If I had to choose one day – one story – that could best describe the highs and lows of my eight years of being a parent, I would tell you about a blah winter morning at a bagel shop. In fact, I’ve written about it before.
I had a cold and was getting over pinkeye. I also had a headache that got worse every time I heard the word, “Mommy.” My children were two months old, three years old and five years old.
After bundling up my preschooler and infant, I took them to a local bagel place for lunch. As babies like to do when their mothers take their first bite of a meal, my infant started to cry. He was hungry. I was hungry. He cried and cried. And I wanted to cry too.
I was tired, worn out, and overwhelmed. I also wanted to eat.
There I was in the bagel place, half sitting and half dancing around with my wailing infant trying to decide if I should feed him or eat a few bites of bagel when my three-year-old interrupted my thoughts.
"Look, it’s magical!" he shouted to me as he often did at that age because he didn’t know how to modulate his voice.
He pulled a napkin out of its dispenser and was amazed that more napkins waited behind it. “It’s magical!” He pulled out another napkin. And another after that. As far as he knew, the napkin line went on forever. The happiness he felt in making his discovery was contagious. Just like that the dreary morning became – temporarily – a joyful one.
I was reminded of that winter morning this week when I read Jennifer Senior’s terrific new book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.
I’ve read a lot of books about parenting. I’ve read an embarrassing amount of books about parenting. I’ve read books about parenting methods and parenting philosophies and child development and picky eating and sleep training and behavior modification and Tiger moms and free-range-kids and oh-my-God-I’ve-read-so-many-books.
That’s why I need to point out that All Joy and No Fun is not a parenting book. It’s a book about being a parent. And it’s excellent.
As Senior explains in her introduction, “We’re all the sum of our experiences, and raising children plays an enormous part in making us who we are. For some of us, perhaps the largest part.”
That’s where she had me. In the introduction. I just finished reading All Joy and No Fun and highly recommend it. It’s insightful, engrossing, beautifully researched, and elegantly written.