Raising Great Parents by Doone Estey, Beverley Cathcart-Ross and Martin Nash

rgp_front_high_rgbRaising Great Parents: How to Become the Parent Your Child Needs You to Be

by Doone Estey, Beverley Cathcart-Ross and Martin Nash, M.D.

Toronto: BPS Books, 2014

July has been our learning at home month, but, of course, not all learning is for the kids.  Parents are also always learning, and to recognize that learning process as on-going and ever-lasting is one of the most important tools in our parenting tool kit.

I learned a lot about myself reading this book.  I am, by nature, exactly the kind of controlling parent at whom this book is aimed.  “Step away from the rule book a minute and listen.  Attend.  Observe.  Relax.”  That’s what this book taught me to remember.

The authors of Raising Great Parents introduce the book by saying,

We realized that, to end the stressful conflicts with our kids, we had to start with ourselves.  We adopted a different form of parental leadership as it finally dawned on us that our challenge was not to raise great kids but to become great parents. (2)

I love how such a simple phrase turns the table: do not aim to raise great kids, aim to be a great parent.

How do you do that?

Begin by recognizing that the only behaviour you can actually control is your own.  Here is a great example: the kids are acting up at bedtime, arguing and disrupting book time.  Instead of barking orders to control them (“Stop fighting!”) or feeling powerless in the face of their behaviour (“Why are you ruining my special time?”), simply close the book and tell them, “I will read when the room is quiet.”

Now you have control–over yourself.  In effect, your words mean, “I can’t make you do it, so I will decide for myself what I will do in this situation.  I’m going to … decide what’s going to happen next — to me. (33)

The book is full of ideas and exercises to practice how to convert a dynamic of control into co-operation.  The vocabulary the authors use for modeling an exchange may not feel natural to you, but the exercises are useful for thinking outside of the usual box.  The tips for taking the yelling out of the morning routine were life-changing!  There is also a fabulous chart of age-appropriate chores for kids to do at home that will encourage you to give your kids a bit more responsibility and a lot more independence.

The book begins with asking parents to examine their own behaviours.  (Helpful.  Humbling.)  It then goes on to examine why kids misbehave and provides tools to guide families to a more co-operative dynamic.  It covers the greatest hits: misbehaving, punishment, the link between praise and self-esteem, and co-operative problem-solving.

If you are familiar with Adlerian approaches to parenting, this book will cover familiar ground.  The authors are all affiliated with The Parenting Network, an organization that promotes parenting through cooperation and guiding our kids’ intrinsic motivation.

Full disclosure: I know one of the authors of this book, Beverley Cathcart-Ross, very well.  She’s family!  I’ve seen her in action hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people without breaking a sweat.  She is grace in motion, and mostly unflappable.  If she says, “I will read when the room is quiet,” she means it, but in the nicest way possible.

 

Comparative Literature for Kids

hr_Maleficent_42One of the at-home learning activities my kids have been most invested in and most enthusiastic about has been my kid-friendly version of comparative literature: taking one fairy tale and finding as many versions  of it as we can find.  This includes not only looking at different authors’ but also different illustrators’ takes on the standard tales.  Sometimes, we even discover clever retellings of the stories that draw attention to their absurdities.

My kids have loved this approach to fairy tales, and it offers so many points of departure for discussing the stories and how they are told.

  • Is there a reason why the bad guy is a bad guy?
  • Does the story give any motivation?
  • Are the good guys always good?
  • Do girls always have to be princesses?
  • Do boys always have to be the heroes?
  • How does the author change the original story?
  • How does that change the message?
  • Why are so many kids in stories orphans?
  • Why is the forest always scary?
  • Is the animal a helper or an enemy?
  • How would the story be different if an animal told it?
  • Which illustrations do you like best?  Why?
  • How would you change this story?
  • How would you illustrate it?

Including movies in this comp. lit mix gives you a lot more to talk about.  With Maleficent out now, it’s a great time to dig out “Sleeping Beauty” again, both the tales and Disney’s original animated movie.  I loved watching it with my kids and talking about what a difference it makes to tell the story from the antagonist’s point of view.  I loved how they reference Disney’s illustration of Maleficent with those magnificent cheekbones!  I loved how we finally get a motivation for a terribly two-dimensional Disney demon.  The movie gave us so much to talk about in terms of stock characters and how it’s so much more interesting when the story is not just about good vs. evil.

Here’s what has worked for me and my boys.

