When it comes to good humor,
moms write the book

by Paige Wiser Sun-Times Columnist

This week's argument: That Mom needs another parenting guide like she needs another vacuum attachment. In honor of Mother's Day, there is a fine selection of recently published books that celebrate the precious, sacred bond between matriarch and child. I'm not interested in those. Instead, here's what all the cool moms will be reading today:

The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting by Christie Mellor (Chronicle Books, $12.95)

Harried mothers who have given over their lives to their adorable little angels, beware: This book is the equivalent of a cocktail in the face. You may even forget to patiently count to three the next time tiny Tallulah needs a time-out. "Let us be perfectly frank," writes Mellor. "You were here first." The empowerment is almost unbearable! "It's time to warm up the ice cubes, curl up on the sofa, and send darling Spencer into the other room to play by himself," insists Mellor. The book details the glories of saying no to your children, explains when you've gone too far in childproofing your home, laments our over-reliance on camcorders ("a disease") and suggests that the Tooth Fairy is getting robbed. Best of all, there's a recipe for teaching your tot how to mix a simple martini just the way you like it -- with lots of alcohol…

Slacker Moms

(CBS) For Los Angeles writer and comedian Sandra Tsing Lou, the pressure started even before she gave birth - the pressure to be the perfect mother to the perfect child.

"You're in this hormonal state, reading these endless baby books," she says.

Then came piano lessons, the tutoring for kindergarten entrance exams and, as CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports, soccer.

"I read one statistic where the greatest number of red lights were run by soccer moms," says Tsing Lou.

As it all piled up around her, she agreed to review the latest unconventional advice books for parents who need to clean up the chaos - books like "The Three Martini Playdate," "Cheap Psychological Tricks for Parents," and "Confessions of a Slacker Mom."

"It's, you know, C+ parenting, relaxed parenting, under-achieving parenting where you just go, 'I just can't do it all,'" she says.

Muffy Mead-Ferro, who wrote "Slacker Mom," thinks that for this generation of mothers, parenting has been taken to a professional level.

"It's very easy to take the zeal you brought to your career and apply it to your children," says Mead-Ferro. "For some people parenting is the ultimate social competition."

"Slacker Mom" says dial back - fewer lessons and more free time produces more capable kids, like her 4-year-old who makes his own lunch.

"If you're fearful of making mistakes and raised with the expectation that you're supposed to be doing everything perfectly, I think you will be fearful of making mistakes," she says.

She doesn't expect perfection but there is consistency when her children misbehave.

"We don't do it anymore, but when they were little we would spank them," she says.

That's right, discipline is back and so is saying "no." Even getting really mad once in a while is OK. The idea from Mead-Ferro and the other authors, many of them moms or psychologists, is that striving for perfection has produced a generation of whiney, self absorbed and incapable kids.

"Kids have lost this ability for unsupervised, unstructured play," she says.

"I've found that, like, a roll of Scotch tape, give a kid a roll of Scotch tape, say 'No you can have the whole roll,'" says Tsing Lou, as her child happily tapes his mouth shut. "Like that's amazing."

And what mom isn't secretly hoping this "slacker" idea is here to stay.

from Australia

Me, me, me - our selfish generation


There's a new battle being fought on the home front between self-centred children using a range of tactics to get and do what they want and struggling parents. As NICOLE COX and DARYL PASSMORE report, the kids are winning.

PLIABLE parents are pandering to a new generation of over-protected, spoilt children who use "pester power" and threats to get what they want.

They insist on having the latest gizmos, decide what time they go to bed, choose what to watch on TV and even where the family will go on holidays.

They have an ever-expanding list of expectations, shirk chores and blatantly ignore good manners.

But a growing chorus of family experts say it's time for parents to take stock, redress the boundaries and fight back.

A couple of decades of liberal child-raising techniques have led many parents to think of themselves as friends, rather than guides, to their children.

They say a mix of stress, guilt over long working hours, divorce and a desire to be the perfect parent means many are too tired, too confused or have simply forgotten how to parent effectively.

Many, whose work commitments mean they get only limited time with their children, are reluctant to "waste" precious hours arguing or dealing with tantrums or sulking because they have disappointed their kids by refusing requests.

Ditto for some separated couples who feel driven to make up for a lack of presence with presents.

But the tide is turning. A new wave of books and advice from child psychologists and family therapists is urging parents to take charge and set clear behavioural standards – and enforce them.

