The other day at work, I escorted a nice but worried-looking woman in her '30's to the nonfiction stacks to find a parenting book. It was not How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Neither was it The Happiest Toddler on the Block: The New Way to Stop the Daily Battle of Wills and Raise a Secure and Well-Behaved One- to Four-Year-Old. Nor Sneaky Veggies: How to Get Vegetables Under the Radar & Into Your Family and not Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child : Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries, the first 3 chapters of which I actually found kind of helpful one time several years ago.
Thank god, she wasn't looking for Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition, which fucking traumatized us when Mao was about one. It was some different book full of disheartening and shaming messages to parents. Possibly The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler. Or Itsy Bitsy Yoga: Poses to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Digest Better, and Grow Stronger. Maybe The Toxic Sandbox: The Truth About Environmental Toxins and Our Children's Health. I hope it wasn't How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor.
I like to think of that aisle as the Bet You Didn't Know How Many Ways You Suck As A Parent Aisle.
Individually, many of these books have merit. If you're a yoga person, by all means you should get a book about doing yoga with your baby. But the way they're marketed, the alarming titles - an insecure person (and what parent isn't insecure sometimes?) could take away a whole pile of disgrace and self-loathing along with her copy of The Five Love Languages of Children.
According to those books, she should be putting her child to bed at 7pm, after a dinner of sprouted quinoa and brewer's yeast. When her child misbehaves, which is her fault, by the way, she should gently but firmly take away a privilege. Or give him one more chance, and then (gently but firmly) put him in time out him right away. Or gently but firmly snap him into her homemade bamboo pillory on the front lawn. She should have been doing yoga, massage, and reflexology since birth so that the child has a chance at avoiding obesity and can integrate his right and left brain. If she didn't teach that kid sign language as a baby, she has doomed him to suffering traumatic storms of frustration before learning to talk, which, by the way, will occur later.
There should not be too many toys. But we should honor the pleasures of childhood. Our job is to provide the safest, most nurturing environment possible, although we do them a disservice if we insulate our children from...
Well fuck it. Taking clothes out of the dryer last night, it occurred to me that if what people are looking for is a book to make them feel bad about how they run their house and raise their children, I could write that! (see, it's totally a trend with me).
- How often do you scrub out your laundry baskets? What do you use for that? Oh. God. You still have that stuff in your house? Yikes.
- At what age did you first assign your infant simple household chores?
- How many languages does he/she know?
- Do you sit and play with your child at least one hour a day? How do you know that? Were you watching the clock? Shame on you.
- When was the last time you washed your potholders? Do you know what micro-organisms those things can harbor?
- Do you still help your child manage his/her little bank account? It's never too early for a child to learn about fiscal responsibility. If you don't fuck up, you can Raise a Future Millionaire, you know.
- Let me just go through your kitchen:
- Plastic? Jesus.
- Glass? What happens when this falls off the counter and shatters? I know kids look cute with eyepatches, but is that a risk you're willing to take? Let me give you a source for bamboo food containers.
- This cereal has sugar in it.
- Ketchup has sugar in it.
- Juice? Well, they're "only" baby teeth I guess.
- And you know they make saltines without salt, you don't have to buy these. See if you can find whole-wheat, at least.
- Grapes? See this? Exactly the size of your child's trachea!
- Placemats. Hm. And how do you clean those? Wow. That's not exactly... sterile, is it?
- Do you really use these paper towels or are they just for show? Because dishtowels - you know, you can use those more than once, and that way you're not, like, tossing garbage straight at your son's future.
I am enjoying this. After 8 years of getting fucked with by every parent, physician, educator or therapist with an opinion and an editor, I am getting some back. You do it! It's fun!