a peek inside the fishbowl

16 May, 2006

A stop on the book tour for "Why Babies Do That"

Posted by andrea in: Misc. life

This is how I read.

I get ready for bed, and snuggle in the covers, read one chapter (two if I’m lucky) and pass out.

Author Jennifer Margulis sent me two books to look at, and fortunately, both are good bedtime reads for the kind of reader I have become. “Toddler” came first. It’s a collection of short real-life stories written by parents about their toddlers. I was drawn to it right away. First, the cover. I am one of those horribly superficial people who judges books by their cover, and I liked the design of this one. Next, I flipped it open to a totally random page and read this:

“I simply can’t get Sam to eat vegetables,” a mommy next to me says.

“Cover them in cheese,” another mommy says. “They’ll eat anything covered in cheese.”

I�m so bored I feel like crying.

A mommy looks at me and says, “What about you? How do you get Spence to eat his vegetables?”

What I want to say is “I don’t know about you ladies, but that I could go for is a big, hairy c*ck.”

Instead I say, “I just do the reward thing. You know, if you eat four peas, you can have this can of Pringles.”

The mommies look at me like I’ve suggested my son eat his own feces.”

* I replaced the vowel in that word to prevent Google from picking it up.

I immediately knew this was going to be a good book, an honest book, written by real people. I had heard that this book was banned from being sold at a school function but didn’t know the details. (More info here� this article was disappointing to read. It makes me want to shake those people and tell them to get a grip. I’ve had it up to here with those kinds of purists.)

I find that too much of the writing that falls into the parenting genre to be downright maudlin. I’m not interested in schmaltz, but am interested in real stories and genuine emotion.

There’s a story in this collection written by a mother who lost her eyesight the day her son was born, and a father who dropped his daughter headfirst on the pavement. Those were all-telling and brutally honest reads.

There were many laugh-out loud moments as well.

This, from Sachin Waikar’s story, “Pantless Superheroes and Chocolate Donuts”

“I love Superfriends!” he announces, as we sit in front of the TV.

“Oh yeah? Why?” I probe.

Kayan considers this question for a moment. “Wonda Woman. She don’ wear any pants.”

“Yeah, that’s why Daddy likes it, too.” A true bonding moment.

There are many truths throughout this book. It’s not easy to be a parent. It’s hard, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, head-achingly scary, sad, and joyful all at the same time.

But I’m not really supposed to be writing about “Toddler.” That was sent to me as an extra. I’m way off track here because I’m actually supposed to be writing about “Why Babies Do That.”

My girls are past the baby stage, and so this book is less relevant to me today. I did my best to read WBDT as if I were a new parent, one with had a newly minted infant latched on to me and spit-up stains on my shoulder.

WBDT is a smallish publication, barely breaking 100 pages, half of which are full-page photos of babies. The information is broken up into short chapters (easily digestible for harried parents?) that explain common baby behaviours we puzzle over: eg. Why do Babies Resist Going to Sleep? or Why do Babies Grasp onto Things So Tightly?

There are definitely interesting nuggets in there, but I couldn’t help but wonder who this book is aimed at. Me: I prefer a weightier tome. I like leafing though big books. If I’m going to read up on something I want to know it all. I like information, and lots of it!

Sidetrack: In one of our first pre-natal classes the teacher asked us if we knew what colostrum was. Everyone shook their heads no. But Mark and I had already read all there was to know about the stuff. We couldn’t understand why no one else seemed to know. For us, becoming pregnant meant that we immediately needed to read and research and it was hard to imagine people who didn’t.

What can I say. We are geeks.

I tried reading this book to my daughter Emma, thinking it would appeal to her burgeoning maternal sensibilities. She’s in grade one, adores babies, and can’t wait for the day she can babysit, but it was clear from the first few paragraphs that it wasn’t at her level of comprehension.

The writing is fluid and easy to follow. But I found that the occasional first-person narrative interrupted the flow.

When I first saw WBDT I immediately thought � gift book. It has that glossy sheen and lovely paper quality. Ultimately I think this is the kind of book that would be most appreciated by a new parent or grandparent … someone who is likely to be shocked by their newborn’s mustard-coloured poop and needs the assurance that it’s not their intestines being liquified by acidic breast milk.

I can also see this little book as a sweet little baby-shower gift. After all, all parents have to start somewhere, right?


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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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