Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Graph of Parenting Confidence

Hey, you! Yes, you. I know you about to have your first child. And, I think it is great that you have read all those books about how to raise a kid. But, listen. Please. Stop. You actually know NOTHING about what being a parent is really going to be like. 

I know what you are about to say. You are about to smugly tell your friend Anna that you are going to feed on a schedule and NEVER feed on demand (as she is feeding her little one on demand). Oh, you are also going to tell her co-sleeping is going to ruin her marriage. 

A few short months later, when your child won't sleep or keep any of her food down, you will almost drop her while rocking her to sleep. You will start co-sleeping with her. You will feed on demand. You will "wear" her.

And when this happens, you are going to smugly tell your friends how crying it out is cruel to children and you couldn't imagine doing it. You will blast all books that recommend this sleep method. You will tell everyone that you could only imagine co-sleeping and baby-wearing as a parenting method. You will be proven wrong six years from now when your second child will push you away and reach out for her crib because she will only feel comfortable sleeping by herself. 

You will feel guilty, like you are abandoning her. You aren't. Go and enjoy these moments after she is laid in her crib to read to your older child. 

In fact, now that I think about it, you will never be as confident of a parent as you are right now. [Please refer to the graph I drew you about your confidence as a parent, below.] Enjoy this moment of sheer ignorance. It will last for the first few months as a sheer coping mechanism because your first child will be colicky and have severe reflux. During those month, please keep checking the stove. You will at some point leave it on in your sleep deprived delirium. Your sister will find it and turn it off, thankfully.

More than anything else, just get off your sanctimonious pedestal. You are a good mom. But so are the moms that choose to parent differently from you. You won't believe this until you have your second child. At that time, you will want to call up all the moms you judged and apologize. It's O.K.. Just remember what your dad used to always say, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

There will be tough times, especially this past week when your youngest will have to go to the hospital for trouble breathing. But, stop listening to everyone else and listen to what your heart is telling you is right for your kids. A kind pediatrician will tell you when you are sorely sleep-deprived and at one of your lowest moments that you are doing exactly what you need to do for your children. You will find a brief moment of peace.

If anything, this lack of confidence will remove your blinders and allow you to actually make parenting decisions and change your parenting style as needed.

Stop reading articles and posts that blast moms for not parenting one way or the other. In particular, don't read that article about how letting your child cry it out will kill her braincells. It will only make you lose sleep. And stop reading comments by moms that blast each other for the way they parent. Instead, remember that you know nothing about their situation until you have walked a mile in their shoes or spent a month living with their children.

Take time to encourage other moms. Don't give them advice unless they specifically ask you for the advice. They may be struggling and just need encouragement, not your opinion.

Don't listen to unsolicited advice. You will get copious amounts of it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but a friend told me that a friend told her, "Other people's opinions are none of your business." And she is right.

Now, go tell someone she is a good mom. It may be the exact thing she needs to hear to keep herself from breaking down.

A special thanks to the post about judging parents over at My Twice Baked Potato inspiring this post.

Monday, May 13, 2013


This week is Children's Book Week! There so many reasons why I love children's books, but one main reason why children's books rock is because it only take 15 minutes a day of reading children's books to your kid to make a huge, long-term impact on their education. Recently, I was approached by ReadAloud.org to be a partner in their national campaign to spread the word about the importance of reading aloud 15 minutes every day.

So, to kick off Children's Book Week and to introduce you to this organization, I am very excited to share the following guest blog post by Jennifer Liu Bryan, co-founder of readalound.org. Please share this post and spread the word.

Parenting in the modern age can mean navigating a swamp of anxieties. How can I build his vocabulary? When will he read? Am I doing the right things to prepare him for school? Is she behind the other kids?

Familiar worries. Difficult questions. Thankfully, there is at least one right answer: Read Aloud 15 MINUTES. Every child. Every parent. Every day.

That is the message of a national campaign that aims to make reading aloud for 15 minutes every day the new parenting standard. That simple change, the campaign’s supporters argue, can change the face of education in this country.

Little did you know, sitting there with your wiggly one while reading aloud from good Dr. Seuss, that you were performing a magical act by:

  • Building brains.  Ages 0 to 3 are crucial years for brain development, and reading aloud stimulates critical areas.

  • Growing vocabulary. The more words a child knows, the greater her advantage in school. Reading aloud introduces words and concepts a child might not encounter in every day conversation.

  • Readying your child to read. Turning those pages tells your child how books work. Moving your finger under the words helps her understand that reading goes left to right. Talking about the story and pictures assists in your child’s comprehension.

  • Teaching and learning. You’re never too young — or too old — to learn something from a book. You are your child’s first and most important teacher.

  • Fostering a love of reading. Want to raise a reader? Read aloud! There’s no better advertisement than your example.

The stakes could not be higher. If nothing changes, 15 million children born over the next decade will not be kindergarten ready. Reading aloud can make a difference, and people just don’t know it: Even in higher income families, more than 40% of families don’t read aloud every day.  

The ten-year Read Aloud 15 MINUTES campaign has already attracted the support of major partners such as the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the American Library Association, the United Way Worldwide and Reach Out and Read.

