If there's an anecdote from my childhood that really illustrates what kind of person I am, it's the time that my sister, Mar, and I were grounded from reading for a week and forced to play outside in the sunshine with the neighborhood kids in an effort to become socialized. We really just could not be bothered to go play with other children when there were so many books to read out in the world! And to this day, at any given time, there are 2-3 books on my bedside table that I'm plowing through every night before I go to bed. I'll read anything from sci-fi, to cheesy romance, to memoirs, and ridiculously huge historical tomes.
But I have to admit, I have a special place in my heart for parenting books. Most likely this is because I don't actually have children of my own. These books are merely educational for me, so there is no stress of having to give birth to and raise a child for 18 years attached to them. I've been taking care of children since I was 16, but started taking it seriously when I was in college and was working with kids with special needs. My job suddenly felt important and like I could possibly truly make a lasting impact on this child, Chip's* life. Chip is on the autism spectrum, and I made it my business to learn everything I could about autism and what kind of things I could be doing to contribute positively to his care. I ended up babysitting Chip and his two brothers the entire time I was in college. In the four years I knew Chip, he went from being a silent and withdrawn toddler, to a thriving, happy, funny, soccer-loving student. It was a gift to be a part of his life in my own small way. I learned so much from working with his speech and occupational therapists, as well as the books they let me borrow during that time.
That experience made me want to learn more about child development and parenting techniques, so I dove into reading parenting books with the time and abandon that only a childless person has. I would love if this became a biweekly or monthly series, since there are just so many books I have read and enjoyed!
Dr. Karp's book sheds light primarily on the stages of development following the three months after a baby has been born. He calls this time the "fourth trimester," as the baby is still acting like, and has the same basic needs, as when he was in utero. Basically, babies are born underdeveloped and before they're really, truly cooked, because women's bodies cannot physically sustain them any longer than 40 weeks, and not because they're actually equipped to be alive. Dr. Karp teaches you how to create a comforting environment, keep your baby calm and soothed, and how to distinguish between your baby's different cries. It's the first book I recommend to new parents, and I've used the techniques several times on babies I've taken care of and found them to be almost foolproof. I can't say enough good things about this book, it's a must-read!
2. Great With Child by Beth Ann Fennelly
I love this book because of its comforting and warm tone. So many baby books are designed to just scare the shit out of new parents, as if they aren't already scared enough as it is! Fennelly's book is a compilation of letters that are familiar, funny, and exciting. There's no horror stories and no judgement or condescension, only positive words of encouragement. (Trigger Warning: The author does discuss her miscarriages, but in a way that is very moving, and not traumatizing for the reader.) I would recommend this to my own pregnant girlfriends, as an antidote to all the insane advice and horror stories they seem to be constantly receiving against their will!
3. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross
Payne and Ross have essentially written down what I've been telling parents and friends for years. YOU DON'T NEED ALL THAT CRAP. It's my firm belief that babies and children do not need an overabundance of things, be it fancy toys, fancy swings, fancy chairs, fancy kid iPhones, fancy bathtubs... you get my drift. This book lays it all out for you, in a much more polite way than I ever could. There is so much going on in kid's lives, with their schedules and toys and electronics. It's overstimulating children to a degree where they can't sit still at a dinner table/classroom, read a book or play quietly by themselves while their parents do other things. I love that this book stresses the need to respect children's individuality and give them more credit than they get - kids can do so much more than expected when given a chance. If I had to sum up a book that more or less explains my philosophy on child-rearing, this is it.
4. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
By this point, most parents have heard of, if not read, Druckerman's tales of giving birth to and raising her two children in France. This book reads more as a memoir, that happens to have parenting advice as well. It's funny, insightful, and is a quick and easy read. My favorite tips are about getting the baby to sleep through the night, and why French kids eat everything. Even if you don't agree with everything Druckerman is saying, her hilarious stories make the book a worthwhile read. I devoured it at work in two days while my babes, Lamb (11 months) and Avocado (2 y/o), napped.
These are the first books I would recommend to my friends who are expecting. I think they'll get you excited about a new baby and won't foment any stress you may already be already having. And there's definitely more where this came from! I can't wait to write future posts about my favorite beauty books, kids books, baby books, and more!
*Unless otherwise noted, I use pseudonyms for the children I have worked with out of respect for their privacy.