For kids up to age six, decide on a fairy tale, and go to the library and find as many different illustrated picture book versions as you can.  This worked wonderfully for us with boys of different ages, because each child will spot different things and be attracted to different aspects of the books.

fairy-tales-from-the-brothers-grimmFor kids from six to ten, go back to the original versions from the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, Andrew Lang and Hans Christian Andersen.  Some of these are much more creepy and violent than their Disney incarnations!  Some you’ve never heard of.  Philip Pullman recently published his tellings of the stories of the Brothers Grimm, complete with information about the origin and adaptations of the stories and why some have lasted longer than others.

Fairy tales are so elastic, they even lend themselves to including tweens and teens.  If you read the picture books to all the kids, middle grade readers can go off and read books like The Grimm Sisters, or for mature readers, Angela Carter’s retellings in The Bloody Chamber.   For movie adaptations for older kids, there are recent movie version of Red Riding Hood and Snow White and the Huntsman.

Here are some  other great retellings to share:

  • Philip Pullman retells Cinderella from the point of view of one of the rats who got changed into horses in I Was a Rat.  Funny.
  • The Sisters Grimm series of nine middle-grade novels by Michael Buckley tells the story of two girl detectives in the land of Everafters.  Addictive.
  • A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz is the first of a trilogy that retells the story of Hansel and Gretel for middle grade readers.  Page-turners.
  • Sweetly by Jackson Pearce also retells Hansel and Gretel for young adults.  About to find out….  Just ordered it.

Can you suggest any other retellings?  (Honestly, I’m hopeless.  I’ve added a dozen books to my wish list while writing this post and looking at these lists.  Hennepin County LibraryGoodreadsEpic Reads.  )

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Learning to Draw

Our theme for our posts for July is, loosely, homeschooling: learning at home.  Partly, we are talking about avoiding the summer slide, but we are also looking at how learning at home and outside of the classroom is important for broadening our kids’ horizons.  And, yes, we include our trip to LEGOLAND in the learning category!  You should have seen how the boys looked at each others’ car models and sought advice and inspiration from each other to make their cars faster.

One of my goals for myself and my kids this summer is to create more art.  I am powerfully drawn to art supply stores in a way that totally defies logic because I can’t draw!  All those gorgeous colours of markers, and here’s be barely able to draw a smiley face.

I’d like to change that.

Here are three sets of books that I have found really useful.

animalsEd Emberley’s illustration instruction is an outstanding place to start, not only because the method is so simple and fun but because results are so instant.  Seriously, no one can mess this up.  We have several of his books, but the web site is fun and useful, too.  It has printable sheets and animated instruction.  I really like the step-by-step method, but also how he includes ways to vary the basic image.  We own a copy of his Drawing Book of Animals, originally published in 1970.  It is dedicated to “the boy I was, the book I could not find.”  That broke my heart a little.  Well, your boys and girls can find both the book and the web site and can get busy making art right away.  His fingerprint illustrations are particularly fun, and they even incorporate literacy into the method: if you can write IVY LOU, you can draw an owl.

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Another series I love is based on shapes.  Chris Hart has a whole line of illustration instruction books, but the ones I go to all the time are his very basic shape-based ones: Draw a Triangle/Circle/Square, Draw Anything.

drawAgain, the key to the success of these books is step-by-step instruction and instant gratification.  My son’s hockey team, whose logo was a deer, made it to the finals in their division a few years back.  For luck, I decided to give them all lucky underwear (inspiration from the coach, who had a pair) and I went to this book to find a super-simple image of a deer to draw onto the underwear.  Huge hit.

20Finally, I have fallen in love with a great series of books that encourage artists not only to make art but to find a style that suits them: the 20 Ways to Draw series from Quarry books.  The illustrations are a lot more advanced, but the books demonstrate various styles for illustrating the same object, from simple to more complicated.  There is no step-by-step instruction, but there is a lot of inspiration!

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TMN-logo_Square1A reminder that voting is open for the best mom blog of 2014, for which we are thrilled to have been nominated.

Please head over to Toronto Mom Now and check out the other nominees.  You can vote for your favourite three.  Voting closes on Monday, July 14.

 

(Multiple) Guest Post: Mothers in Children’s Books

Oh, the glories of book shops!  Where you can go along of a summer evening and listen to a group of interesting and funny women talk about books, and mothers in kids’ books to boot.