The next step? Getting parents to understand that reading aloud for 15 minutes is as important to their child’s well being as daily tooth brushing and healthy eating. But, like every great movement, this one has to start with a groundswell. Let’s make it happen by spreading the word about how important, how multi-dimensional, how essential — no, how magical — reading aloud really is.

Share the message with your family and friends. Promote the campaign in your workplace. And, of course, Read Aloud 15 MINUTES. Every child. Every parent. Every day.

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Jennifer Liu Bryan lives in Alexandria, VA, and is the author of Hilda, A Very Loyal Goat, a picture book for early readers, and co-author of Cole Family Christmas, a children's Christmas story.  She is co-founder of ReadAloud.org and mother to three children (aged 6, 4 and 1).  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Miri Attwater and the Ocean's Secret by E.S. Ivy- A Review

I am lucky, my oldest daughter is six. She still believes in the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause. She believes in mermaids and magic. But, the "age of not believing" is quickly approaching. There are little questions like, "How does the Easter Bunny hide all those eggs for all those kids?"Or questions like, "How will the tooth fairy possibly know when I lose a tooth." Since she still has not lost her first tooth, the tooth fairy knowing when this will happen is a pretty big deal. For now, I will relish in the wonder and magic that fairies, princesses and all things pretty in pink bring until that day of not believing comes.
Being originally from the Jersey Shore, I have grown up loving all things that have to do with mermaids. I can remember spending summers on the beach wondering if there were mermaids out there in the ocean. More than wondering, I was hoping that maybe just maybe it would be true. And for that reason, it is not unusual to find mermaids all over the house in various forms. Mermaid baby shoes and Moxie swimming mermaids are just two examples.

When I was little, I distinctly remember that "age of not believing" being directly tied to my using the scientific reasoning skills I was learning in school to rule out the possibility that there was any way mermaids could exist. It was a sad day. I remember almost mourning the idea of mermaids. This is why I was thrilled when E.S. Ivy wrote to me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing her book, Miri Attwater and The  Ocean's Secret.

Miri Attwater and The Ocean's Secret is a coming of age story about Miri Attwater, a young girl who grew up knowing she was a little bit different and how she came to find out she was actually a mermaid. The book begins with a flashback to when Miri's mother gave her up. In a captivating scene, Nerina, the caretaker of Miri, hands the baby in a bubble to her new adoptive "legger" parents, who rode their boat to the middle of the ocean to pick her up.

The book then jumps to a much older Miri, who is finishing the fifth grade and just trying to fit in with her friends. She knows she is a little bit different, but cannot figure out why. Her parents, always meant to tell her the truth, that she was actually a mermaid princess, but the right moment up until then never came. She just knows that she likes her food extra salty and that she can hold her breath for a very long time. As her summer vacation begins, she is slightly miffed by the fact that the rest of her friends are going to get to spend the summer in exciting summer camps while she has to go with her parents on her dad's research boat to the middle of the ocean. What makes it worse is that swimming in the water scares her.

We meet Miri as she spends the day with her friends at a water park/aquarium before they all head their separate ways for the summer vacation. It is on this trip to the park that Miri starts to notice that it is more than just liking salty food that sets herself apart from her friends. When Miri tells her mom later that she almost took the necklace off that she had been wearing since she was born so that she could ride a water slide, her mom knows that it is time to tell her the truth because that necklace is the only thing keeping Miri in "legger" human form.

The book then takes the reader on an adventure to the middle of the ocean, where Miri travels to the mermaid city of Kai Kaona to meet her mother for the first time. Becoming a mermaid princess is a difficult task because there are so many preconceived notions about being a mermaid that Miri soon learns are absolutely wrong. She soon find out the in and outs of being a mermaid- how they breath, how they switch back and forth from legs to fins, and how they live so far under the water.

What I absolutely love about this book is how the author uses scientific facts to create a rule system for this "magical" world. You learn about how a mermaid changes from legs to fins in a way that makes it believable and magical all in the same breath. Using an octopus as an example of how an animal can change how it looks, you can imagine how a mermaid would switch from legs to fins and then back again. You also learn interesting facts about aquatic animals like how surgeonfish are named for the white spine on their tales and how some sharks use electric signals to sense their prey.

The book is filled with delightfully fun parts that are perfect for that 8-12 year old girl wanting to believe in the magic of mermaids. Miri gets to take baths in a large clam shell with "its inside a shimmering rainbow of mother of pearl with a ruffly edge trimmed in gold." I mean, what little girl wouldn't want to take a bath in a huge shell? By far, though, the favorite part of the book in our house was the charm bracelets that the mermaid girls wore. To get a new charm for the bracelet, the mermaids have to purchase a sandcastle statue with charm hidden on the inside. To remove the charm, you scratch the bottom of the statue and sand pours out with the charm. After we read this part of the book, we were both wishing they actually sold charm bracelets like this at the shore.

I think this is the perfect book for any girl to read when she is reaching that "age of not believing" because this book will convince her to believe in fairy tales and magic for a little while longer. I only wish that we hadn't read the book until the second book was published because we were left pining to keep reading when we got to the end of the book. We are looking forward to reading Miri Attwater and All that Glitters when it comes out.

For more information about the Miri Atwater series, check out Miri Attwater's World.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.
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