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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

TBR Day: Toddler edited by Jennifer Margulis

For this month's TBR Day (hosted by Avid Bookreader) I chose to read Toddler: Real-life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent, Tiny People We Love edited by Jennifer Margulis. Actually, I've been working on it a couple of months now and suddenly found new interest in it. This collection of 46 essays by parents of toddlers has lots of familiar moments. I ordered the book from Paperbackswap some time in 2006 and it's been sitting on my shelf ever since. My older son has just turned three so I can certainly relate to the stories.

If you've ever questioned if you're a bad parent, this is the book for you. If you ever turned making dinner into a comedy of errors or bribed your child to go potty with an M&M, this book will strike a chord. Most of the essays are interesting or humorous and there are very few clunkers in the bunch.

As any reader of my blog knows, I have a just-turned-three-year-old and a six week old baby. The Pirate was an easy going, calm little boy. He was potty trained. Then the baby was born. My child turned into a whiny, screaming, horrifying little brat. He stopped using the potty and refused diapers. My patience (and my husband's) has been tested to its limit. There are moments when I think "I can't DO this. I just can't handle it." Then last week I read the essay called "Stinky Face" by Mary Jane Beaufrand. Beaufrand's daughter Sofia reacted exactly the same way the Pirate did. Beaufrand handled it badly, expected more from her daughter than a toddler can handle. She got annoyed at her daughter instead of seeing that it was herself that needed to change- her daughter was doing the best she could.

I read this essay last week, just before we were headed out of town for a 3 day vacation. It sounds silly to say, but it made a huge difference to me. The weekend went so well. The Pirate and I did much better. He's still annoying, but suddenly I can see that he's a little boy. Yes, he's frustrating me, but it's not him, it's ME. He's doing the best he can.

This is supposed to be a review of the book, but I find essays hard to review. This is why I focused on this one essay, and the impact it had on me. I would venture to say that there is an essay in here that strikes home for every parent. Everyone's been there, everyone's done that. You aren't the world's worst parent. These folks (moms and dads both) put it all out there and in the process allow the rest of us to feel better about ourselves.

(Yes, that's lipstick.)


  1. Hi Lisa!
    I'm just poking around at everyone's TBR Day posts and had to comment here. I've got two kids as well, but mine are now 9 and 13. (Yikes!! How did that happen!) As you can see from my girls' ages, my oldest was just a few weeks shy of being 4 at the time the little one came along and I vividly recall going through a rough patch those first few months. It sounds like these essays are truly serving their purpose of giving you some parenting food for thought and helping you see that your daily stresses are typical. And your wee ones are so adorable, by the way. Love the lipstick. ;)

    Take care!

  2. Hi Lisa,

    I was pleased to find mention of Toddler today on your blog! I was completely blindsided when my sweet, easy baby became a recalcitrant toddler and I put together the anthology as a kind of selfish altruism--I was so desperate to see how other parents were coping and to learn from their experiences. I didn't want a how-to book--though I think how-to books serve their function, I always learn so much more from reading/hearing about other people's experiences.

    I've since written two more books--one called WHY BABIES DO THAT and one (co-authored with my husband) called THE BABY BONDING BOOK FOR DADS. I think TODDLER is a much more substantial book but, interestingly, it's sold half the number of copies as WHY BABIES, maybe partly because parents of toddlers don't identify themselves as such? In any case, it is intended for people with small children who have no time to read (the stories are short enough to read in the bathroom) and I'm glad it found its way to your blog! I hope some of your readers can check it out of the local library and find the same solace in the book that I was looking for then (now mine are 8,7, and 4. How did they get so big so fast?!)

    All best,
    Jennifer Margulis

  3. This book sounds great! I have a daughter who will turn 5 in just over a week, and a 2 1/2 year old. They are both difficult in different ways. I do say many days "I can't do this!" They aren't just difficult though - they are also wonderful, sweet, smart, funny, and super cute. :-)

    My library doesn't have the book though. :-( I think I will request that they get it.

    Thanks for the review1

  4. Just had to comment to say that's a super-cute pic - your son's a sweetie!


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