My four year old son had a playdate after school the other day. His friend’s mom met me in the dismissal line at school, where I wrenched over my child’s enormous cereal and wasabi pea encrusted car seat so that he could ride in their car. As I dug and dragged the car seat out of my car and gasped at how many small, formerly crunchy pieces of food fell from the nooks and crannies, I thought, in my best curmudgeony voice, “In my day, we rolled around in the way back of my friend’s station wagon when we went over to her house to play. Also, when did the term “playdate” originate? That term popped up sometime between my childhood and my son’s.”
The Most Helpful Parenting Book I’ve Read in Quite some Time
After questioning all of these minor parenting woes, I picked up Act Natural by Jennifer Traig. In her book, Traig, a mother of two, researches the answers to many modern day parenting questions. She moves from Ancient Rome, where some parents exposed their children to the elements instead of raising them, to the 1500’s, where male obstetricians were not allowed to watch births before practicing medicine, all the way to the current day. Such topics as childbirth, parenting advice books, children’s literature, and the feeding of children are all researched and discussed.
This is the best parenting book I read in a very long time. I recommended it to everyone I could. Work colleagues, neighbors, moms in my moms’ group at church, and even my dental hygienist all put with me spewing facts about raising children. I want to get a glass of wine with Jennifer Traig and commiserate about the reasons behind sleep training, picky eaters, and mom guilt.
After reading through this cultural history of parenting, I feel so much better about many of my parenting choices. I normally feel guilty if my son has 15 more minutes of screen time than the recommended limit. Instead, I reminded myself that I did not swaddle him and stick him on a hook all day, as they did in the middle ages, or make him stand at the dinner table and eat my table scraps, as was common throughout much of history.
I gleaned so many fascinating facts about why we parent the way that we do. I even used them to win a contentious dinner time battle. Last week, my husband made beef stir fry and served it over brown rice. Our four-year-old loudly lamented the fact that brown rice was served instead of white rice. He then complained about the presence of beef in place of chicken. Finally, as only a preschooler can, he accused my husband of adding too many crunchies, aka onions, to the stir fry.
After listening to this whinefest, I quoted directly from Act Natural and firmly informed my son that “the phrase picky eater didn’t enter the lexicon until 1970, and the idea that children would refuse food is very, very recent.” I told him that he could either eat his food quietly or leave the room. He gaped and began quietly cleaning his plate, including the crunchies. A win for mama, indeed!
Seriously, check this book out. It may not include recipes for homemade baby food or explain how to keep your child in his or her bed, but it did help me feel better as a mom.