Meet some of the best parenting books of the year so far, culled from the gravid shelves at BookPage. Selected on individual merit, this disparate grouping nonetheless suggests a pattern: truth. These new books seem to concern themselves with rooting out truth no matter how entrenched the myth, how muddled the syndrome, how white the lie, and all entirely to our favor. Truth can be shocking. For example, what we thought was OK for kid’s health is bad, and what we thought was bad is actually OK. Or, we learn our ideals of the “good” mother and the “good” girl must be radically redefined. Or, we find the real nitty-gritty coming home with a newborn is not quite what we expected. Still, these books are just what the doctor should order: a frank, fearless and sometimes very funny heads-up. Of course, the ultimate parenting truth is that we all want to succeed, and with selections like these, we have a pretty good chance.
How often have you heard these health facts: burns are best treated with ice, wounds should “air out” at night, spinach is a good source of iron, and teething can cause high fever? Guess what? These facts are fiction: baby myths, if you will. Pediatrician Andrew Adesman heard these and hundreds of other baby myths so often, he felt duty-bound to write a book: Babyfacts: the Truth About Your Child’s Health From Newborn Through Preschool. How about: raw carrots improve vision, green mucous always indicates a bacterial infection and cupcakes make kids hyper? Again, not true. If you are surprised, you aren’t alone: a pilot study showed a shocking number of pediatricians are just as credulous about these pervasive myths as the rest of us. Adesman deftly debunks the most common nuggets of misinformation in an easy-to-use, absorbing reference.
Open in case of emergency
The next book debunks myths too, but it specializes in how to distinguish a real emergency from a routine situation or a false alarm. Emergency room pediatrician Lara Zibners has the street cred to teach parents when a trip to the ER is a must, a maybe or a wait-and-see, and ditto for a regular acute office visit. In If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay, Dr. Zibners covers every category likely to be a concern at some point: newborn issues, skin, guts, “plumbing,” allergies, wounds, fever, head injuries and so on. The range is immense (and realistic): swallowed fish-tank gravel, super-glued body parts, high fevers or major trauma, she’s been there. A nice touch is the author’s overriding assertion that parents should always trust intuition: we know our own children best. Keep a copy in the medicine cabinet for quick, straightforward advice when you need it most.
In the trenches
Former war photojournalist Deborah Copaken Kogan is back with more stories from the family front. Picking up where her best-selling memoir Shutterbabe left off, Kogan weaves past and present into a wry portrait of real life at home. In Hell Is Other Parents: and Other Tales of Maternal Combustion the author confronts family challenges that make covering carnage in Afghanistan (which she has done) seem easy by comparison. Her frank take on Mommy & Me classes, life as a reluctant stage mother and encounters with parents who espouse decidedly different childrearing philosophies (i.e. helicopter parents) is delightful. So too are her flashbacks to younger and wilder days: days before she and her family of five must squeeze into a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment and get by on a freelancer’s pittance. Above all, do not miss the chapter about sharing a room in the maternity ward with the world’s rudest postpartum teenager.
New moms and moms-to-be, meet your new best friend. Claudine Wolk, author of It Gets Easier! And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers, tells it (and all of it) like it really is: pregnancy, childbirth and those first, foggy baby months. Never mind all the other advice that will inevitably bombard the pregnant and postpartum: listen to her. Wolk, a mother of three, interviewed hundreds of women to find the real deal: the most helpful tips, most urgent issues and most practical solutions for the transition to motherhood. The three big common concerns—sleep, schedule and guilt—are covered in great detail, but each chapter is packed with invaluable, uncensored advice on absolutely everything. This book is precisely what the subtitle claims: “a fun, practical guide to becoming a mom.” Where, oh where was it when my two kids were new? A must for baby shower and new mom gifts.
The confident parent
Parents who have made it past the baby stage are ready for Jen Singer, award-winning mommy blogger and author of You’re a Good Mom. Singer’s new series began this spring with the publication of Stop Second-Guessing Yourself: The Toddler Years, and continues with the September release of Stop Second-Guessing Yourself: The Preschool Years. Singer’s cheery, no-nonsense style helps parents navigate the challenges unique to the three- to five-year-old set (or, as she calls them, “tiny teens in light-up sneakers”). Combining her own experiences with those of veteran moms from her website, MommaSaid.net, she gives the support, advice and insights most of us desperately need. Note the reassuring reader-contributed “It Worked for Me” and “Okay, I Admit It” boxes sprinkled throughout.
Giving girls voice
Rachel Simmons broke new ground with Odd Girl Out, the best-selling exploration of bullying among girls. With The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls With Courage and Confidence she turns her lens to the insidious myth of the Good Girl: a narrow and unrealistic model of female perfection. Far too many girls equate self-esteem with being “good”: thinking and acting only in modest, polite, conscientious and selfless ways. Such a limited repertoire of acceptable feelings limits the healthy development of real self esteem, body image and overall confidence, and prevents girls from cultivating potential. The pattern can start in early childhood and expand throughout life, affecting choices in education, career, relationships and family life, as well as a sense of purpose and worth. Simmons presents case studies and research to illustrate the complexities of the Good Girl syndrome, as well as numerous strategies we can all undertake to encourage the authentic inner—and ultimately outer—voice of girls.
Joanna Brichetto objects to the word “parent” used as a verb, but she parents a teen and a toddler, anyway.