“I can use the potty. I just don’t give a damn,” was tweeted at 8:32 on May 1, 2012, and with it @HonestToddler was born. Less than 2 years later the twitter account has spawned an international book deal and has been optioned for tv.
Bunmi (pronounced Boomy) Laditan‘s success may have been “overnight,” but it was no accident. She grew up in California where she took a programming course at age 12 and learned HTML. “It changed my life,” Laditan says gathering props for a keynote she was about to give at Edmonton’s Nest In The City last month. “Kids should learn some code, I don’t think we understand how powerful that can be.”
Whether it was writing code, or writing words, writing was what she wanted to do. After the birth of her first child she wrote a screenplay and spec scripts for comedy shows. She would stay up late writing between breastfeeding, chasing her dream. She tried. Hard. But all she had to show for the effort were rejection letters. “So many rejection letters,” she sighs.
So she fell back on that coding knowledge and moved into the world of social media working for family brands, creating meetups, and doing baby food tastings. Yes, she tasted the baby food and admits it’s really good. (She recommends organic mangos and confesses to having hoarded sample jars to bring home for her, not the kids).
Eventually, after the birth of her second child, she followed her husband to Canada where Laditan found herself living in the outskirts of Montreal. While he went to work, she stayed home with the kids listening to Rosetta Stone trying to grasp a new language.
It was in that time with 2 kids, one with “full blown toddleritis” , that she fell back on what she knew to find relief.
“I just needed to laugh,” she says, remembering that morning not even 2 years ago when @HonestToddler was born. “I had a 5 yr old, 2 yr old, I was in a new city and I needed to laugh. I didn’t have a car yet, I was just really stressed out and wanted to make myself laugh.”
I don’t want to alarm anybody but one of my socks came off
— Honest Toddler (@HonestToddler) January 26, 2014
There was lots of sock drama in those early days, Laditan recalls. Her daughter had all the typical toddler defiance, and was trying to assert herself. “I just thought for some odd reason, I would create a twitter account and tweet what was in her head.”
The account was an instant hit. People started retweeting. The follower count grew. In a matter of days she had amassed nearly 5000 followers and felt the need to share her secret.
“I had a playdate with a mom I met online,” she remembers. “I made cupcakes and we decorated them and I wanted to impress her so she would come again. And then I told her ‘I tweet as a toddler and I have 5000 followers..’ I think she thought I was a little unbalanced .. “
Held hands with the wrong lady.
— Honest Toddler (@HonestToddler) June 21, 2012
Laditan had “outed” herself, but still tried to maintain a distance between her family and the account.
“I didn’t want to put my kids out there and wanted to be more general and anonymous, because there’s more freedom when nobody knows who you are.”
“I just had a blast, I had so much fun and knowing that other parents were struggling with bed time, dinner time, tantrums in public, just knowing that I wasn’t alone in finding a way to laugh about it.”
6 months in to her anonymous efforts of tweeting like a toddler, Laditan was approached by an agent in New York asking “would you be interested in writing a book?”
“I totally freaked out. I’ve wanted to write and be a writer,” she says remembering those breastfeeding/writing nights 5 years earlier. “So to get this email I was like ‘Of course, yes, !’ll write the proposal!’”
It’s National Sibling Day so take a moment to imagine the person you could have been had your parents’ attention not been divided.
— Honest Toddler (@HonestToddler) April 10, 2014
But before she could even finish the proposal, an editor from The Orion Publishing Group in the UK said they were interested. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The letter from the agent was just to start the pitching process, it didn’t mean Laditan would get a book deal just that the agent was willing to help her get a book deal.
When the UK deal landed on her desk she had just started to look for a school for her 6 yr old. It was more expensive than they could afford and she was doing everything she could to make extra money. As it happened, she had just lost her biggest social media account and with it 70% of her income.
Things were so desperate she looked at her violin and was thinking to sell it to pay for her daughter’s school. This was an instrument Laditan had played since she was 9. Her dad, always good to spot a bargain, had bought it an an auction for $100. It was easily worth $8000. Laditan thought she could sell it and scrape enough money for a year of her daughter’s tuition. But as she went to sell the treasured instrument, she was getting offers 1/10th that amount. “Maybe they could smell my desperation,” she lamented.
She didn’t sell the violin. She couldn’t do it. It was the week before her daughter’s first tuition payment was due and she opened the email from her agent.
Not only was The Orion Publishing Group interested, they were offering of a $100 000 advance.
“I couldn’t breathe,” she smiled. “I kept emailing her [the agent] in all caps ‘WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS?!’”
Used a chair. Got into the pantry. Feasted on chocolate chips. #YOLO
— Honest Toddler (@HonestToddler) June 21, 2012
Last year, just a year from that May 1 tweet about her daughter’s potty abilities, The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide To Parenting was published in the UK. Then deals for the US and Australia followed. This week, the paperback arrives in North America.
Then there is the tv deal. After the book deal was made, but before it was published, Laditan was approached by Darren Star‘s [Sex and the City, Beverly Hills 90210] production company to option the rights to create a show based on the works of @HonestToddler. Treatments are being polished, meetings are being taken.
There is a part of the Honest Toddler story we skipped. Jessica Alba‘s The Honest Company and Laditan went back and forth with lawyers over who actually owned the Honest label. After much haggling, the matter was finally put to rest last December.
Don’t expect Honest Toddler to be slowing down anytime soon. Laditan and her husband had a 3rd child, a boy, and he is just entering those most excellent toddling years. There’s a lot more material to come.
The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide To Parenting by Bunmi Laditan is now available in paperback. If you want yours signed, Laditan can make it happen.