Kerry Clare and some of the other contributors to The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood gathered at Parentbooks on Harbord Street to discuss the representation of mothers in children’s books.  They brought books and food and insights and laughter to share and it was a wonderfully intimate discussion about  finding or not finding mothers on the pages of our kids’ books.

Kerry began by telling us that one inspiration for the topic was a blog post by Liz Harmer about how, at one point in her parenting life, the picture books she was reading to her children were more helpful to her as a struggling mother than parenting books:

in the horror-show that was my life after the second child was born I had already found my parenting identity in martyrdom. All I knew how to feel was guilt. I had no idea that a new baby would find all of the breathing room in my full life and take it for herself. I had no idea that the toddler would respond to my being overwhelmed by cranking up her own despair.

At this point, any parenting advice was a smart to the open wound I’d become.

And so, we began to talk about mothers and parenting and how they unfold on the pages of children’s books.  What do we find there and how does it speak to or about us?

pippi_longstocking1Heather Birrell read from her own childhood copy of Pippi Longstocking and talked about how, while her own daughter is rather indifferent to the book, as a writer and a mother, she loves the fact that Pippi is motherless.  She is successfully independent as an orphan of nine, and a lot more likeable than the kids up the street with intact families .  The absent mother in kids books, a remarkably frequent thing, allows kids independence, freedom from rules and from cloying love or authority.  Pippi’s mother, so Pippi imagines, watches her from her perch in the sky through a little hole in the clouds, and Pippi is always able to assure her that she is doing perfectly well.  As a writer herself, Birrell said she is always killing off mothers in her short stories.  It’s just so much more convenient to the engine of the plot and character development to have them out of the way.

We agreed that it was wonderful to find yourself, as a mother, celebrating books that did away with mothers so that kids can bloom, because isn’t that what we want for our kids, after all?

roseiAmy Lavender Harris talked about how grandmothers often fill the maternal role in the Eastern European tradition, and she read from Rosie’s Dream Cape by Zelda Freeman to illustrate the multiple roles that the grandmother fulfills; she is the figure of authority, conscience, forgiveness, generosity and connection to the old world and to the missing mother.

 

eddie

Heidi Reimer read from one of Sarah Garland’s Eddie books, Eddie’s Kitchen, and made the wondenderful observation that the illustrations enable a kind of covert and underground conversation, mother-to-mother.  The illustrations are wonderfully lush, and the house is packed and cluttered.  The mother in these books exemplifies grace in the chaos of family life, though the illustrator is also careful to portray her outside of her role as mother.  At one point, she is huddled on the stairs, alone, speaking on the phone to a friend who is having a rough day.

Patricia Storms chose Tomi Ungerer’s No Kiss for Mother from which to read and reveled in the illustrations that would never pass muster today: a depiction of kids smoking stolen cigars and parents punishing their kids (with canes no less!).  Originally published in the 1970s, the book has been reissued by Phaidon, and perhaps the fact that the family in the book is a family of anthropomorphic cats makes it possible to publish it again today.  She admired that the conclusion of the book does actually provide a conclusion to the tension between an adoring mother and a son who does not like to be coddled and kissed.  They compromise; each gives ground.  The ground has shifted for both of them by story’s end, and the rebellious child is not simply drawn back into the normative family fold.  That family has had to change, just a bit, to accommodate him.9780714864754

Kerry finished off the night with a discussion of one of Shirley Hughes’s Alfie books, Alfie Gets in First.  Kerry remarked on how wonderful it was to read about another mother struggling with the mind-numbingly boring but immensely difficult negotiations of motherhood: how to get the stroller through the door and up the stairs, ditto with baby.  Predictably, Alfie gets into the house before mother and stroller and baby and locks himself in and them out.  Panic ensues.  Kerry was grateful for the feeling of solidarity she felt with the mother in the illustrations and how she felt a lot less alone reading those books to her children.  Again, the illustrations are lush and chaotic and depict the clutter and detritus of the busy family home.

alfie-gets-in-first

Kerry finished up with a reading of Stephany Aulenback’s lovely  If I Wrote a Book About You and talked about how motherhood enables creativity and productivity and how finding solutions to the stupid problem of the stroller on the sidewalk and through the narrow door could be worthwhile in and of itself as well as leading to all manner of other kinds of creativity.

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Motherhood is Like a See-Saw

10267762_10154070721210014_6298337845483811914_nI met Nathalie more than 4 years ago. At our first meeting sitting across from each other at the Momoir writing class, she described her feelings of ambivalence about motherhood to the circle of six women.

