Archive for the ‘
Memoirs ’ Category
Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, book publishers released a slew of great books written by dads. This week, I’m going to focus on a few of my favorites. Like Glad to be Dad: A Call to Fatherhood by Tim J. Meyers. He’s spent years in the trenches raising two sons and a daughter. A longtime, successful writer, he is the primary caretaker while his wife works outside of the home. He’s full of hard-won wisdom–on everything from cleaning products to kids’ snacks–and conveys practical advice in his characteristically warm and witty style. At the heart of Myers’ book, he advocates for father involvement. When dads play central roles in child-rearing, the wives and children are happier and less stressed. When I read Glad to be Dad, I thought of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. She writes about the importance of choosing a helpful partner–someone just like Myers.
Find out more about fatherhood from Myers himself. Below, he answers questions that range from household chores to Father’s Day presents. (Hint: Get this man some peanut butter cups ASAP.)
KK: Why is it so important for dads to be involved in childcare and house chores?
TM: I think family is one of the most beautiful realities in the world, but to reach its full potential, family members have to work together. Right now, though many men are superb husbands and fathers, a lot of women are doing more than their share. Which is not only unfair, but works against that life-giving unity of the family. Children also benefit profoundly from the loving attention of their fathers–of course. And the kicker is that men grow happier and wiser too!
KK: If a dad works a lot, and he doesn’t watch the kids often, what are three ways to entice him to help more?
TM: To me it’s not a matter of “enticing,” but of growing in our understanding. One way to do that is to recognize that most men face their own pressures, especially at work. Men shouldn’t get a pass on domestic commitment because of this, but we all should respect the hard work they do (and the worry that sometimes goes with it). A second way is for husband and wife to keep talking about these issues. This is especially crucial because a lot of men don’t have good models of committed fatherhood, so it’s all new to them. Third, I think families in general should value themselves more, celebrate themselves more, which will lead everyone to appreciate being with each other. The beautiful thing is to gradually make that potential a reality!
KK: What are some household chores that males might be more likely to do?
TM: I can’t speak for all men, of course, but I don’t think it’s wise to even think this way. My wife and I agreed years ago that we would value all work that goes into the family, whether it brings in money or not, whether it’s lowly or repetitive, whatever. All the work counts–picking up far-flung socks or cleaning a toilet are as worthy as bringing home a paycheck or helping kids with homework. So everyone does everything. (Though I must admit that, out of my own ignorance, I was banned from helping our kids with math).
KK: Some husbands are very involved in the daily domestic routine. What are some nice things their wives can do to tell them thank you?
TM: Let’s see…”You are one studly love-muffin, baby!” I’m always happy to hear things along those lines. And though I’m joking, I’m partly serious too, since a guy can sometimes feel less masculine under domestic circumstances. I don’t think a man should feel that way; I can’t think of anything more masculine, for example, than a full-grown man bending to a child. But there’s a tendency to associate homelife with femininity, and I know some guys won’t mind being reminded–in whatever ways–that they’re still 100 percent male.
KK: What is/was your favorite stay-at-home dad responsibility?
TM: Being able to share the astonishing miracle of life with my children hour by hour, day by day–and giving my heart to complete partnership with the woman I love.
KK: What do you want for Father’s Day?
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TM: Buy me a power tool, and I’ll send it on to Tim Allen. But I wouldn’t mind a gift card to buy music–I’ve been eyeballing some Ben Folds CDs lately. And my family knows my desperate weakness for that quintessence of edibles, glory of all deliciousness, the peanut-butter cup. A bunch of those. A whole bunch. So yep, I’m pretty easy to please.
Father's Day, fatherhood, Glad to be Dad, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, stay at home dad, Tim J. Myers | Categories:
Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Q&A With Authors
Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
Popular writer, blogger and photographer Kelle Hampton first released her beautiful memoir called Bloom last year. Recently, it came out in paperback. It’s the story of her family, including two daughters (now she has a baby boy, too), Lainey and Nella. Nella was born with Down syndrome. Kelle emphasizes the importance of not only accepting the unexpected but also embracing it as a gift. Nella is truly an inspiration to anyone who’s met her or read about her online.
