Maurice Sendak, parenting expert

Maurice Sendak has died, at age 83.  Above* is a clip of my daughter, then age 2, singing Alligators All Around.  

He was one of my favorite parenting writers.

Wait, you thought his books were for kids?  

Chicken Soup With Rice is a brilliant “Playful Parenting" approach to living with a picky eater.  

Pierre is one of the best descriptions I’ve read on how (not) to deal with defiant behavior.  (I have read it aloud, front to back, to a roomful of adults taking my parenting workshops).  

Where The Wild Things Are shows us how children’s destructive impulses can find a home in fantasy, and lets us see an example of how you can both send your child to bed without supper and also make sure he gets fed.  

Bears — oh how many of us have been in that frantic search for the all-important stuffed animal who’s gone missing again!  That book is like a tiny treatise on how to play with separation anxiety and loss.

Each book is like a nugget of wisdom, showing us playful ways to cope with all that’s weird and challenging and complex when you live with little ones.  You close each one with a new idea of how to proceed.  Even poet Rita Dove famously used Sendak as an inspiration in a beautiful poem about mothers and daughters and body talk.

I love when children’s books are also for the parents.  Because reading is like nursing:  you hold your child close, you use your body and your mind to offer to your child a multi-sensory experience essential to his growth and development.  You use intimacy, touch, rhythm and warmth, to expose him of the best that the world has to offer.  It is so, so important to your child that you hold him and read to him.  

And all too often, just like nursing, we look at reading as though it’s *only* beneficial for your child, as though it’s not equally profound for mom.  But that’s wrong.  When it works, it’s for both of you — the content of the books, the experience of holding each other and sharing the art of the written word. You’re in the milk and the milk’s in you.  He’s in the milk and the milk’s in him.  There you are, learning the world together.

Read good books with your child.

*Note:  Somehow you can only see the video if you view this site through tumblr!  Well, what better reason to join tumblr and follow me (amotherisborn) there … 

If Ezzo and Sears had a baby . . .

I like this blog post. It reminds me of a really wonderful, honest woman I worked with many years ago who sat down with me at our first visit and laid down two books and said, “I like a lot of things in both these books and I want you to help me weave them together to make something that is true to me.”

The two books? Ezzo’s Baby Wise and Sears’ The Baby Book.

I had to stifle a giggle at first, because the two books hold to nearly opposite ideals of parenting. But I deeply respected my client’s desire to combine a natural touch with a modicum of control, and we worked together to find a path that suited her and her family.  

Don’t get me wrong, you should absolutely not give your money to that nutbar Ezzo.  

But the bigger point is that even those of us who are instinctively high-touch and low-tech, through cluster feedings and colic and night-wakings — even for those moms, an urge to have some control over it all is not at all wrong.  

In fact, as long as you don’t imagine you can transform a normal, needy baby/toddler into a pet robot, it’s completely appropriate to look for the things you can control.  You must not imagine that a “good” mother is the one who erases herself to her baby’s existence.  Babies are needy and your job is to meet those needs.  But they are not so fragile that they can’t handle living with real, human mothers, who need a some efficacy over their lives and a sense of self.  

It’s the balance that’s hard — figuring out what would help you feel a little control and learning what your baby’s needs are.  That’s where help, support, and friendship can be so useful.  Help helps.