"It has come to my attention that children have become the centre of our universe," writes Christie Mellor in the introduction to her book The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide To Happy Parenting.

Written in a tongue-in-cheek style, the book captures the unsettling sense among some modern-day parents that they have somehow lost control of their lives, downtrodden by what began as the pitter-patter of tiny feet.

"We have become ineffectual lapdogs to our children, with all the power and authority of retired security guards," says Mellor, a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, actor and mother. "We are bigger than they are. We are supposed to be running things. Somehow a pint-sized velvet revolution was waged right under our noses and adults quietly handed over the reins.

"I had been stewing about this for a long time.

"I got so tired of all the precious mummies and daddies who were centring everything around their children and not enjoying their own lives. And the result was children who were brats."

Julie Francis, from Parenting SA, says mothers particularly found it difficult to juggle motherhood with full-time work and the demands of ferrying youngsters to extra-curricular activities.

"The downside is parents can feel guilty and bad that they aren't being good enough parents," she said. "They are questioning, `Is it right?' "

University of South Australia psychologist Stuart Byrne says divorced parents often feel "enormous pressure" to make up for the absence of one parent, and that this can result in over-compensation.

The first Christmas after the separation, he says, is usually an outlet of parental guilt, leading to the giving of many gifts.

"It is out of guilt," Mr Byrne said.

Children had also become smarter in their tactics. "Kids will go with what's going, but they will also manipulate if they can."

Lessons in parenting have also changed. Ms Francis says instead of learning parenting skills from relatives, parents are now relying on self-help books to cope with their dwindling confidence.

"In the past, people didn't think about being competent parents," she said.

"Today, it is parents feeling responsible for raising children alone without support from outsiders like mums and dads, aunties and uncles. It can be daunting and overwhelming.

"Parents feel restrictions with child protection (laws) for smacking . . . discipline and behaviour management.

"Before, they just practised it. They didn't question it."

Ms Francis said society had moved from children being "seen and not heard" to children having more of a voice and influence in their upbringing.

"Listening to children is important, but all that doesn't mean parents have to do what children say," she said. "Just because they have a voice, it doesn't mean parents lose theirs.

"They aren't at the child's beck and call, but it is a fine line."

One of Australia's leading parenting experts, Professor Matt Sanders, of the University of Queensland, agrees that helping children develop self-reliance and resilience should be a priority.

"Kids need to learn to take a few knocks along the way," said Professor Sanders, founder of the university's highly successful Triple P - Positive Parenting Program.

"You can't be a good parent unless you look after yourself.

"If parenting is all about sacrifice and martyrdom, it does not create good parents."

Professor Sanders said longer working hours were a key factor.

"What this can lead to is guilty and indulgent parenting," he said.

"They try to make up for lost time and that does not necessarily help the child. Sometimes, youngsters can grow up believing they are the centre of the universe.

"You can get an attitude of `Me, me, me, now, now, now'.

"That doesn't help the youngster become independent and responsible. They need to learn basic social skills like waiting and not interrupting – social etiquette.

"Without that, you can get children who are very pushy and who get easily upset when things don't go their own way."

CHILDREN who are spoiled or over-indulged can be heading for relationship problems later in life, Professor Sanders said.

"Think about someone who is very self-centred and has low empathy with others, someone who is impatient and very intolerant. It's not very appealing," he said.

Research by AMR:Quantum shows children influence the $1 billion in family spending in Australia each week. Children have an impressive arsenal of manipulative techniques to push parental buttons and get what they want.

But a parent's role is to love and care for the children, not pander to their every whim, Christie Mellor says. So, if you have picky eaters who turn their noses up at the meals you serve, let them starve for a while until they are ready to eat what's put in front of them.

"If your child is older than, say, four, there is no reason on Earth why he or she shouldn't be getting their own breakfast and picking the paper up off the front lawn while he's at it," she says, urging parents to start early.

"Learn to say `no' to your children while they are still young and somewhat malleable and it will be like money in the bank when they reach those really unbearable, hormone-laden years."

From the Baltimore Sun:

Humor writer gives parents their due

They shouldn’t center their life around kids, says Christie Mellor In her irreverent guide to child-rearing, author Christie Mellor makes the case that children should never have become the center of the adult universe and are, frankly, only as good as their last martini.

