In case you aren’t aware, there are tons of books on parenting out there. (Heck, there are tons of books on urban chicken keeping and dangerous indoor mold species out there, so there you go.) I’m an English teacher, so obviously I think books are great. You might even assume that I took the time to read up on pregnancy, newborns, parenting tips, potty training, anything before Charlotte was born, because that’s what people who like to read do. But actually, no, no, no, no and no on all fronts. I didn’t read a single book (or website or blog) while pregnant. (The shame!) Frankly, I felt more than a little overwhelmed by all the options out there, and how was I to decide whose opinions I was even going to consider reading up on when there are literally thousands claiming to be the best or right one. So I did what
any overwhelmed person would do I normally do when feeling overwhelmed and just avoided reading about babies at all.* I’d figure it out, right?
After Charlotte arrived, I had this glorious time off from work called Maternity Leave. Charlotte was not quite a month old and we were driving home after two weeks in Glen Ellyn for the holidays. My mom had given me her copy of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care (1985 edition) and told me it was her go-to reference for my brothers and I. Since 1) my mom is my Mom, and 2) I turned out alright, I figured I’d better read this book. I read the whole thing on the ride home. I think I learned some valuable information, too, so it’s rather unfortunate that I’ve already forgotten it.
I read my second parenting book five months later. Hungry Monkey: A Food Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton. I read it because I found it for a dollar at the Dollar Tree. (And it’s a hard cover!) Also, Charlotte was just beginning her foray into solid foods and I so dread the picky-eating toddler days. Despite being tossed in a dollar bin, this is a really good book. Amster-Burton (or AB from now on) is funny and relatable. It’s sweet to read about his relationship with his daughter, Iris, yet not sugary sweet. He loves to cook and eat real meals (NOT chicken fingers and mac ‘n cheese). He writes about his experiments cooking for a daughter whose tastes change almost daily. Like I said, he keeps it real, and he’s funny. Also, there are recipes. Personally, I wouldn’t prepare many of them as they tend to be too decadent and/or meaty. For example, Cornish Pastries? Nope, not gonna make those.
One more thing: I had always worried about picky eating children not meeting nutritional needs because they live on white bread and Goldfish. Therefore, this part of the book really stood out to me and helped me relax about healthy eating a little bit:
“A nutritional analyst found that picky eaters [between the ages of two and seven] got just as many nutrients from their diet as nonpicky eaters, and there was no difference in height and weight between the groups. In other words, picky eating may be annoying, but it’s not a medical problem” (111).
So while I’ll still be trying to sneak beets into brownies and cauliflower into mashed potatoes (if need be, of course), this book has certainly allowed me to take a deep breath and perhaps prevent a panic attack over dissed dinners.
As it turns out, the Dollar Tree is a pretty decent bookstore. I found my third and final (so far) parenting read there as well: The Dinner Diaries: Raising Whole Wheat Kids in a White Bread World by Betsy Block. First of all, she had me at whole wheat. Ms. Block is much more of a health nut than both me and the last author, Mr. AB. She’s part of the no junk food, shop locally, fair trade, organic everything camp. I am so on board with basically all her ideas in my head, but I make little to no effort to make any of them happen in real life. What I love about this book, which is also humorously written by the way, is that she makes no attempt to hide how challenging her quest for healthy eco-consious eating can be. And before you have a chance to feel bad about how you feed yourself and your own family, she lets the reader know that her family does not eat perfectly all the time (or ever, for that matter, because it’s virtually impossible). But she does a great job trying, and her book provides a lot of usuable resources, from the safest fish to eat to “green cracker” recipes (kale chips) to good sources of zinc. Betsy Block is likeable, and she did her homework. After reading, I felt inspired to think more carefully about the choices I make at the grocery store.
Welp, that’s it. I’d like to do this again some time. Any good book suggestions?
*Okay, wait. I lied. I forgot that I read The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. How could I forget that? That’s where I learned that it’s nearly impossible not to poop during child birth (but in much cruder terms). I learned all about leaks and rips and blood and agonizing pain. That book is awesome.