Monday, September 30, 2013

How Harmful Is a Culture of Winning at All Costs?

Brilliant Book Club Playing to WinWelcome to the inaugural post of The Brilliant Book Club, a collaboration of five parent bloggers. To learn more about BBC, read this post or follow us on FacebookG+ or on Twitter with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub.

And don’t forget to read below what my co-founders Lauren, Jessica, Sarah and Stephanie have to say about this month’s book, Playing to Win by Hilary Levey Friedman.

I wanted desperately for her to tell me I didn't have to do it.

I read most of Hilary Levey Friedman's book, Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, with a tight knot in the pit of my stomach. I am not a particularly competitive person. "Winning" has never been an all-consuming need for me, which would explain my swift exit from the world of finance.

So while reading her book about competitive chess, dance and soccer among middle class elementary school students, I was praying for a chapter, a section, a paragraph, even, that would justify my a priori refusal to participate in weekend-long chess tournaments for my future five-year-old. Because I think competition among babies is ridiculous. Because I do not want to hand my life over to dank gymnasiums and my limited living space to burgeoning shelves of trophies.

Really? I wondered. Do I have to do this?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dilbert's Secretary's Pity Party

<Pity Party>

On Friday I had my hair cut. See that head shot over there? -->
The photo is from July 2012 and corresponds to the very last time I cut my hair. Yes. Over a year ago. It might be more accurate, then, to say that I had my rat's nest cut on Friday.

"What are we going to do with this?" my hair dresser, whom I have known for 13 years, asked.

"Cut. It."

And cut it he did. It is now well above my shoulders. And although my talented hair dresser made it "choppy" and "fun," it's still a bob. A mom bob, if you will. To match my mom clogs.

I met Rayne in the city that night for a pre-show drink in the theater district.

"Wait. What did you..." he trailed off.

"I cut it!"

"I can see that."

"I think I look like Dilbert's secretary."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Not Responsible

On Saturday afternoon I went to the playground (yes, that one) with Henry. I sat, again, with my back to the sun, no longer wistful at its setting now that September is upon us. I kept an eye on my little blonde rascal, prone as he is to escaping enclosed areas at the smallest sign of an open gate.

I was exhausted. My husband had been gone for all but two of the previous eight days, and it was starting to show.

Henry was over by the gate door with his doll stroller when a father entered with his daughter, who was maybe two-and-a-half. That sneaky little man inched his way toward the open door, and I started to walk over. 

I wasn't worried, however. Surely this father of a toddler was not going to let my son just exit the playground alone.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I watched my son look out the bus window this morning, taking in all the sights of Brooklyn's less well traveled neighborhoods. I felt suddenly relieved, impossibly thankful that he does not know the horror, at least not yet. Not ever, hopefully. But at least not yet.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Please Don't Make Me Explain the Importance of Thank You

Welcome to the last week of the Parenting Blog Carnival: Around the World in Six Weeks, in which we ask: What can we learn from parents around the world and how they raise their children?

I'm joining Jessica, Sarah, Stephanie and Lauren in writing about our reactions to Christine Gross-Loh's new book, Parenting Without Borders.

Since July 1, we've addressed co-sleepingfoodself-esteemacademic pressure and hover-parenting. This week we discuss: How do we raise children with good character? 

Last summer I encountered a friend who didn't make her three-year-old son say 'please' or 'thank you' because she didn't want to force him to say something he didn't feel.

Wait... what? Of course a three-year-old doesn't understand precisely what saying 'thank you' means, I thought to myself. But manners are an important part of co-existing in society. How else would her son learn to say 'please' and 'thank you' if no one taught him? I laughed it off, convinced she was an anomaly. I even told the story to a few other incredulous moms.

