your book, but have felt drawn to putting something in writing myself! I appreciate your efforts.
    Am on page 299 and will finish it later, but if I’m honest – and I hope you will not mind my writing this – I find the Lawrence character not entirely plausible. Perhaps it’s just that the story unfolds particularly quickly once we know his relationship with Sarah. However, it may be that it’s hard to have sympathy with someone so apparently unscrupulous, in spite of his ‘honesty’

  9. Mr. cleave, l went to little bee.and l like the little bee. ıt is very nice book.thank you for ıt

  10. Hi Chris having read and enjoyed your guardian column, i want to encourage you to publish it as a book just as it was . And having discovered you as a columnist, i am delighted to discover tha tyou are a novelist – so look forward to reading those while waiting for the book of Down with Kids to come out.
    Best wishes

  11. Just finished Little Bee and must say it was an experience. you are a very great writer, can’tt wait to read your first book, next book, etc. etc. I am sending it to my long time English friend. She has lived in
    the US for many years,and is my oldest friend.

  12. I just read Little Bee and I thought it was breathtaking!! I was hooked by your very first sentence. I am so amazed that you were able to write from a female perspective (no insult intended). I look forward to reading your other books! Thank you for such great literature. Sure wish Oprah would pick your book for her book club so others would be able to be blown away as I was!! Little Bee is a treasure!!

  13. re the columns–

    re the columns…PLEASE, PLEASE,PLEASE collect them in a book and make them available to to your readers!!!!!
    I read Little Bee and was overwhelmed by it ! I am reading it again as it is the July selection for the Jacksonville Diversity Network Book Club (my recommendation!). I will be facilitating the dicussion.I learned about Incendiary from the research I was doing for the Book Club, and will find it immediately. Please keep writing, you have a great gift!

  14. I would love to read your Guardian column entries – however when I click on the link provided I get the message “not found.”

  15. MH – thank you – I have now fixed the link.

  16. Wow! Hello Chris.. I just left a message on the Incendiary link but now I must write you again.. Our daughters, Sally and Ann, are a legal union in the UK and have an adopted son.. They fostered this boy from day 3 when he was removed to care.. By 6 months, our family in the States adored him and he was part of our family.. The fostering went on for a few years with visits to the States and our family visits to Wales.. If you, Chris, are interested in what it took to adopt this little boy, Nathan, into our family it might make another book! A barrister, a solicitor, and lots of money, but Nathan is now ours with our adult granddaughters to care for him into the next generation.. You can check with me for confirmation of this story or I will give you the addresses of the Bell Family in Wales..
    Barbara & Carl Greiner, Stuart, Florida

  17. Hi Chris

    Glad I have found your site. I absolutely loved your columns in the Saturday Guardian, and will now go and get at least one of your novels. Also nice to have found you on twitter!

    I am a little apprehensive about buying and reading Incendiary, as if it makes me cry as much as your columns made me laugh then I will be a soggy mess. Here goes… :-)

    Thanks for being you and thanks for all the emotions of your columns. You have a great talent for putting stuff into words. I loved the ones around the birth of your third, all most emotional.

  18. Dear Chris
    my daughter Georgie lives in Australia and recently read ‘The Other Hand’ she was so enthralled with the emotional journey you took her through that she wanted me to read it and gave it to me for my birthday via Amazon Books – I am so grateful to her and to you, as your story of Little Bee has been the most wonderful reading experience I could have hoped for, every character has impacted on my thinking very deeply – but most of all Little Bee and Sarah are two women I am so glad to have met in those pages, they already have, and will continue to influence me because you made them so beautifully well I cannot get them out of my head

    Thankyou so so much – I am already excited about reading more of your work
    Katie Gallagher
    Bristol

  19. Please, please, please release these columns as a book. There is an expat in the USA who would love to read them all, and is simply too lazy to keep clicking each column.

    Either that or write another book REALLY REALLY SOON.

    Major fan of Chris ‘crack cocaine’ Cleave!

  20. I am the woman who was running out the door after your talk at RJ Julia yesterday. I left my copy of the book to be signed to be picked up. If you’d like a copy of the photo I took (which came out great), let me know where to send it.

    I wanted to tell you that I read a lot…..and am often so dissatisfied when I finish a book. Sometimes it’s ok, but nothing remarkable. I thought your book was spectacular. It was the best book I have read in years. It is still resonating with me. I was horrified by what I read on a lot of levels, but was glad that I was exposed to the story of what is taking place in Nigeria and with people looking for asylum. It reminded me how lucky I am to be living my life in America. But the reason I enjoyed the book so much was it had all the ingredients that I need…your writing is wonderful, you put words together in a way that I can only wish that I could, your observations are so acute and you took a tough subject and made it readable.

    By the way, if you decide to stop writing (which clearly, for you, would be like stopping breathing), you could always fall back on stand up comedy.
    Thanks for a very enjoyable afternoon.

  21. Mr. Cleave’s book “Little Bee” is quite wonderful, but I wonder at his careless use of “the Queen’s English,” as he would say. On Page 26 of “Little Bee” he uses the wrong verb when he says “… we would forever be laying down under the dining-room table….” Surely, he learned in English schools that a person would by lying under the table, not laying. Americans frequently get lie, lay, lain wrong, but I was surprised that an English writer would do the same.

