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Archive for February, 2010

“Socialization”: It’s a big buzzword with parents these days, held out as the primary reason to pack up the baby or toddler and all their assorted gear, get in the car, write a check, and participate in anything from organized playgroups to enrichment classes to daily pre-preschool. It’s what people seem to do. However, our feeling is that all babies and toddlers really need to learn “socialization” is time with their family and neighbors, doing the usual stuff you do—the grocery store, post office, visits to friends, outings to the park. In general, babies like spending time with familiar people in familiar places doing familiar things, with the occasional new playground, story hour, or bakery thrown in for variety. And as any parent quickly finds out after three or four trips to the zoo, usually the garden-variety pigeons and other kids are way more interesting than the lions.

Still, somehow, many new parents start to pack their lives with expensive classes and structured playgroups. Not to mention that “special” outings that used to be a really big deal when we were young–to the children’s museum, zoo or aquarium—are now on many moms’ weekly rotation, along with classes in tumbling, music, and language immersion, at hundreds of dollars a pop. Of course, if you have the time and the means and you’re someone who likes to fill your day with some concrete plans–go for it! But for those just getting used to life with baby, you really don’t have to succumb to the pressure. It is totally okay for your baby (and you) to spend all day in your pjs, exploring the wonder of your own house.

So, our question is this. Classes for babies: Do they need it? Did you do it with your first or second child? Why or why not?

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Whether you have one child or five, tell us…what would you do differently during the first year with your baby, if you could have a do-over?

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At some point in your life, there was probably someone who you loved dearly but wanted to change. Then you probably had a realization that while you might be able to influence or alter certain behaviors, you simply can’t change who a person is. No matter how long that took to sink in, the result was a big life lesson learned, right? Time to do it again, new parents. The biggest parenting eye-opener for me, so far, is that a baby is an individual from the get-go—and will quite likely have a different temperament, emotional makeup, and way of looking at the world (and certainly a different body clock) than you. Linking yourself inextricably to this little stranger is part of the wonder, mystery, personal growth, and sometimes crushing frustration of parenting. With two very different kids underfoot, I’m still reminding myself to ride out the phases, open my mind, and adjust my own expectations (or our family’s schedule) instead of trying in vain to change my child. In other words, she is who she is, not who I might’ve pictured her to be, and growing to know her, accept her, and celebrate her is at the heart of the beauty and wonder of any real relationship.

I don’t expect I will ever be perfect at this. I often hear myself say (out loud or in my head), “Why can’t you be more like…”. But on good days, I can feel myself starting to internalize the essential truth: that I want my kids to be the best Piper and the best Molly they can be, and not anything—or anyone—else.

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As expecting parents, many of us read all the “how-to” books we could get our hands on. But most parents we interviewed for our book, How to Have Your Second Child First, said they wished they’d spent less time reading about pregnancy (which is but a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things), and more about life as a parent. These don’t have to be “parenting books.” Sometimes, the most helpful “parenting books” are novels, short stories, or essays that speak to the emotional landscape of being a mom or dad, or the intricacies of building a family. Here are a few books we really enjoyed that feature parenthood as a theme…not as instruction. We’d love for you to add to the list!

  

  • Manhood for Amateurs, essays by Michael Chabon
  • Mothers Who Think, essay collection edited by Camille Peri
  • Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year by Louise Erdrich
  • The Brambles, a novel by Eliza Minot
  • The Namesake, a novel by Jumpha Lahiri
  • And I’ve heard great things about Operating Instructions by Annie Lamott, about raising a boy.

What books have spoken to you as a parent? Share your recommendations with others!

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