I remember the woman sitting across from me had a shocked look on her face and while there were no words, her message was clear: how can you feel so-so about being a mom!?

Nathalie went on to explain that ambivalence doesn’t mean, “take it or leave it”. It means having contradictory feelings about something or someone.

That evening, sitting on a plush couch in a darkened Forest Hill basement, I found my way. Nathalie gave a name to the feelings that had taunted me for the past three years. I was finally moored.

For me, motherhood is a constant state of contradiction. My opposing feelings struggle to take center-stage, demanding to be heard. Parenting isn’t about attachment or a helicopter, a tiger or a presence of mind; it’s a harrowing see-saw ride with such soaring highs that it can shock the breath right out of you and thud-to-the-ground lows that will diminish you, gut you, scare-the-shit-out-of -you.

The essayists featured in The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood, narrate ambivalence thoughtfully – with reflection, humility and honesty. Heather Birrell’s Truth, Dare, Double Dare, starts off the compilation and immediately I felt the same sense of kinship that I did years ago when I first met Nathalie.

I have re-read Heidi Reimer’s The Post-Maia World several times, each time gleaning more from her intimate narrative. Like Reimer, I am baffled, completely flummoxed by the contradictions that make up motherhood.

My emotions alone, and the intensity in which I feel them and express them, are like two sides of a coin. Reimer writes about emotion after becoming a mother:

“I yelled more, cursed more, became gripped with stronger rage . . .I smashed objects against of the floor and pounded my fists into walls.”The Post-Maia World

It’s what keeps me awake at night. Are my children going to grow up and their dominant childhood memories include me screeching at them, an ugly snarl on my face, to hurry-up, get dressed, stop fighting and get to school. Are they going to remember the time I smashed the truck plate in two jagged melamine pieces because I could not bear to listen to yet another squabble over whose turn it was to eat a grilled cheese off of it? Is the time, when in a rage of impatience I regrettably zipped-up a winter coat and a lip in one angry jerk, going to be what they remember of me?

I hope not.

I want them to think back on their childhood and recall all the times that I tried to kiss them a million times in a row, when I traced letters on their back, and squeezed our hands together in a cryptic code.

Of course they will never know how intensely I love them, how I have never loved anything with every fiber of my being, the way that I love them. The connection that I feel to them is visceral, so powerful that words could never suffice but Reimer is able to describe the initial feelings that overwhelmed me those early days with such uncanny accuracy.

“ . . .our connection to each other was primeval, animal, beyond rationality; it grew through nine months’ gestation, an umbilical cord between us, a birth canal, a mouth on my breast, hormones clamouring, “You are mine and I have never loved anyone before you!”The Post-Maia World

The emotional extremes that I experience are just one of the contrasting aspects that, for me, define motherhood.

Motherhood is just hard. As Julie Booker writes, “It’s really fucking hard.” Twin Selves.

Other Mothers

10267762_10154070721210014_6298337845483811914_nThere’s something I’ve noticed about the way I occasionally think about and judge myself as a parent.  I love structure and order and discipline, and for the most part, I stand by the parenting decisions that fall under that category of order and predictability.  Sometimes, though, sometimes the further outside of my comfort zone I stray, the more unlike my usual self I am, the more I feel that I deserve some kind of a parenting gold star.  It’s as if by not being myself, I am being a better self.  The hard work of keeping life on schedule and enforcing rules of civility actually feels pretty effortless to me.  It’s allowing the rules and the schedule to relax that feels like hard work.  To be honest, sometimes fun feels like hard work, and that’s when I most doubt the parenting path I have chosen.

I let the kids splash in rain puddles, I give myself a pat on the back for not freaking out about the mess (while secretly freaking out about the mess).

I say “yes” to letting the kids dog-sit, professing a kind of generosity of spirit while feeling anything but generous.

I let them stay up late to watch the hockey game, and for most of every minute past bedtime, I’m on edge, but I congratulate myself for being able to let fandom prevail over clock-watching.

More troubling, I herd my children home from the park for bath and bed and watch other parents letting their little ones stay up later and get dirtier than my kids (ie. letting them have more fun) and I wonder if they are doing it better.  Do those Other Mothers have more gold stars?  Are the mothers who say “no” less often better in some essential, incontrovertible way?

Fruitless feeding of the mommy guilt machine.  It’s the dark side of empathy: moving so much outside of yourself that you begin to question that self and all it holds dear.