    Nevertheless, I am enjoying the book immensely.

    Thank you for listening.

    Martha Northington

  22. Hi Martha, thanks for your kind words about the book. Of course you are correct from a grammatical point of view, and I do sometimes make unintentional grammatical errors, but in this case I was deliberately stretching “lie” to “lay” in the first part of that line in order to connect with the use of “lay” (the table) in the second part of the line. I suppose I might agree with you that the effect I was aiming for doesn’t completely come off, but I wouldn’t say my choice of the verb was careless.

  23. Hi, my name is Esther uwimana. I am a school student from Norway, we have a school assignment to write about a book.
    I have read your book Little Bee, it was really amazing, I’ve even been a refugee from Africa too.
    In the task we have to write about the biography of authors, but the problem is that I find almost nothing about you online.
    I was wondering if you could send me the facts about your autobiography ..?
    I really hope you see this message, and responds ..
    -Esther
    Listen
    Read phonetically
    Dictionary – View detailed dictionary

  24. Chris:
    I just finished “Little Bee” and am sending it on to my daughter so she can read for herself all the beauty I told her your book holds. Do you not think that tragedy at home, in the United States, caused by the economic downfall is as life changing, dramatic, devestating, shameful, et cet as in other countries that are abused by the corruption of our government, and/or oil companies? Where are the stories that tell of the thousands who not only lost their homes and jobs but their families and their children, which was caused by no grand scheme of their own, but by their own government’s misconduct and abuse? I love Africa and my heart bleeds for what we have done to its children. But you do see, that our government has no shame in what it does to its own, do you not?
    A mother cannot survive her sanity for losing her children. A very great emotional undoing. When she has lost all control of her life and her children, and the world spins her into shame, her grief is the soil man made.
    I’m writing that book because that story needs to be told. Surviving is not triumphant. It may be nothing more than noble.
    -Kim

  25. Hi Chris,
    I am a special ed teacher that spends her days trying to change the lives of teenagers that are losing their way or are already lost. I have long felt the pain of the world’s global oppression in my soul and struggle with the guilt of having what we have here in the U.S. All the atrocities that occur throughout the world have always affected me deeply…but never more deeply than when I read “Little Bee.” Your beautiful words infused the reader with all of the raw emotions that Sarah and Little Bee felt. As an idealist, I so wanted the book to end differently….as a realist I knew it couldn’t…..I struggle with the age old question constantly, “Can one person make a difference?” I give money to the homeless, volunteer in shelters and help anyone I can……but it’s never enough… and that is my personal struggle. Lastly, and so importantly, I want to commend you on an astonishing book. My sincerest wish is that “Little Bee” will inspire more people to look outside of their own complacency and do one small thing for humanity.

    Thank You, Ann

  26. Please write a compilation of your columns!

    I finished Incendiary last night…in one night. I can’t remember the last time I was so profoundly moved and disturbed by a book. Thank you.

  27. I just finished reading Little Bee. Totally loved the characters and was sad to get to the end of the book. I’m looking forward to reading Incendiary and anything else you have written. It’s always exciting to find an author I like have more of their books to read! Don’t stop writing! Thanks.

  28. Chris, I just finished reading Little Bee and I cried. Excelent book. Udo is real.

    Mariana – Brazil

  29. Thanks Mariana – delighted you liked the book.

  30. I have not written to an author in a very long time. I just finished reading Little Bee and was so moved by the characters, the story, the word pictures that drew me in on every page. In particular, you painted such memorable characters, their moral weaknesses, their struggles, and their triumphs against all odds. Little Bee is a remarkable young woman and she will be in my memory banks for a long time to come. Plan to read Incendiary next. Thanks for sharing your wonderful talent. Barb McBratnie

  31. Hello Chris,
    I haven’t read your book yet, but I’m interested in doing it!! I have just a question.. has this book been translated in italian? I need to know it because I would like to translate it for my graduation fases. please.. let me know. Regards.
    Angela

  32. I just finished reading “Little Bee” recommended by a book club friend. It was a wonderful read–I felt as tho I were in London hoping she would find her “refuge” there all tho I knew she would not. It certainly made me think of other worlds and the problems that are in those worlds of which I have no idea. Thank you, Chris Cleave, for a great book.

  33. Hi Raye Lee – thank you so much for the kind words. I’m really lucky to have readers like you.

  34. Thank you so much for this work of art. May we all find a Little Bee to help us appreciate how truly blessed we are even in our most difficult times.

    We all need to do our part to create a peaceful world for everyone.

  35. Dear Chris: I was the person who mentioned to you at the end of your presentation which was fabulous at Warwick’s in La Jolla that there are no hummingbirds in Africa. I was quick because you were about to sign books. But I wanted you to know that hummingbirds of which there are about 350 species are totally a New World group of birds. What you might have confused with hummingbirds in Cameroon might be sunbirds. There are about 130 species of sunbirds and they are only Old World. Indeed, each seems to fill the ecological equivalent of the other being mostly nectar feeders. This is a small point and did not in any way detract from your wonderful presentation. Thanks for a very enjoyable evening. We have already ordered your book. Thanks. Warm regards, Art Cooley

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