I am a dad living in the village of Aberdour, on the Fife coast. My son Noah was born in June 2020. He is now almost 22 months old and is bursting full of fun, curiosity and mischievousness. Every week I am bowled over by how much he has learnt about the world around him. He has new words and new skills developing all the time. So, I am sure it won’t be long before he asks the question Why is daddy in bed today?
And I want to have an honest answer that reassures Noah.
I have lived with a mental health disability for several years and when I knew I was going to become a dad, I began to search to see what support was out there. I had a little folder of resources saved on my laptop. Screengrabs of websites I found useful, a little list of charities that might be able to support us if I was in crisis, all sorts of things. But the one thing I couldn’t find was a way to talk about my mental health to my child.
I began to wonder whether this was something I could create myself. As an artist, I knew this would be a challenge. I would need to do some proper research. I reached out to charities, mental health experts and other parents, gathering any advice they might have.
The culmination of that research was a short little text – less than 700 words – about a small boy trying to get his daddy out of bed.
This was the beginning of Daddy’s
Bad Bed Day. I knew that to bring the text to life I would need to find a publisher who shared my passion for the subject matter and an illustrator who could bring the child, daddy, and granny to life.
I found Curly Tale Books in a list of Scottish publishers, and I really liked that they were family run. Their website made them seem really approachable and so I sent my little text over to them and waited to hear back. It took a few months but when Shalla Gray, the publisher got back in touch, she was really enthusiastic. I got to meet her over zoom and I was delighted that she totally understood what I was trying to do, and who my book was trying to help. All we had to do was find an illustrator.
Luckily, I had been working on a project with the Scottish Book Trust for their Bookbug programme. A group of 5 artists were brought together to develop resources for the programme. One of these artists was an amazing Kinghorn-based illustrator, Catherine Lindow. Catherine’s work was exactly what I was looking for. I was delighted when she said yes and agreed to work with us.
Catherine has an incredible ability to take my suggestions and make them even better tying the illustrations and the text together in very poetic ways.
Now as we work towards publication, there is only one part still missing to bring this book to life, and that is the readers. Young and old. Parent and child. Or a grandparent or a fairy godmother perhaps. I hope the story speaks to children across Fife. I hope it helps make a difficult conversation just that little bit easier. I know I am going to reach for the book when my son begins to ask those tricky questions.