I caught up with Kelle and asked her how publishing Bloom has impacted her life. She’s touched many readers through her memoir and blog. Check out what she has to say:
KK: Tell me, in three sentences, what your book is about.
KH: Bloom is the story of the first year with our daughter Nella who was born with Down syndrome. Really it’s a story about perspective–how we survive, grow and become stronger when we allow unexpected circumstances to change us. And Bloom is a reminder that sometimes it takes the most challenging events in our life to truly appreciate our families, our friendships, our own strengths and to understand how our love for our children is the most unshakeable, grounding and motivating force.
KK: You’ve received some amazing feedback from your fans. How have your readers’ reactions impacted you?
KH: I think more than anything, I’ve been really moved by the sense of community that I’ve more deeply understood through hearing from readers. Whether it’s a mom who has, like me, welcomed a child with special needs; a woman who’s faced the unexpected with other challenges such as a divorce or losing a loved one; or simply a reader who’s stepped out to say “I read your story. I cried. I know what it’s like to love your child so much it hurts,” I am constantly inspired by the way women learn from each other and support each other. There are so many ways to connect these days. Challenges can feel far less lonely than they did back in our parents’ and grandparents’ era. We’re in this together.
KK: Since the publication of Bloom you’ve had a third child. How have the lessons you’ve learned from raising Nella changed your perspective on parenting?
KH: I’ve learned to let go of ideal expectations and redefine perfection, that’s for sure. I think as parents, we don’t even realize how much we expect of our kids and often those expectations are based on our own hopes and dreams. We want our little guys to be great football players, and we imagine Mini Me’s for daughters. You can’t help but begin imagining who your child will be the moment you find out you’re pregnant. But I am continually learning to let go, to let my children show me who they are and what they love. What makes each of my children unique is what makes them perfect.
KK: Have you read any parts of Bloom to your children? What do you hope that someday they will take out of your poignant memoir?
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KH: The girls have looked through the book and pointed at pictures. I’ve told them it’s a love story and that I will read it to them someday. Lainey knows the book is dedicated to her because of how beautifully she welcomed her sister, and that’s about it for now. I dream of the day I will read it to them though. I hope through the story, they will know how much I love them and how strong and capable they are as women to face challenges. And for Nella? That will be an incredibly cathartic experience–reading Bloom to her when she’s ready. But I know that she will understand just how much of a gift her life is–how she changed me.
Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
When a preschool teacher told Kristine Barnett
that her autistic son would never read–so she shouldn’t bother teaching him–she pulled him out of class. Ever since then, she’s been completely devoted to Jacob. They found out that his IQ is higher than Einstein’s, and by age 9, he was working on an original theory in astrophysics that may put him in line for a Nobel Prize someday. Kristine’s book, The Spark: A Mother’s Journey of Nurturing Genius
is a testament to her love for and belief in her son who’s potential could’ve gone untapped. Today, Jacob is a teenager and taking graduate level classes. You might have seen him on YouTube
or TV. Keep on eye on this book–it’s even been optioned for a movie.
Below, Kristine talks about her extraordinary son and popular book.
KK: In three sentences, how would you describe what your book is about?
KB: The Spark is an inspirational memoir that narrates my journey with her remarkable child who was once locked in the silent world of autism and later, despite all odds, emerged to become one of the world’s youngest astrophysics researchers. Through love and perseverance, me and my son Jacob led an entire community of autistic children to achieve remarkable results that would surprise experts and help to redefine what the autism label means. Beyond this, the story points the way to unlocking the untapped potential or spark that perhaps lies deep within all of us!
KK: How old was your son when doctors told you he would never learn? How old was he when you knew differently?