To buttress her point in "The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting" (Chronicle Books, $12.95), she includes a recipe any youngster should be able to master.

"All young children should know how to make this delightful yet deceptively simple cocktail for their parents and other thirsty grown-ups who drop by around 5 o’clock," writes the first-time author and veteran parent.

She suggests that your preschooler also be taught to ask "Olive or twist?" and to say "Cheers!"

For parents, this book is the ticket off the child-centric hamster wheel. It is a laugh-a-page guide to benign neglect, and it wittily makes the case that children were put on this Earth to wait on their parents and not the other way around.

In her chapter "Child labor: not just for the Third World!" Mellor talks about chores and gives this advice: "Compliment your child’s work and encourage thoroughness, reminding him that if he lived in Pakistan or Turkey he would be hunkered over a loom for nine hours a day, or busy hand- knotting rugs in a very stuffy

"I had been stewing about this for a long time," said Mellor, mother of 12-year-old Edison and 7-year-old Atticus. "I got so tired of all the precious mommies and daddies who were centering everything around their children and not enjoying their own lives.

"And the result was children who were brats."

Mellor lives with her husband, Richard Goldman, and their children in the heart of Los Angeles, where she works as an actress and a screenwriter.

But to her surprise, she’s gotten letters and e-mails from the American heartland suggesting that this little prince and little princess child-rearing approach is not just more California goofiness.

"Sadly, this seems to be pervasive."

As is the humor and good sense in this book, delightfully illustrated with paper dolls from the author’s collection, to which the odd cocktail shaker has been added.

"We have become ineffectual lapdogs to our children," she writes, "with all the power and authority of retired security guards. We are bigger than they are. We are supposed to be running things."

Plus, "letting children choose their own bedtimes is, simply put, insane. Why would one do such a thing?"

And, "if you would like to include your children, albeit briefly, at the start of whatever festivities you have planned, you might consider teaching them to pass a plate of hors d’oeuvres or distribute cocktail

Mellor’s book is heavy on advice for getting children out of the way so the grown-ups can drink.

In today’s self-conscious world, where only teenagers seem to be able to drink without guilt, it is a brave approach.

"I have been criticized for talking about heavy drinking in the context of children," she said, "but that is like the people who sit down at a dinner party and start talking about all the carbs they can’t have. It is so off-putting.

"I am trying to make the point that the grown-ups should step back and take a look at what they are doing. It is their life and they should live it.

"I hope it is good advice, couched in over-the-top humor to make it palatable."

Mellor suggests, among other things, that parents not cave in to their children’s demands for white noodles and butter for every dinner and instead starve them for three to five days so they will cheerfully consume mommy’s Coq au Poivre or her cauliflower torte.

She also suggests that parents not buy their children toys, but instead take them to visit friends with lots of toys, particularly the children of bitterly divorced parents whose homes are filled with "staggering examples of one-upmanship."

The "Three-Martini Playdate" is fresh and funny, and it has been read and approved of by Mellor’s oldest boy.

"He is proud of his mom, but it isn’t like any of this came as a surprise to either one of them.

"Both of my kids are pretty used to it."

Susan Reimer is a family columnist for The Baltimore Sun.

From Metro-Pulse Online Magazine

Christie Mellor’s The Three-Martini Playdate (Chronicle Books, $12.95) may not have anything in common with Liquor except for its alcoholic title, but I can’t resist taking this opportunity to raise a chilled martini glass to Mellor’s tongue-in-cheek tome which is subtitled “A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting.”

“It has come to my attention,” Mellor writes in her introduction, “that children have become the center of our universe.” Though she professes love for her children, Mellor also argues that contemporary parenting is a ridiculously difficult job,

Wake Up and Smell the Martinis
A Review of The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting

The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting
by Christie Mellor
Chronicle Books, 2004; $12.95
Review by Jennifer Eyre White

"It has come to my attention that children have become the center of our universe," begins The Three-Martini Playdate: A Happy Guide to Practical Parenting, by Christie Mellor. To which my nine-year-old daughter Riley would respond, "And that's . . . bad?" Oh, yes, says Mellor, oh, yes.

The Three-Martini Playdate is funny as hell, but it's got an unmistakable message: today's parents have become slaves to their children, and this is Not Good. Not good for the parents, who have ceded their authority and their right to good old-fashioned grown-up time, and not good for the children, who have turned into self-centered little brats. The book urges a return to the days when kids were not so pampered, when "one wasn't required to transport the little children hither and thither, here to T-ball practice, there to a 'Playdate,' may the chipper mommy who coined that particular term forever rot in a hell of eternally colicky babies."

