It was a few months after I had my first son, and he was getting serious eczema. I was at a loss for how to help him and needed more info, so I decided to make a trip to the bookstore to see if I could find anything helpful there. I remember being a mess at that point–just completely exhausted and overwhelmed. Things were better than they had been, but I was only just coming out of that newborn fog.
While I was browsing the all-things-baby shelves, a woman came up and stood next to me, looking at books, too. After a few minutes, she turned to me and said with an almost scarily desperate smile, “I’m looking for a book to help me with my three boys. I don’t know what to do with them, and they are driving me crazy during the day. All they do is fight. I’m getting to the point where I can’t take it anymore.” And then she laughed nervously.
I wasn’t sure what to say. Not only did I have no idea what having three kids was like, but I was also out of my mind with exhaustion and painfully shy. So I smiled and–here’s the worst part–said nothing, eek.
That was SEVEN YEARS AGO, and I still think about that interaction. I have three young kids of my own now, and though some days I don’t even know how we get by, I can also acknowledge that, all these years later, I am a much more competent and knowledgable parent. I’d like to think that if I met that woman today, I’d be able to offer up useful advice, especially when it comes to book recommendations. Here are the parenting books I’d recommend to her:
1. How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen
I’ll be honest, I’m still in the middle of reading this one. But I love it so far! Really helpful and practical advice for parenting kids in the 2 to 7 age range. It’s down-to-earth, nonjudgmental, and realistic. For older kids, check out their bestselling classic, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.
2. Siblings Without Rivalry
Same authors as the first one, but it’s not just a rehash of their previous books. Our house is a work in progress when it comes to fighting between siblings, but this book is helping us see improvements.
3. Supernanny: How to Get the Best from Your Children
I know, I know. It’s based on a reality show. But I swear to you, Jo’s methods work! She’s got all the skills for dealing with little kids. This book legit got me through my first and second kid’s toddler years.
4. Parenting with Love and Logic
This was one of the first books I read that affirmed for me that I didn’t have to use the “tools” from my childhood (i.e., a wooden spoon and rage) to discipline my kids. It’s full of super gentle, doable, and effective advice.
* * * * *
I do still think about that mom in the bookstore, though. I wish I could go back in time and give her a big hug. I wish I could say the right thing (or maybe at least something, sheesh). I would tell her: I know how hard it is. I know that you are doing your best. Being a parent is tough. Trying to guide three small monsters into non-dickish adulthoods is tough. There are joys and pangs of love, sure, but there are lots of tears and wit’s ends and moments of “is this even real?!” If I saw that woman today, I would tell her that she’s not alone. I would tell her that I get it, that I have moments like that erryday. I’d also assure her that there are plenty of good parenting books out there that can help!
So, Lady in the Bookstore, I only met you once, but I still think of you. I don’t even remember your face, but I’m giving you cosmic hugs (and book suggestions) in this moment. I hope you get them.