These books remind us why parenthood is a verb

During the pandemic, I dreamed of writing a book about parenting. Its title would be: G AND OUTSIDE THE EFFING HOUSE. But maybe it’s j...


During the pandemic, I dreamed of writing a book about parenting. Its title would be: GAND OUTSIDE THE EFFING HOUSE. But maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t, because it seems like every other person in America has. There are plenty of them, and it’s a mixed bag – understandable considering the fact that everyone was writing at a whining distance from their kids. Here are four that deserve your attention; you may find them as useful as curling up with that third afternoon glass of chardonnay.

FOURTEEN LECTURES BY AGE OF FOURTEEN: The Essential Conversations You Need To Have With Your Kids Before They Start High School (Harmony, 320 pp., $ 26.99) is the book I needed when my own sons entered college. I was not an intuitive and attentive parent, and I didn’t really notice my son’s suffering, although I probably should have had an idea when he wrote MY LIFE SUCKS on his wall with a Sharpie. But we assume that being miserable in college is normal, a rite of passage even, and some of us ostrich on our kids and come out for some fresh air when they’re 20. Michelle Icard, speaker and educator specializing in young teens, humorously shows us how to have The Talks on everything from pornography to privilege. She calls her communication system BRIEF to start calmly; report; maintenance; echo what you hear; and give your child your opinion. I especially enjoyed her recommendation to practice what she calls Botox Brow: At that point your child surprises you with surprising or upsetting news, she advises parents: “Imagine you are a celebrity in a talk. – late night show that was so Botoxed, you can’t move your forehead at all. You will feel like a robot. A relative of Stepford. If you do it, you are doing it well.

How do you become a loving and present father when the paternity models of your childhood are crap? This is the question at the center of Craig Melvin POP: Learn to Be a Son and a Father (Morrow, 208 p., $ 26.99), a memoir of the troubled education of the co-host of the program “Today”. Violence, drug addiction, and chaos ran deep into Melvin’s father line. Growing up in Columbia, South Carolina in the ’80s and’ 90s with a father who “didn’t mean to be a bad dad” but nonetheless drank and gambled family money, Melvin, like many black children of his generation, was obsessed with “The Cosby Show” and dreamed of having Cliff Huxtable as a father. “He didn’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer, but I wanted a father who would come read the paper, talk about the news and ask me how my day was. Before the Cosby series, I had never seen a character like that on television; there wasn’t a black male father who was a professional, and had a happy, intact family, who had lived in a beautiful big house in New York, who spoke scholarly, who celebrated art and the music. A father with whom you could have a real conversation. It was all foreign to me.

Melvin makes sure he can always have conversations about his children’s passions, even if he doesn’t share them; man read the Pokémon field guide for god’s sake. He writes, “I know who Squirtle is, and that’s important to Del.” “Pops” is touching, and although Melvin never really finds the answers, the question of how to be different clearly remains with him every hour of every day. You may not share Melvin’s story, but the lessons he learned are universal.

You can’t dispute Jessica Lahey’s good faith on the subject of parenthood: she’s a mother, a teacher at a teen rehab school, and herself a recovering alcoholic with a family history of drug addiction. (“I was raised to understand that the proper term for fainting was ‘take a nap’.”) INOCULATION OF ADDICTION: Raising Healthy Children in a Culture of Addiction (Harper, 336 pages, $ 26.99) chronicles the complex interplay of genetics and environment that leads to substance abuse problems and how parents can reduce risk factors while amplifying proven protective factors – from extended family to pet ownership companionship – which can help protect your children. This is an important book for the parent that says, “This could never happen to my child. Because it could.

This is how Einat Nathan describes babies: “Think of them as tourists in a country whose language they do not understand, not even the sounds or the lights.” If that doesn’t make you feel fondly towards the little buggers, nothing will. MY EVERYTHING: The parent I want to be, the children I want to raise (Hachette Go, 304 pp., $ 28) is a short and often fun series of essays that beautifully capture the micro and macro meanings of being a parent. The constant troubles that cannot be separated from the pleasures (“They drag on over things, make me want to die of boredom”). Anxiety which is so counterproductive because it usually causes us to focus on ourselves, not them. The critical importance of failure, because frustration and disappointment – starting with not having more gummy worms and perhaps ending with not getting that big job or that big love – is vitally important for growth. We are here, she said, to sow the seeds of optimism, to give children a workaround so that when life gives us a No, we know that there are still many Yes in our future. Or, as she says, “I’m not offering you ice cream right now, but you can have watermelon.”

This watermelon is as good as ever, plus there’s ice cream and cake in your future.

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