Mellor has a deliciously dry wit that is unfettered by concern for delicate parental sensibilities. As she joked at a recent reading in Berkeley, there's probably something in this book to offend every reader. She provides hilarious -- but not terribly gentle -- observations on overly permissive, touchy-feely, kid-centric parenting, and a wake-up call to the parents who practice it. Mellor doesn't waste time exploring the grey areas of parenting; after all, humor is often best when it sticks to black and white. Who needs more grey, anyway? I found this book so funny and engaging that when my newest baby was but a week old, I stayed up to read it after the 2 a.m. feeding even though the baby had fallen asleep. There I was, sleep-deprived and covered in spit-up, reading and laughing out loud.

In a chapter entitled "Child Labor: Not Just For the Third World!" Mellor says, "If your child is older than, say, four, there is no reason on earth why he shouldn't be getting his own breakfast, and picking the paper up off the front lawn while he's at it." Like with many parts of the book, first I laughed, and then I thought -- is she serious about this? I don't know, but I do know that it made me look at Riley and her three-year-old brother, Ben, with a more calculating eye. What could they be doing that I was doing for them? Why should I be making their buttered toast every morning when Riley, at least, is certainly old enough to be doing it herself? Then, I found myself contemplating a truly breathtaking thought: maybe she could even be making my toast! Well, that's pretty much the point.

Mellor is spreading the word that if parents did less for their kids and more for themselves, parenting would be a lot more fun. For example, she recommends that, for really little kids, the common practice of having full-blown birthday parties -- complete with clowns and Barbie impersonators -- is absurd. There's no need to go to all that trouble. Instead, she says, turn on the sprinklers and let the kids run naked while you host an afternoon cocktail party for their parents. After all, why should kids have all the fun? The book even includes a menu, plus recipes: Weenie Fondue, Devilish Eggs, and Lemonade for Grown-Ups. Mellor points out that "lemonade provides refreshment for those too young to appreciate distilled spirits, and the simple addition of a fine vodka creates an easily made and remarkably tasty beverage for an exhausted and grateful grown-up."

In the interests of doing a thorough book review, I made the spiked lemonade. My husband and I can now vouch for Mellor's claim -- it is rather tasty, and if we were served such a beverage at a kid's birthday party, we'd definitely have a better time.

Another recipe, Our Little Tot's First Martini, begins by stating that "all young children should know how to make this deceptively simple cocktail for their parents and other thirsty grown-ups who drop by around five o'clock." At the Berkeley reading, I asked Mellor, who lives in Los Angeles and has two school-aged boys of her own, whether her kids know how to make martinis. She cheerfully responded that they do not, and that she'd gotten some flak on the subject of small children mixing alcoholic drinks. "It's a joke, people!" she said, shaking her head in mock disbelief.

In addition to the recipes, The Three-Martini Playdate includes a number of parenting "Helpful Hints." One of these is a "Do-It-Yourself After-School Enrichment Program," which includes such topics as "Care and Cleaning of Barware," "Skedaddling for Beginners," and "Letting Mommy Nap 101." It's a reminder that parents haven't always felt compelled to provide non-stop entertainment for their kids; this is a recent phenomenon, and one that Mellor clearly feels has gotten out of hand.

In keeping with its nostalgia for retro parenting, The Three-Martini Playdate is illustrated with fifties-style drawings of children and adults. These, according to Mellor, are reproductions of people in her paper doll collection, some of which have been modified to include her own (typically alcohol-related) hand-drawn additions. One such drawing appears on the cover of the book, where a small, bashful-looking boy is shown holding a martini shaker. It was this picture -- along with the book's title -- that first grabbed my attention. It's not every day you see the words "martini" and "playdate" in the same sentence, much less on the cover of a book.

Unlike most books on the topic of parenting, I'd recommend this one even to people without their own kids. In fact, it may be most amusing -- and least uncomfortable -- for non-parents, those people who are invariably convinced that today's parents are doing a shoddy job. As for me, well, I came away with the niggling suspicion that Mellor might not entirely approve of my parenting.

