Beyond Dr. Spock – by Charlotte Canelli

Charlotte Canelli is the library director at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Read Charlotte’s column in the May 1, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Before becoming a professional librarian and library director, I was blessed to have spent nearly twenty-five years raising my three daughters. They were in the midst of their college careers when I finished my master’s degree, after figuring out just what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Now, I watch one of my daughters in that incredible role of motherhood – the job I once had.  I marvel at the ease and care at which my daughter navigates the fresh and sparkling (and treacherous) waters of motherhood.

As one of the Baby Boomer Generation, I didn’t have much to go by, other than our own parenting and grand parenting examples. I referred to Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare (handed down by my own mother) for help for diaper rash, fever, or infectious diseases. For serious parenting advice, however, I admit I simply flew by the seat of my pants most of the time.

New parents today have an overabundance of books (and relatives, peers and colleagues) to advise, overwhelm and confuse them. If I found Dr. Spock’s tiny print and numerous chapters more than I could handle, I sympathize with the poor parent today who has a billion pages on the Internet to digest.  From online magazines, guides and websites, most questions are answered.  At least in a billion different, confusing ways.

Luckily, there is amusement and playfulness to be found amongst this all-too-serious topic. And some of the funniest parents write online blogs, many of which have been transformed into books.

Robin O’Bryant began writing Robin’s Chicks, a mommy blog meant to bring tears to your eyes –either through sarcasm and wit, or poignant, sincere stories.  Her first book, “Ketchup is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves” (2014) is considered a memoir, or compilation of essays about her own experiences – the joys and distresses of motherhood.  A collection of reader’s favorite blog entries, “A Second Helping”, is available only in digital format for the Kindle.

Pediatrician and mother Wendy Sue Swanson began writing a blog for the Seattle Children’s Hospital website in 2009.  She ascribes to the philosophy that parents only “want to do what’s right” and they want honest help. In March 2014, her book “Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance” hit the book and library shelves.  Swanson shares her combined education, practice, and experience in guiding parents through the maze of medical advice.

Three very funny and irreverent books on library shelves also began as hilarious online blogs. The first, “Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures” by Amber Dusick (2013) focuses on both the sweet and heartwarming moments and the not-so-cute and “unpleasant surprises.”  You can also begin any morning with a smile if you ‘like’ the Facebook page.  The cartoons are very basic – one might say there is very little artistic quality to them.  But they are designed not to impress but to make you laugh.

“I Just Want to Pee Alone: A Collection of Humorous Essays by Kick Ass Mom Bloggers” (2013) asks just why parents can’t get a bathroom break without interruption and other profound questions of the overwrought, underslept crowd. Essays by 37 bloggers are included in the book. If you are finding yourself awake a midnight rocking a toddler back to sleep, keep this book close at hand.  But be careful not to laugh out loud.

The most recent addition is “I Heart My Little A-Holes: A Bunch of Holy-Crap Moments No One Ever Told You about Parenting” by Karen Alpert, author of the blog, Baby Sideburns (2014).

Of course, Dave Barry (Pulitzer-prizewinning author of a plethora of humorous non-fiction books, essays, and fiction) began writing about parenthood in 1984 with “Babies and Other Hazards of Sex.”  17 years later (in 2001) he wrote “My Teenage Son’s Goal in Life is to Make Me Feel 3,500 Years Old.”  Barry turned 50 in 1997.  This year, at age 67, he added “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About” to his humor repertoire.

Of course, there is a lot more serious advice to consider in parenting, to be sure. In this precarious day and age of being constantly plugged-in, Catherine Steiner-Adair offers “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age” (2013). It’s more difficult than ever parenting in 2014 (take it from me with a teenaged grandson in the house).  My own daughter and her husband have taken a vow to limit my granddaughter’s online presence; yet, I still have the amazing opportunity to FaceTime with little Phoebe several times a week and kiss her sweet image on an iPad screen. Steiner-Adair attacks the issues: our online lives and when and where to unplug.

Noël Janis-Norton offers “Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting: Five Strategies that End the Daily Battles and Get Kids to Listen the First Time” (2013) which may sound impossible when the battles are raging. Problems with mornings, homework, screentime, mealtimes, bedtime and chores can all be less stressful claims Janis-Norton.

There are dozens more books like these, including new additions by SuperNanny “Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior” (2014) and “The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and Parenting” by Alfie Kahn.

I’m glad I get to watch my granddaughter grow up under someone else’s watchful eye. Bedtime or no bedtime, screen time or none, I’m relieved I don’t have to make the decisions that I would agonize over. I admit I stumbled and tripped, often second-guessing myself along the way.  I’d like to think I made it through successfully in spite of my 1951, dog-eared, yellow-paged copy of Dr. Spock.

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