Kelly Strom: Books offer sound advice for parents
As I tell my children on a regular basis: Parenting is hard work.
I don't say it in a guilt-inducing way or act like it's been the nightmare of my existence or anything. I just want them to be aware that the process of them growing up to be responsible adults takes a lot of effort.
As an impassioned mom, I am constantly watching my children's reactions to different events and providing appreciation or guidance on what I witnessed. It's not like I follow them around with a notebook or miniature recorder, but I stay observant. I compliment my son when he remembers to hold a door open for others. I praise my daughters when they help pick up a stranger's fallen items or return money that's been overpaid.
Our library recently provided a program on civility. More than just offering a seat to a woman on the bus or holding a door open for the person behind you, civility encompasses a wide range of actions and attitudes based on being the best citizen, friend, family member — or stranger — that you can be. There are a bunch of books out there that address ways to achieve this.
I recently came across a new book called "Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement" by Kay Willis Wyma. I found that my kids were lacking in certain behaviors at home. Lights were constantly being left on, whining ensued when someone's favorite jeans hadn't been laundered, and I was getting a lot of complaints about eating polska kielbasa or meatloaf.
With five children, the author is currently a stay-at-home mom after working in the White House and Bank of America. Tired of her kids' eye-rolling at cleaning their rooms and eating healthy snacks, now she sees that there is plenty of work to be done in her own home, the most important being the chore of letting her kids know that, in fact, the Earth does not revolve around them, and that there is accountability to being a positive member of the human race.
For one year, Wyma worked on her plan to end entitlement. Each month, she taught the children one important and meaningful set of tasks. Through funny stories and honest exasperation, she used creativity and leadership to turn things around. Monthly themes included planning and cooking a meal, working outside to keep the yard nice, cleaning bathrooms, small repair jobs, true hospitality and service to others.
OK, parents, now that you have the entitlement thing conquered, next up is a book about slowing down and appreciating the quiet things in life. In "Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting In A Fast-Moving World" by Susan Sachs Lipman, we learn to reconnect as families. The book offers lots of simple, affordable and beneficial games and activities, such as growing plants from seeds, camping in your backyard, hosting great tea parties and stress-free art projects.
In this day of packing our kids' schedules with one class, sport or activity after another, Lipman asks us to slow down and appreciate where we are in life.
Last Christmas, I didn't buy any gifts for my kids from a toy store. This saddened me, as I became aware of life moving too quickly. This book reminds me that they do grow up, so we all need to decrease the frenetic pace and just enjoy each other — at every stage.
So we've talked about responsibilities and appreciation, and now I have a book just for you, moms. How often are you at the checkout counter and your eyes linger on a pop-culture magazine blaring celebrity diets, hairstyles or must-have accessories? In "How To Look Hot In A Minivan" by Janice Min, we can submerge ourselves in celebrity knowledge. The author was the editor-in-chief for US Weekly magazine when she became pregnant with her first child.
I don't know about you, but seeing a movie star or runway model in a bikini just one month after giving birth is enough to send me back to bed. With a little bit of attitude, Min sets out to expose some of Hollywood's biggest mommy myths. Then she pulled together a panel of experts — fitness gurus, stylists and psychologists — to take a look at what we hear and see in celebrity media.
We are given important information on hiding belly fat and bad hair days, plus some tips on diet and exercise. Most of us don't have a personal trainer, so Min provides sane strategies for moms to feel like the stars — or maybe just good enough to go out in public. The author suggests that if you look good, then you feel good, and sometimes it's OK for moms to put themselves first.
There are lots of bright colorful photos and candid talk about how to look and feel our best, including wardrobe choices, hair coloring and healthy snacking.
As I've heard, "when mom's not happy, nobody's happy." That should be reason alone to get up off that couch and be the best mom we can be. Whether it's through instilling responsible values, spending downtime playing a game or getting a cut and style, the options are ours to evaluate and accomplish.
Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.