The really refreshing thing about reading many of the essays in The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood, was that I could really immerse myself in other ways, in others’ ways of being and simply enjoy that otherness without thinking, “I have to be more like that.”  It was glorious to look into that kaleidoscope and feel as much myself as ever; it was wonderful to look at difference without feeling the need to be different.

Carrie Snyder’s wonderful essay about reveling in being a mother of four did not make me feel like I had to have a fourth in order to keep up.  I simply enjoyed her telling of her tale of motherhood.

Heidi Reimer’s essay about adopting her infant niece made my heart fill with joy that there are such generous and daring people in the world, people who can let love into their lives, and make it multiply, in spite of the enormous emotional risk.

But I was most affected by the essays by women who are not mothers, by choice.  It’s dangerous territory, walking with the happily child-free.  It’s not like I, a mother of three, could ever go there.  Would they make it sound too appealing?  Would their profession of their child-free bliss, their certainty, open some part of me to gnawing jealousy or doubt?  Would my hard-earned share of parental satisfaction be diminished by opening myself to their stories?

Not in the least.  As certain as they are about being childless, I am certain that motherhood, and the way I am practicing it, is exactly the right choice for me.  It was the best kind of exercise in empathy.  It was a chance to have a privileged perspective on another way of being without feeling in the least bit diminished by it.  On the contrary, I felt enlarged by reading these essays, I felt certain about my own choices without the least trace of smugness or self-righteousness.

Sometimes what defines us is what we are not.  Sometimes that’s a tricky thing to negotiate.  In this collection of essays about motherhood, in all its manifestations, nothing felt tricky.  None of the stories about what I am not made me think less of myself.  Some of the essays were difficult to read because they tackled difficult topics, but they did what good art does: it moves you, it purifies and purges the emotions and offers renewal and restoration.

The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood

Nathalie, Beth-Anne, and I treated our minds and hearts last month when we attended the launch of The M Word:  Conversations About Motherhood at beautiful Ben McNally Books in Toronto.  Kerry Clare, editor of the collection of 25 essays and author of Pickle Me This, introduced the book, after which several if its contributors read excerpts of their pieces.

I think it’s fair to say that we were captivated.  The essays span a wide spectrum of motherhood experience, including the reality of being defined by motherhood whether or not one is actually a mother.   They were textured and raw in and of themselves, but being read aloud by their authors only infused the words with more richness than they already possessed.

We’ve all read The M Word, and this week we want to write about it.  And we have outdone ourselves, if I do say so myself, in scoring Kerry Clare to write with us on Friday to close the week.  There is so much packed into this book, and we are thrilled to  have the curator of its stories share some of her thoughts with us at 4Mothers.

Please tune in – we are in for a great week!

Three New Cookbooks I Love

madYou know that awesome feeling you get when you talk to another parent, and they just get you?  They just get what it is to be harried and hurried and run off your feet?  Well, Madhouse Cookbook is that, with recipes!  Recipes for cocktails!  Recipes you can make with the kids!  It even has recipes that you can make in less than 30 minutes!  It’s week-night salvation, people!  (Full disclosure: a copy of this book was sent to us by the publisher.)

This is a recipe book that recognizes that parents wear many hats.  There are sections for kid-friendly meals, hurried week night meals, relaxed family weekend brunches and, best of all, adults-only entertaining.  This is a cookbook that encourages you to put yourself first sometimes, and get creative in the kitchen.  I loved that push to get us to push the kids out of the limelight.  Elderflower martini, anyone?

glowsOh She Glows is another recent acquisition, named for Angela Liddon’s blog of the same name.  I cannot begin to tell you what a joy it has been to cook from this book.  The fun!  The flavour!  The guilt-free healthy goodness!  The recipe for the roasted rainbow carrots was a huge hit at our family Easter dinner, as was the lentil walnut loaf.  The non-vegetarians among us looked longingly at it, and I confess I love it when that happens.  What I especially love is that I can make the flavourful, interesting recipes from this book, and still serve my kids the plain steamed veggies and simple food that they like by simplifying the recipe for them as I go along.  I get food bursting with flavour, they have to abide by the one-bite rule, and if they don’t like it, they can still have the simple version.  Win win.

