Let the Wild Rumpus Start! And Other Parenting Tips From Kids’ Books

“The days are long, but the years are short” is possibly the most honest phrase ever said about parenting. Becoming a parent is one of the best, hardest, most wonderful, and most trying jobs there is. To help get through the long days, the short years, and the temper tantrums in between, during your next story time, take a look at the messages behind your picture books; you might be surprised at just how helpful (and prescient) they are.

“’And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!’” (Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak)

 This could be said about every single day of parenting, from those first kicks to the bladder during pregnancy, to the crayon on the walls of toddlerhood, to the tearful high school graduation. Every day is crazier than you’d planned, more fun, and more frustrating, all at the same time. Parenting is indeed a wild rumpus — and if we take it as such, then at least we’ll be more prepared for the absurdity.

“It has been a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.” (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz)

 There will be days when no one makes it out of their pajamas, the dog spills your last precious cup of coffee, and your toddler takes magic markers to the TV screen. It happens, despite our best efforts and our most carefully laid plans. No matter how the day unfolds, it’s comforting to know that it’s normal, and everyone has been there. File it away, have a glass of wine or a cookie, and remember it’ll be okay tomorrow.

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard)

 When you get down to it, we’re responsible for teaching our children how to be good, kind, responsible human beings; that is a powerful mission, and we should take the time to recognize that, and to acknowledge and appreciate our own efforts, even though we often feel like we aren’t doing enough. Maybe your kids haven’t mastered shoelaces yet, but however far along you are in this endeavor, you are a superhero.

“I should count backwards from 5 to calm down.” (The Pizza Problem, by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson)

 When things do get too crazy, take some advice from Peg and count backward, slowly. A lot can be gained from not immediately reacting to a situation, instead stepping away and taking a breather. When you jump back in, you may be surprised at how much your perspective has changed. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, so sometimes you need to catch your breath before pushing on.

“The truth is grown-ups often need some extra help. Baffled and befuddled, mindless and muddled, they sometimes forget what they know.” (Julia, Child, by Kyo Maclearand, Julie Morstad)

 With a focus on staying young, enjoying some freedom, and being yourself, this whole book is a gorgeous reminder to live in the moment. And, as a bonus, there are also fabulous pictures of food throughout. If we stand back and watch, we can learn a lot about how to live our best lives from our children. Also, it’s really about time the iconic Julia Child got a picture book of this quality. After all, what’s happier and more heartening to families than food?

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” (The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien)

 Speaking of food and happiness, take a page from The Hobbit. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of getting by we can forget to enjoy what we have. Instead of taking every overtime shift and letting that vacation time expire, take a day or two off to enjoy your kids, your home, and your surroundings. There’s more wealth in family and friends than we sometimes realize. Your sanity, and your children, will thank you for listening to Tolkien on this one.

“When they’ve finished reading, Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, ‘You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.’” (Olivia, by Ian Falconer)

 No matter how tired, filthy, or frustrated parenting can make you feel, try to remember just how much you do love that little person. Everything may feel like chaos, and your house may actually look like the definition of chaos, but if your family is more or less happy, healthy, and safe, pat yourself on the back and move on to tomorrow.

“Go the f**k to sleep.” (Go the F**k to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes)

 Sometimes the best lesson is the briefest. Everyone, get some sleep when you can. It can make all the difference.

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on March 18, 2016.

7 Classic Children’s Books that Modern Kids Will Adore

As long as there have been books, there have been parents who can’t wait to share their favorites with their own children. When my brother and I were small, I remember my mom reading her favorite Nancy Drew mysteries to us one chapter at a time, and us begging her to read just one more. What else can a parent ask for than that; the chance to share the gift of a good story and to bond over a classic? (Or, you know, maybe the occasional chance to take a bath without someone knocking on the door.)

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams and William Nicholson
Originally published in 1922, this ultimate tale of love and hope will show kids the magic in their toys. And it will bring parents to tears. With gorgeous, gentle illustrations and a story that is just as accessible today was it was in the ’20s, this is a bookshelf staple. Kids who are attached to their toys, kids who have to let go of something, and kids who have experienced a lengthy illness will especially find happiness and comfort in Williams’ must-read classic.

The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A. A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard
No childhood is complete without Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet. The sheer number of revisits, movies, and other related media (including the 2016 Caldecott Medal-winning Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear) that have come from the original publishing of Winnie-The-Pooh are testament enough to the beautiful staying power of the Hundred Acre Woods. Pooh’s charming innocence and naiveté, Eeyore’s grumpiness, and Tigger’s boundless energy all reflect attitudes and emotions that children can strongly relate to. This series began in 1926 in England and has never lost its magic.

The American Boy’s Handy Book, by Daniel C. Beard
The ultimate 1882 handbook for outdoor adventures is a fit for every rough and tumble kid in 2016. The title may say that it was created for boys, but with instructions on how to build and fly kites, go fishing, blow soap bubbles, and track animals, there is a something for all children. Even if you are raising a future outdoor aficionado in a big city, kids will still love to read about all of the possible adventures out in the big wide world. We may not be hunting and trapping today, but our love of nature and adventure hasn’t changed.

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, by Carolyn Keene
In 1930 publisher Edward Stratemeyer created Nancy Drew, and ever since a series of authors has taken this intrepid detective on countless mysteries under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Major female figures have cited Nancy as a role model in their childhood, and critics has applauded the series’ staying power. This early feminist idol, her tenacity, and her brave adventures, is just as exciting for boys, girls, and parents today as she was over 80 years ago.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard Atwater, Florence Atwater, and Robert Lawson
Mr. Popper came back recently in a live action movie, but his original story was published in 1938. The tale of a painter, his dreams, and his growing brood of penguins that came to live with his family is an all time classic. Kids of all ages love penguins, that seems to be a universal fact, and everyone loves it when penguins get into mischief. The funny wordplay, the silly situations, and the dreams of Mr. Popper are infectious, and this story will easily become a bedtime favorite among modern children.

The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
If The Velveteen Rabbit doesn’t bring you to tears, then this 1964 classic will. The story is a stunning metaphor for generosity, love, and the power of selflessness, and parents will see themselves on every page. Kids may not be as deeply affected by the metaphor as parents, but they will understand the power of the tree and the amazing transformation it undergoes. This timeless story can also be used to discuss the evolution of fruit trees, the uses of wood, and the cycle of life. Basically, Shel Silverstein is a genius.

Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery, by Deborah Howe, James Howe, and Alan Daniel
This 1979 chapter book was personal favorite of mine when I was a kid, and I can’t wait to read it to my daughter. Chester the cat and Harold the dog have to work together to solve the mystery that is causing the household food to turn white, and contend with the family’s new pet rabbit. The four-legged sleuths will become your young readers’ favorite heroes as they work to get to the bottom of the mystery. The series continues with Howliday Inn, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and others, so you are absolutely going to have hours of pet detective work ahead of you.

What treasured childhood books are you excited to share with your children?

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on February 4, 2016.