One evening, I found myself picking up Ben's toys while he relaxed on the sofa, sipping his hot cocoa and watching his favorite video on heavy-duty construction vehicles. I suddenly had an uncomfortable vision of Mellor watching me, shaking her head and clucking with disapproval. I stopped what I was doing and said, "Come pick up your toys, or no video."

And pick them up he did.

Jennifer Eyre White is an engineer, freelance writer, and mom to Riley (9), Ben (3), and Kirby (3 months).


Over-the-top parenting guide

THE THREE-MARTINI PLAYDATE: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting

By Christie Mellor. Chronicle Books. 143 pages. $12.95.

With tongue firmly planted in cheek (or is it?), Christie Mellor serves up a chuckle-filled read on having children. Encouraging old school parenting values, the mother of two "darling little angels" asks in the introduction: "Remember when we couldn't wait to grow up so we could be in charge?" The wee book is packed with tips, opinions, recipes and retro illustrations all aimed at pointing out just how outrageous some parents can be. A sample of the chapters that will have nonperfect mommies and daddies shouting "Amen!" include: "The Childproof House: How to Know if You've Gone Too Far," "Bedtime: Is 5:30 too Early?" and "Preschool: The Fast Track to Harvard." -- RACHEL SUTHERLAND, STAFF WRITER

From Publishers Weekly

Mellor, mother of "two darling little angels," tells parents it’s time take back their lives—and their right to have a few cocktails at a child’s midday birthday party. With chapters such as "Bedtime: Is Five-Thirty Too Early?" and "Screaming: Is It Necessary?," the author lays out a plan for parents to enjoy themselves and not be slaves to their children while still offering their kids a warm, nurturing environment. Mellor’s advice has a retro twang, and is always wry and often quite funny, standing in sharp contrast to the guidance normally found in books of its kind. The author urges readers to recruit children to pitch in with household chores ("Three years old is not too soon to start learning the fundamentals of decent vacuuming") and thinks excessively childproofing a home is ridiculous, since kids find a way to open complicated locks anyway ("You might as well festoon all your drawers and cabinets with brightly colored flags that say ‘Hey, You! Kid! Fun and Danger in Here!’"). Mellor’s guide will surely be a boon to parents in need of some "grown-up time."

From the Contra Costa Times, 4/14/2004:


Maybe it's not your kind of humor, but to us it is so very funny -- even the memory of the best bits can send us into fresh torrents of giggles. The absolutely hilarious volume of which we speak is "The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting," by Christie Mellor (2004, Chronicle Books, $12.95).

In chapters such as "Children's Music: Why?" and "Bedtime: Is Five-Thirty Too Early?" Mellor explores the importance of grownup time and expounds upon the joys of saying "no" to one's little darlings. Following is her "Helpful Hint on Helping Your Youngster With School Projects": "Start saving your empty shoe boxes now. Empty shoe boxes fill a variety of project needs, from a smart 'California Mission' to a clever Story-Time Diorama to a Valentine's Day mailbox. The best way to secure enough shoe boxes is to continue to buy dozens of pairs of shoes. I know this may be difficult for some of you, but we all have to make sacrifices to ensure that our children are project-ready.

"You may have to occasionally splurge on some really well-made Italian footwear, which for some reason provides the sturdiest boxes, but it will all be worth it when you see the bright, shining look of accomplishment on the face of your child, who has created an authentic 1:87 scale Viking ship for his World Explorers project out a of a stalwart Prada shoe box. It's those little intangibles that make parenthood so worthwhile."

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Stuff: Thirst for knowledge

Posted: April 19, 2004

The philosophical key to "The Three-Martini Playdate: A Guide to Practical Parenting" (Chronicle Books, $12.95) is this sentence: "Let us be perfectly frank. You were here first. You are sharing your house with them, your food, your time, your books." If that's not a clue to the tongue-in-cheek tone of Christie Mellor's "parental guide," the cover - an illustration of a young boy holding a martini shaker - certainly is.

Not convinced? See page 37 - "Our Little Tot's First Martini Recipe" - and the recommendation that "all young children should know how to make this delightful yet deceptively simple cocktail for their parents and other thirsty grown-ups who drop by around five o'clock." Chapter titles include "Bedtime: Is Five-thirty Too Early?" and "Karate, Little League and Ballet: Your Child's Eighty-Hour Work Week."

The book isn't just for laughs. You'll actually learn something from "Fiscal Planning and Your Tooth Fairy." And there are recipes for more than just drinks.