KB: When Jacob was 3 years old, his special education teacher told us that he would never need to learn the alphabet. Against the advice of everyone including my own husband, I pulled him out of special ed and began to work with him on my own. Through play and typical childhood childhood experiences as well as focusing on what he could do, rather than his shortcomings, I began to see results. I had never given up on Jacob’s potential to learn although I knew he faced tremendous challenges. Sometimes it seemed like I was the only one who could see that he was working on something remarkable deep within his silent world. Within six months of taking Jacob out of special education preschool, he was in fact reading without any formal instruction! Later that year at a trip to a local planetarium, Jacob surprised us all by answering college level astronomy questions about the relationship between the mass of the moons of Mars and the gravitational pull of the planet!
KK: What advice do you have for parents of special needs children who are getting less than positive news from their doctors?
KB: Raising a special needs child is one of the hardest things a parent could ever imagine facing. In spite of the overwhelming diagnosis that I was given for Jacob, I never gave up hope. I refused to let myself focus merely on his challenges or to let any label define his potential. Do not forget to focus on your child’s strengths and to celebrate the things that they are drawn to and inspired by. These could be the very things that can lead them to reach the ultimate potential that they have inside of them.
KK: Can you tell us how old your son is now and a little bit about what he has accomplished?
KB: Jacob is now 14, and he is a research scientist in the field of quantum physics. He is the youngest person to ever be published in Physical Review A, a prestigious scientific journal. He takes graduate level classes in mathematics and physics, tutors undergraduate students and has expanded his research to multiple areas including chaotic laser physics, quantum friction and integrable systems. At age 12, Jacob made a YouTube video on calculus that went viral and had over 2 million views. It was seen in every country around the world. He was invited at 13 to New York to give a Tedxteen talk at the Scholastic Auditorium on Broadway that is now the eleventh most watched Tedx talk of all time. This was a remarkable achievement for a boy who was told he would never speak. Jacob has been on CBS News, 60 Minutes and on the Glenn Beck Show on Fox.
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autism, child prodigy, Jacob Barnett, Kristine Barnett, The Spark, The Spark: A Mother's Journey of Nurturing Genius | Categories:
Books-to-Movies, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Bury the Hot is the true story of a boy who hid from Hitler, but could never escape the memories. His friend, writer Deb Levy, completed his book for him. Below, she describes what it was like writing about a child in such a desperate situation while trying to raise three young sons of her own.
“One evening last summer, I strolled with my children toward an outdoor concert in our local park. The path was forested, and I found myself doing what I’d been doing for years already: imagining myself in a different set of woods, clutching my sons’ hands, running, fearful of letting go and losing them in the pitch black. I summoned the cold, the hunger, and Nazis.
While writing a book about the Holocaust, I spent hours on the phone with Sal (pronounced Sol; formerly Szulim), a close family friend who’d hired me to write his memoir. For months, I probed his memory, shook dust off painful recollections, and wakened the dead. In doing so, I found myself constantly comparing and contrasting the sheer normalcy of my life—buying chicken, running a bath—with the details of a time that was anything but.
My children became the perfect frame of reference as I delved into the world of another little boy. I’d stare at my youngest, age 3 at the time, and think, “That’s how old Szulim was when German warplanes first darkened the sky above his house.” I tried to picture my then 6-year-old stumbling over cobblestones—like Szulim at 6, fleeing a Gestapo roundup. I trembled at the thought of kissing my own 10-year-old goodbye before sending him on an orphan train across Europe.
I wrote my sons’ sensory quirks and self-soothing habits into Szulim’s story. When I sought to capture the dismantling of Szulim’s world through the eyes of a child, I stared into the faces of my own. On the playground, at the dentist, everywhere I turned, a little Yiddish boy became the doppelganger to my three. Even worse, I found myself getting angry—quickly, and all too often—at the boys seated around my own kitchen table. Their incessant requests, their refusal to eat a home-cooked meal, their inability to sit still for two minutes—it was driving me mad. Dzietzy i ribi glosi nie mayem! “Children and fish do not have a voice,” I wanted to yell, an old Polish trope about childrearing. But wait a minute. We’re not living in a mid-century shtetl. Besides, what kind of mother doesn’t want to hear her son’s voice?