I was sadly disabused of my innocence, however, after reading the fourth and final part of Parenting Without Borders, "The Character of Children." In the chapter entitled "Raising Kindness: Cultural Notions About Raising Kids Who Care," I learned there is a whole swath of parents who believe that "insisting children have good manners feels antithetical to raising a spirited and independent child with a mind of his own."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Introducing The Brilliant Book Club: Illuminating Reads for Parents

Parenting is complex. Our intuition, our personality, our child’s unique temperament, our family wisdom, and, honestly, sheer accident and trial-and-error all play a role. But there is also a growing body of research and reflective writing that provides parents with data and insight to inform our choices and philosophies.

Enter The Brilliant Book Club!

The Brilliant Book Club is a collaborative project among five bloggers: Lauren Apfel of Omnimom, Deb CG of Urban Moo Cow (that's me!), Sarah Rudell Beach of Left Brain Buddha, Jessica Smock of School of Smock and Stephanie Sprenger of Mommy, For Real.

We all love reading non-fiction. Though as parents we are busy, we still want to read thought-provoking books and share our considerations with one another.

The Brilliant Book Club is for parents who want to read the latest books about parenting -- from research-based books on parenting practice to books that reflect on the emotional and personal aspects of childrearing.

Every other month, we will select a recent book about parenting. Over eight weeks, we will invite you to read along with us, and share your ideas with us on Facebook, Twitter and our blogs. On the last Monday of each month, each of us will share posts of our thoughts about the current selection and our own unique perspective on it as parents.

We encourage you to read, reflect and share with us as we illuminate research and insights that can help us all shine.

Read. Reflect. Share.

The Brilliant Book Club.


Our first book pick is Hilary Levey Friedman's Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture.

From the back of the book:
Why do American children participate in so many adult-run activities outside of the home, especially when family time is so scarce? By analyzing the roots of these competitive afterschool activities and their contemporary effects, Playing to Win contextualizes elementary school-age children's activities, and suggests they have become proving grounds for success in the tournament of life—especially when it comes to coveted admission to elite universities, and beyond.
In offering a behind-the-scenes look at how "Tiger Moms" evolve, Playing to Win introduces concepts like competitive kid capital, the carving up of honor, and pink warrior girls. Perfect for those interested in childhood and family, education, gender, and inequality, Playing to Win details the structures shaping American children's lives as they learn how to play to win.
And here is an August 6, 2013 post in The Atlantic adapted from the book: "Soccer Isn't for Girly-Girls? How Parents Pick the Sports Their Daughters Play" to whet your appetite.

Our first post on the book will be on Monday, September 30, 2013. We encourage you to read the book and join the dialogue on our Facebook page, Twitter (with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub), G+ page, Pinterest and our blogs.


Enter the Giveaway

To encourage you even further to join us, we are giving away a copy of the book to one lucky participant! To enter, click the Rafflecopter link below and do one (or all!) of the following actions, including liking The Brilliant Book Club on Facebook, tweeting about us with the hashtag #BrilliantBookClub, or leaving a comment below. You can also get credit for the entry by liking/following the G+ page, Pinterest or each of us individually.


Be sure to follow us all on your social media channel(s) of choice to keep up with the latest!

Blog: Omnimom
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @LaurenApfel

Blog: Urban Moo Cow
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @UrbanMooCow

Blog: Left Brain Buddha
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @LeftBrainBuddha

Blog: School of Smock
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @SchoolofSmock

Blog: Mommy, For Real
Facebook Fan Page
Twitter @MommyIsForReal

What do you think of the new endeavor?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Assassin's Creed: Pigeon Revelations

This post is a proud contribution to the Character Assassination Carousel, developed by Nicole Leigh Shaw at Ninja Mom Blog, in which, each month -- and I quote -- a "highly trained shredder of childhood pulp" " blasts some kiddie lit to kingdom come."  

I would be remiss if I did not thank my husband, Rayne, for his contributions to today's assassination. For he, too, has been forced to read this book at least a thousand times. Thank you, honey, for all that you are, including, now, my co-assassin.

I hope you enjoy this week's assassination of The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!.

A few months ago, my darling then-16-month-old son became obsessed with a book he had received in utero at my baby shower from an unknown soul who was completely unaware he or she would be on my shit list for eternity: The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!.