- Kathy Flanigan
From the April 20, 2004 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Parents' Press
The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting

Reviewed by Melanie Lawrence
Copyright 2004 by Parents' Press
The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting, written and illustrated by Christie Mellor (Chronicle Books, 2004, 143 pp., $12.95)

Parents, be forewarned: This is not a nice book. This is not a politically correct book. Think carefully before giving it to child-centered friends – you know, the kind who will do anything for their kids (although these friends may need it most).

Christie Mellor, after all, pens such chapter titles as "Bedtime: Is Five-thirty Too Early?" and "'Children's Music': Why?" The cover art alone will shock many an earnest NorCal mom and dad.

In other words, Mellor, a Los Angeles-based actress, writer, and mother, has written a marvelous, hilarious little guide to living a happy life with children. Her credo is simple: kids need to be loved and looked after, but they are not the center of the universe, nor should they be.

In the interests of promoting her goal – contented parents and, hence, contented children – Mellor dispenses sensible advice with insouciant charm: Assuming you don't keep them manacled to the radiator, she writes, toddlers are generally thrilled by the mere act of living and breathing. So cut the frills, continues Mellor, and save yourself a lot of work, not to mention stress. (No, it's not necessary to leave the house with enough child gear to outfit a conquest of Annapurna. Yes, the Tooth Fairy is magical, and kids will think her just as magical if she dispenses coins, as opposed to $20 bills. And anything designed solely to promote a child's self-esteem is probably a bad idea.)

As Mellor notes in her final pages, there is a long-term payoff to all this hedonism: One day you will wake up and find that your hulking 17-year-old no longer needs you to take care of him or her. And when that day arrives, you will need friends, and a proper social life, and perhaps a hobby, and you will not have these things if you...make your child your only hobby....So now is the time to start getting that life to fall back on. You know what you must do. Do it for your child....And do it for yourself. Cheers!

Verve Magazine

The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting
Christie Mellor

Have a girlfriend who's losing her freaking mind with a toddler? In pithy chapters like Children's Music: Why?, Mellor offers tips, advice and a few easy recipes-including one for laced lemonade. If she's not striving for Stepfordian perfection, amuse her with this laid-back little guide. That, and a Cosmopolitan, should make for a Happy Mother's Day.

From the Phoenix Tribune, Carrie White’s Interview:

East Valley Life

Tart advice for parents

By Carrie White, Tribune

Resist getting a DVD player for the back seat of the SUV. Let the kids go outside and hunt for bugs. So advises Christie Mellor, mother of two and author of "The Three-Martini Playdate," subtitled "A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting" (Chronicle Books, 2004, $12.95).

"When kids are young, parents fall into this trap that they are responsible for entertainment," Mellor said. "But you’re not doing your kids any favors. They have to learn to entertain themselves."

Mellor, 45, grew up in San Francisco at a time when children weren’t so much the center of the household as they were a part of a family. She’s amusingly appalled at the current state of parenthood that looks to protect, but rather panders to, children. It seems, she said, the word "no" is currently not in vogue. Parents seem to feel they must subjugate their own lives in favor of their children’s. No. "Parents need to be in charge," Mellor said, striking the match of revolution. "Take a deep breath and stop."

Mellor, who now lives in Los Angeles, said she wrote this book first for herself. "I needed to get it off my chest," she said. That her observations, and subsequent advice, were appreciated by adults with and without children encouraged her in the compilation of her rants.

And in "Playdate," Mellor covers all the sacred cows that will have readers chuckling with familiarity. Take trophies: Children "are given trophies simply for showing up." And Raffi: "Children’s music, why? My father would sing something about the moon in Japanese which was highly entertaining . . . because our father is not Japanese."

And of course, no irreverent book on contemporary parenting would be complete without a mention of food, theirs and ours. "Do not, whatever you do, fall headlong into the ‘white food’ trap. How in the world are you finicky eaters ever going to raise their level of taste or expand their culinary horizons if they are exposed only to plain noodles and cut-up hot dogs?"

Mellor chalks a lot of today’s insanity ("kooky parents doing kooky things") to the fact that people are having children later in life. "We waited this long, now we’re going to throw everything into it," she said. That spirals into peer pressure. "It comes at you from all sides," Mellor said. "If you don’t stay home with your kids until they go to kindergarten, you’re a bad parent. If you don’t have your child in an afterschool enrichment program, you’re a bad parent. If you don’t have your child’s hours completely filled, there’s something wrong."

