Parenting 101

It seems that every time I have a new baby I like to read books about parenting. Kind of like taking a refresher course.

It Sucked and then I Cried by Heather B. Armstrong is a memoir about pregnancy and the first year of her daughter’s life. Armstrong is the blogger behind the incredibly popular blog Dooce. The book tells the story of her struggle with depression that ultimately required her stay in a mental hospital. I appreciate how honest and real she is about the hard parts of parenting and about her depression. I’m sure many people have been and will be helped by her straight-forward handling of the topic. She’s also very funny and any new parent will identify with much of the book. I can’t recommend it to everyone I know, as her style is a bit crude. I know some people would have a hard time getting past that, although it didn’t keep me from enjoying her story.  It reminded me a lot of Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions (although Lamott is a better writer) which I also really enjoyed. It has the same in-your-face style and sense of humor.

Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton is a very different memoir. Amster-Burton is a food critic and stay-at-home dad who writes about his adventures in cooking for and eating with his young daughter. It would be really easy to feel guilty after reading this book. There was a part of me (ok a large part of me) that wanted to hate this guy after reading about the homemade empanadas and pot stickers he made when he was Snack Dad at his daughter’s preschool. Amster-Burton’s livelihood comes from cooking and eating and writing about it. He’s pretty open about the fact that yes, he does usually shop every day for the best ingredients and spend several hours cooking dinner. The weakest chapter in the book is the one where he talks about using a Crock Pot. In different hands I’d have been rolling my eyes at how unrealistic this guy was about the way most of us live and feeling defensive about what I was making for dinner.

However, Amster-Burton doesn’t make you feel guilty. The best part of this book is that it is in no way a “how to”. He’s not trying to tell you how to feed your child or how to cook for kids, even though the book does include recipes at the end of every chapter. He shares his thoughts about cooking for kids but leaves you with a feeling that these are suggestions that worked for him that you might want to try rather than commandments that if you break them will guarantee that your child is an ultra-picky eater that will only eat white food. The freely admits at the end of the Crock-Pot chapter that he isn’t a Crock-Pot kind of guy. He admits that there are a lot of foods his daughter refuses to eat. He even admits to eating (and liking) Kraft mac and cheese.

What you get from reading this book is a great story of a Dad who really obviously loves his daughter and has a great time cooking for her and with her. That’s a story anyone can enjoy.

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