This Is Childhood Review (and Giveaway!)

It is clear from reading This Is Childhood Book and Journal (Edited by Marcelle Soviero and Randi Olin of Brain, Child Magazine) that each age, from one year to ten years, brings startling changes for both mother and child. These thoughtful essays capture what it is to be still caught in the shadow of the previous year, with the next big changes looming. I mention all the writers here because I could not choose essays over others that best depict the mysteries of childhood; each casts a particular light on the mundane and the magical.

This Is Childhood cover

Galit Breen calls four an age of “betwixt and between”; it is one of many years suspended between what wasn’t and what suddenly is, can be: In “This is Six,” Bethany Meyer writes, “This is the year my third son ran with confidence, his eyes no longer on his feet…”; Tracy Morrison predicts, “…very soon my seven will know more than I do, and will be able to do what I can do”; and to Lindsey Mead, “Ten is a changeling…I see the baby she was and the young woman she is fast becoming.”

What reverberates most poignantly though is that more than childhood, this is motherhood. In her introduction, Lisa Belkin says, “My childhood happened only because my mother says it did.” And this collection of essays and commentary, with its blank spaces for journaling and questioning and sharing, is one of those places we mothers create childhoods.

In a letter to her daughter, Aidan Donnelley Rowley imagines a future eighteen year old eager for details of her one-year-old self: “Soon, you were running and jumping and climbing our stairs and diving triumphantly from the kitchen counter to the family room couch. Fearless!” Childhood is our puzzle to assemble. And within those stories of first words and potty training adventures and uncertain transitions, as Denise Ullem foresees the heartache in the years following nine, “Friends will throw sharp-edged words, mistakes will me made, love interests will choose others,” are the fears and triumphs of mother-storytellers.

There is a transformation that motherhood calls forth, slowly, quickly, comforting and forever challenging us. When her son was three, Nina Badzin could finally let go of the “fear and self-doubt” that had slowed her road to motherhood. Pregnancy, Amanda Magee found, “made so much in life make sense; my body was strong, not big, my intensity was purposeful, not irrational.” We need these childhood stories and words of love and nostalgia, and the memories they evoke to tell our own as women and mothers.

These days, years, these thoughts–they change us at an almost cellular level. This Is Childhood captures only ten snapshots of the years before our children branch off from us–but they capture moments many mothers will recognize. We work endlessly, consulting countless experts to learn how to send our children into the world, but when Kristen Levithan expresses gratitude that “you might not need me as much as you used to, need me you still do,” we understand exactly. With the third kid, Allison Slater Tate says, we are still “wistful and misty,” but repetition is confidence to leave a nervous child at kindergarten. With our children at two or twenty, our identity in motherhood is carved. From its crest, we appreciate all the changing angles of our lives.

{closed}Giveaway! I am so happy to offer three readers a copy of This Is Childhood. To enter, please leave a comment on this post describing a childhood/motherhood moment or memory of your choice. Three winners will be chosen randomly from the comments. Contest ends Sunday, June 22, at 11:59 ET.

I was given a copy of this book for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

 

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6 Responses to This Is Childhood Review (and Giveaway!)

  1. Pingback: This is Childhood: Reviews | Brain, Child Magazine

  2. Kristi s says:

    Those blissful long summers…time seemed to stop. Kickball with the neighbors, followed by kick the can…Popsicles in the grass, cooling off by the sprinkler.

  3. Sara says:

    I remember getting in little fights with my older brother. It probably annoyed my parents, but I loved it.

  4. Nina Badzin says:

    Thank you so much for the beautiful, thoughtful review of the book. It was an honor to be included in the book AND in your review. Nina :0

  5. We just had our first firefly search of the season last night. Every year we do this with our kids, and every year I think back to doing this with my brothers and sisters and a bunch of neighborhood friends in our elementary school playground, which was across the street from my childhood house. Several families, kids all in pjs, would meet up on early summer evenings to collect them. I hope my kids feel the same magic on the evenings we do this as I did when I was a kid.

  6. Jenny says:

    The weeks after my oldest son was born (now almost 7 years ago) were hard. Hell, the months were hard. I was petrified, lonely, and sleep deprived. I live in an apartment building with about 5 steps leading from the lobby to the outside. Every day, it seemed to me, dozens of experienced mothers would magically get their strollers and babies down those stairs, without using the small lift to the right (it was slow, nobody wanted to bother). I, feeling obligated to fit in (a test of my motherhood?) would try to use those stairs and it would terrify me to see my newborns head bang (or so it looked) on his car seat as I tried to smoothly lower him. One day, right before our descent, a mother who I didn’t know looked into my (terrified) eyes, touched my arm gently, and said “you know you can use the lift if you want, right? You need to do what’s best for you.” I cried, and used the lift from that day forward.

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