Finally, I have had had great success with Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good, a gift from my sister-in-law who has gifted multiple copies, all to rave reviews.  Some of the recipes are crazy, and I will never attempt them.  (Salted fish, I’m looking at you.)imagesABD5QV3DBut others are crazy simple and delicious and total crowd pleasers.  The roasted cauliflower and chick pea recipe is one I now have memorized, and after too many nights of boring steamed cauliflower made for my kids’ tastes, it has made cauliflower a joy again.  Truly.  And, again, it’s one of those recipes that I can adapt easily for my fussy eaters by just putting aside some of the chick peas and cauliflower before adding the spices.  It’s all good!

The Ultimate Children’s Health Reference Book

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Since the advent of Google, I have determined that I have a brain tumor, melanoma, viral pneumonia, seasonal affective disorder, and fifth’s disease.  Don’t even get me started on what ailments I have projected onto my kids.  Admit it, we are all guilty of self-diagnosing.  We think that we’re doctors never mind the years of schooling and practical experience under the tutelage of a mentor that we lack.  With the exception of the fifth’s disease I have been, shockingly, wrong with my doctoring (the jury is still out on the SAD).

Step away from the keyboard and pick up, The A to Z of Children’s Health: A parent’s guide from birth to 10 years.  It is without a doubt the best resource a parent can have at their fingertips. It’s a comprehensive guide written by Dr. Jeremy Friedman and Dr. Natasha Saunders of the world-renowned Hospital For Sick Children.

More than 235 childhood conditions and illnesses are arranged alphabetically and described clearly and concisely with full colour illustrations. The advice offered is practical and current, nothing superfluous or condescending.

In the past two months I have used The A to Z of Children’s Health more than any other parenting resource.  That’s either a rousing endorsement of its usefulness or a dismal reflection on the health and well-being of my family.

How to treat an ingrown toenail?  Is this a cough that I should be worried about?  What is the difference between primary enuresis (bed-wetting) and secondary enuresis?

All of these questions are answered.

Do you remember when you were new to this parenting thing, and you were more invested in your baby’s poo than you’d ever imagined was possible?  Well, they answer all of those questions too and pictures of the various types of diaper rashes accompany at-home treatments and explanations.

It’s rare that I come across a reference book I feel is worth spending money on but The A to Z of Children’s Health is the exception.  So much do I like it, I plan on adding it to my go-to list of gifts for first time parents.

We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir by Jennifer Coburn

untitledLast week, when the publisher of this book offered 4Mothers a review copy, I did not think things would move quite so quickly.  I said, “yes”; it arrived by FedEx the next morning; I sat down intending only to have a quick look at it, and by that evening I had devoured most of the book.  I could not put it down.  And I could not wait to tell you about it.

Jennifer Coburn’s memoir is about her travels through Europe with her daughter, Katie, and “We’ll always have Paris” is her mantra as she plans for their first trip.  It’s a wistful kind of thought, as is, indeed, her prompt to take the plunge and travel alone with her daughter.  Coburn’s father died when she was still in college, and she begins to fear her own mortality.  She begins to fear that she must hurry up and make special memories for Katie.  Just in case.  If, she thinks, anything were ever to happen to me, my daughter would have the memory of this amazing trip and would be able to say, “We’ll always have Paris.”

As the years pass (and she continues to fail to die the dreaded early death!), so begins a tradition of taking a summer month to travel to a country in Europe.  Her husband is unable to travel with them because of work, so these are strictly mother-daughter trips.  Coburn is a wonderful guide, not only through the cities she recalls, but also through her daughter’s perception of the cities.   We see Paris through the eyes of a nervous mother, who clutches tightly her maps and itineraries, and an excited girl who just wants to immerse herself in the experience.  I especially loved the scene in the famous Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company, which offers a bed for the night to book-loving travellers.  Because Coburn is a writer, they are offered the “deluxe” accommodation, and eight-year-old Katie pleads with her mother to take the offer of this experience.  While Katie falls immediately to sleep, unfazed by the standards of hygiene, her mother frets and tosses and turns.  Mother and daughter are excellent foils, and it delighted me to read the evident pride Coburn takes in her daughter.  What made the book especially riveting, though, is how Coburn interweaves the tales of their travels with memories of her late father.  She deftly ties in themes from their experiences to memories from her childhood, and I marveled at how skilfully she wove together the joyful and the difficult strands of her past.

I shut the book and began dreaming about where I’d love to take my kids.

And that, as it happens, is the subject of our posts this week.  Along with our guest Roseanne Carrara, we are doing some blue sky thinking about where we would go on our dream vacations with our kids.  Money and time are no object.  There are no constraints.   Where would you take yours?