As it turns out, a scared one. Every day, I sat at the computer and immersed myself in a world where bullies did more than exclude a child from a coveted seat in the cafeteria, where threats weren’t online, but on the street where Szulim, hungry, wearing his yellow star, rolled his hoop in the ghetto’s dirt. If my children can’t sit still during dinner, how will they survive when they have to cower in an attic without moving, while Nazi soldiers patrol the sidewalks below? For 18 days, Szulim and his little brother sat trembling in silence, waiting. There were no iPhones. No snacks. Nothing but fear that each moment might be their last. Could my sons survive this? I knew the answer and it terrified me.
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Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Want to know what it’s like to be raised by a Tiger Mom? Want to know why parents–I’m guilty–need to keep our Type A, super-controlling tendencies in check? Kim Wong Keltner, author of Tiger Babies Strike Back gives us rock-solid reasons why should take time to really see our children, ease up on their schedules and love them unconditionally. Check out what Kim has to say:
“Tiger Babies Strike Back is about being raised by a Tiger Mom with high expectations whom I could never satisfy despite the highest grades, perfect test scores, and my best efforts to please her. Now I have a daughter of my own and I’m determined to raise her with more hugs, laughs, and encouragement than I ever received. This book is about being the grown-up daughter of tough immigrants, but raising an American child to be her own individual self without crushing her soul with my own wants, hopes, and egotism.
A parent can convince herself that she is pushing her kid for her own good, but I feel like my cousins and I were pitted against each other in competition so our parents could brag to each other. And we, the kids, who were just trying desperately to please them, didn’t feel loved for who we were, but we existed as trophies. You’ve heard of trophy wives? We were trophy children!
Tiger Parents are not just of Chinese descent. I’m talking about anyone whose parenting style is of the my-way-or-the-highway variety. Tiger Moms are control freaks gone wild, and they are passing off their methods as superior. And to that, I say, “Are you kidding?” What part of, “stop micro-managing me” do they not understand? I want to laugh, but really, a parent making you feel like you are not good enough no matter how hard you try is not very funny.
I am a very attentive mother to my daughter, Lucy. She is nine-and-a-half. My husband and I are attempting the slow, cumulative work of exemplifying compassion, kindness, and gratitude. It’s an incremental, drawn-out, marching-ever-forward process to teach our kid to be true to her word, and to figure out what it means to have personal integrity.
We need cleared space in our heads so that we can listen for the clues from a kid’s interior world. My daughter’s concerns are expressed like tiny yelps from Whoville, and I feel that if I’m not already listening for it, the small voice will be lost in the background noise of homework, dancing lessons, swim class, and everything else.
I believe we can help our children best by forcing ourselves to slow down. Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing to do. Really, how much more can I possibly talk about Garfield, listen to knock-knock jokes, and draw pictures of kittens? But someone has got to do it, and that someone is me. I am in the trenches with recycled bubble wrap and Elmer’s glue. It’s where I need to be. I’ve got to stay flexible, shift gears, and constantly rethink my own mental state if I’m going to preserve my kid’s bright-eyed love of life, her natural exuberance, and her ability to enjoy learning instead of just jumping through the hoops of rote memorization for school.
From the moment Lucy was born, I looked into her eyes and whispered, “I see you.” When I was a kid, that’s all I ever wanted to hear, to know in my heart. I wanted to know that someone saw who I was inside. But instead, my family focused only on practical matters. After I participated in all my activities, and obeyed all the rules, when would anyone ever see who I was, or ask what I’d like, or what I wanted? Would I ever have time just to stare into space and try to figure out exactly what that might be?
Let’s help our kids figure out who they want to be by not eclipsing their fragility with our own overwhelming desire for “success.” They will achieve their own personal bests if we can manage to just get out of their way.”
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