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.

6 Things You Should Never Say to a Harry Potter Fan

Harry Potter fans take their love of all things wizarding pretty seriously, so when a Muggle questions their devotion, don’t be surprised if they get a tad prickly. Whether you are a member of the fandom or not, the staying power—and magic—of Harry Potter cannot be denied. And with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child debuting in London this July, the first film in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trilogy hitting theaters this fall, and the opening of the Hollywood Wizarding World of Harry Potter in April, there are now so many more opportunities to fall in love with the Boy Who Lived. For Muggles unsure of how to talk to a Potter fan during the upcoming excitement, we’ve collected are a few phrases that you probably shouldn’t open with.

Aren’t those books for kids?”

Is the suggested age range the Harry Potter series 9-12? Well, sure. But in 2016, many adults proudly read children’s and teen fiction—because it’s great. Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildLady MidnightGlass Sword, and Pax are all current bestsellers that were written for middle schoolers through teens, but are loved by both kids and adults. And it’s not just 2016 titles that have broad appeal; The Hobbit was originally considered children’s literature. Julius Caesar, one of Shakespeare’s classics, is listed as being for readers ages 12-17. What it all boils down to is that age ranges are subjective, even arbitrary: read what you want, and love what you love.

“I thought the Twilight books were better.”

Popular culture will always spawn these sorts of unnecessary rivalries: You can be a Trekkie or a Jedi. You can love Bond or prefer Bourne. Team Twilight; Team Potter. Of course, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone, especially when it gets people passionately discussing books. Having said that, the seven books in the Harry Potter series inspired a love of reading in fans of all ages, the movies became international sensations (and arguably began the trend of turning popular childrens’ series into blockbusters), and the first official Harry Potter story to be produced on stage, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, promises to be a West End phenomenon. Also, Robert Pattinson was in the Harry Potter movies first. You can love Twilight—we do—but you must respect the power of the Potter.

Magic isn’t real.”

Naysayers who have no love for a good fantasy are the first to jump on the No-Maj bandwagon. This debate really depends on how you define magic, though. Think it’s impossible to disappear for hours? Visit other planets without leaving your house? Travel through time? If you’re a reader, chances are you’ve pulled off all three feats in the last week alone. And consider the last time you sat down with a good book before bed and the suddenly realized it was after midnight. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

“There is no such thing as Hogwarts.”

Aside from the fact that there are now two brick and mortar Hogwarts Schools in the country (anyone else have their tickets to California booked?), Hogwarts is just as real as magic is. In the same way Narnia, The Shire, and Shakespeare’s love-torn Verona exist, so too does Hogwarts. To anyone who has ever needed an escape or an adventure, the wonderful worlds we visit in books are always there. “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it,” and those who believe in Hogwarts know where they can turn. If you can get lost in the feeling of a song, or the universe created by a movie, you can go to Hogwarts just as easily, all without the mess of owl droppings on your doorstep.

I would never want to be a Hufflepuff. Aren’t they supposed to be the lamest?”

Of the four houses at Hogwarts, three have wonderfully distinctive characteristics…and then there is Hufflepuff. Gryffindors are brave, Ravenclaws smart, and Slytherins cunning. Hufflepuffs are the nice ones who happen to live near the kitchens. Given their status as the welcoming house, they tend to be sadly overlooked and get no love in either the books or the movies. For a long time even a casual fan of the series could joke that they wouldn’t want to be in Hufflepuff. But J.K. Rowling has worked to correct this oversight, claiming that 2016 is the year of the Hufflepuffs, what with the rise of Newt Scamander and the film adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Real Hufflepuffs also know that Cedric Diggory and Nymphadora Tonks were Hufflepuffs too, and there are few characters in the series that are as awesome as Tonks. So before you casually indulge in Hufflepuff hate, check yourself.

“The movies were better.”

This is the hardest point to debate in the Potter universe. The eight movies are must-watch material for all fans, and the pending three for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them look terrific. The seven books, and Harry’s textbooks, are of course amazing. And don’t forget the incredible, and undersung, audiobooks. Jim Dale is a read-aloud wizard and everyone should fall under his spell. His performance of Goblet of Fire won a Grammy in 2o01, and he won again in 2008 for Deathly Hallows. No matter which medium you prefer, the bottom line is that there is no BAD Harry Potter.

What else should you never say to a Harry Potter fan?

4 Audiobooks that will Save Your Sanity and Get Your Kids Ahead

4 Audiobooks that will Save Your Sanity and Get Your Kids Ahead.

My first post as a writer for the Barnes and Noble Kids Blog is now live! This was the piece that I pitched that got me hired to write for them, but I think the posts that I have coming in the future are even stronger and have a bit more personality. Having said that, I love audiobooks, I love all of the books that I suggest in the post, and so far I love writing for Barnes and Noble.

via 4 Audiobooks that will Save Your Sanity and Get Your Kids Ahead.