Using books for the tough stuff

Parenting can be heart wrenching.

Right?

A few weeks ago, Calvin and I were snuggling as I tucked him in for the night.

He shared some tough things. We all have tough days but to hear it from your seven-year-old…ouch!

He told me was sad because at recess his friends like to jump rope and he found it hard.

I took a deep breath and told my oldest twin, “You know what, Calvy? You had to learn how to walk TWICE and I bet none of the other kids did. You are really strong! But when you were sick, it might have made it hard to jump rope, but that’s ok. You’re still awesome and don’t forget that.”

Then I told Calvin that it was my job and his dad’s to take on the hard things, so he could go to sleep and forget about them. Ok, I didn’t make this one up – I borrowed it from an essay Glennon Doyle Melton wrote about an interaction with her son.
(Thank you, G!)

Calvin hugged me hard, seemed ok, and went to sleep.

I’m not bringing this up to show that I’m some superhero mom – because I’m not. We all have our stuff and one of Calvin’s is that he had a brain tumor at two and there are some residuals. But he and Max don’t remember or know the details (right now) and just live their lives.

I’m sharing this because I think parenting is tough and coming up with answers is hard and seeing your kids hurt is the most difficult of all. But maybe if we keep reading and sharing, we can all help each other.

After this happened, I thought about some of the books we’ve been reading. Many children’s books about famous people share the obstacles they’ve overcome.

Max and Calvin seem drawn to these books. My hope is that they are internalizing these messages.

Here are some of our favorites:

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Alta wants to be like Wilma Rudolph

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison. In this story, young Alta wants to be like her hero, Wilma Rudolph, the fastest woman in the world, from Alta’s hometown. Alta and her rival Charmaine, who has new shoes, eventually join forces and watch Wilma in a victory parade. Not only did Wilma overcome polio and poverty to become the fastest woman in 1960, as an African American athlete, she insisted that her homecoming events be integrated and open to everyone. (This story is important on so many levels and it’s Black History Month!)

Hello, My Name is Octicorn by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe, illustrated by Binny Talib lures my kids in by its seemingly silly illustrations and subject matter. Who has ever heard of a half octopus, half unicorn? But sometimes it’s hard to be Octi – he’s the only of his kind and sometimes he gets left out because he’s different. He’s different on land and on sea. But Octi points out all the things he’s good at – making s’mores, eating cupcakes, and hugs. He makes a great friend.

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Octi’s family tree.

Brad Meltzer’s books have become a constant in our lives. After Calvin and I had the aforementioned conversation, we read his book I Am Helen Keller. The kids were pretty amazed by Helen’s achievements and there is braille in the book which they loved. I Am Albert Einstein shares that he wasn’t thought to be very bright! And even Lucille Ball had to be persistent. I Am Lucille Ball‘s  message helped me with something I was going through at the time.

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Great advice from Lucy.

“This isn’t a joke: Don’t let other people change you. Be true to who you are.”

My friend Ryan had a great suggestion for Calvin – trying to turn the rope for his friends. When I told Calvin this, I could see the wheels turning in his head. Whatever happens, I’ll keep trying to say the right thing and I’ll keep turning to books for help!

4 thoughts on “Using books for the tough stuff

  1. Boo – Great response to Calvin and his questions and fears. You are a love. AND then I read on and see this book with a girl named Alta in it!! WOW — that was freaky , as Alta was my Mom’s first name. Who names their kid Alta?? Funny…….XO

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julia – Your blog is so relevant to me. Your patience, kindness, empathy, gentleness, thoughtfulness and intelligence as a parent (and human being) shines through your beautiful writing. I use children’s books to have conversations with my almost-four-years-old granddaughter. At 48,I have a young child in my home full-time for the very first time. The experience covers the emotional full emotional spectrum. One day, Raemi makes me so happy and full of love I could burst and others I’m so down and frustrated. In, between and through the ups and downs, she is teaching me to see the world through her eyes, to slow down and look around and to guide her with love, patience and compassion. Raemi has a big temper. It makes a scene when it shows up. We’re reading a book called Ahn’s Anger by Gail Silver. It’s about how a boy learns to accept his anger and manage his feelings. It’s really helped Raemi, her Mommy and me to soothe Raemi’s inner caveman.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Robin! That means a lot to me! I’m just trying my best – believe me, I mess up a lot and yell, etc. I can totally relate to all the things you are sharing. It’s normal – it’s still the same for me – up and down. I’m going to check out this book. We have some inner cavemen here as well – including me. Big love to you!

      Like

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