But she’s here to say that there’s nothing wrong, or bad, with letting the kids lay on the rug and just be. "It’s time to warm up the ice cubes, curl up on the sofa and send darling Spencer into the other room to play by himself," Mellor said. "Mummy and daddy need a little break."

The Montreal Gazette
Susan Schwartz
Monday, June 14, 2004

Christie Mellor thinks letting children choose their bedtime is insane. She thinks not enough parents say "No!" to their offspring and way too many can't get through a birthday party or a Christmas morning without a recording device strapped to their arm.

Once, at a Halloween parade at her son's preschool, she looked around to a sea of video cameras - and not a single human eye. "Apparently there was not one parent there who could watch, with his own eyes, his costumed child walk across a small yard, take in the charm of the moment, and treasure the memory forever," she observes in her wickedly funny but ultimately sensible new guide to practical parenting, The Three-Martini Playdate (distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books, $17.95).The design and the language are both lovely, in a retro kind of way. Chapter titles include Bedtime: Is Five-thirty Too Early? - and Children's Music: Why?

In one called The Childproof House: How to Know if You've Gone Too Far, Mellor, 45, describes the time she nearly peed on the powder-room floor at a dinner party because her hostess, the mother of two small children, had latched the toilet shut." Can it be true that toddlers are actually drowning in the toilets of America?" she asked rhetorically in a phone interview. "Might it not be a good idea," she suggests in the book, "to explain to one's 2-year-old child that she mustn't put her head in the potty and leave it there?"

The Los Angeles actor, writer, wife and mother of two called the book "a chance for me, as a parent, to get an awful lot off my chest regarding what I consider to be a great many silly parents out there, doing a great many very silly things." Mellor's philosophy is simple: Love your kids and look after them. But realize they are not the centre of your universe - which is what many parents have allowed them to become.She harkens back to the time when "one wasn't required to transport the little children hither and thither, here to T-ball practice, there to a 'playdate,' may the chipper mommy who coined that particular term forever rot in a hell of eternally colicky babies.

"You were here first," she reminds parents. "Somewhere, in fairly recent memory, we have lost sight of that fact. Somehow a pint-sized velvet revolution was waged right under our very noses, and the grown-ups quietly handed over the reins. ... We have made concession after concession, until it appears that well-educated, otherwise intelligent adults have abdicated their rightful place in the world, and the littlest inmates have taken over the asylum." You can be a decent parent without giving up all that you value about being an adult, Mellor believes.

Anxious parents need not worry that their child's well-being and future success rest on whether every waking minute is devoted to them. There are adult-only domains, she says, and it's quite acceptable - a good idea, even - to spend time in them."There is no shame in explaining to your children that they should go and find Something to Do, that the grownups are having grownup talk, that they, the little children, need to go somewhere and be little children."Mellor on saying No: There are parents who believe a child should never have to say he's sorry, as "that would somehow foster low self-esteem. In addition, this theory holds that one should never say No to a child. Perhaps it would be demeaning, or stunt his creative spirit. "But as parents," Mellor says, "we are supposed to be running things. If you don't start saying no to your children as if you mean it, and you don't start now, the fussing will only get worse. Children really do want to be told no, despite their protestations."

On down time: A child need not be "doing something educational and instructive every minute; nor are you required to clutter up your days, especially your weekends, driving from field to field, from activity to activity. ..."There is enormous satisfaction in keeping one's Saturdays and Sundays entirely free to putter in the garden, have a game of catch with your child, go to a farmer's market, or simply lounge about." Chill, in other words. Enjoy your child - and yourself - more.

On chores (in a chapter called Child Labour: Not Just for the Third World): "A child who has never been given chores to do is a child who grows up with a skewed sense of entitlement."

On manners: "Do not allow your child to grow up to be a social embarrassment. ... Politeness is always appreciated, and one is never too young or too old to say 'Thank you.' "

On self-esteem: "As much as we must encourage our children's interests and efforts, as much as we should praise them when they work hard and do well, we do not need to continually assure our wee ones that they are brilliant and can do no wrong, especially when they engage in an activity at which they are mediocre, at best. It is not our job to protect our children from every little slight and hurt and bad feeling."

On child-proofing: A certain amount is, of course, reasonable. "I understand that we musn't leave candy-coloured thumbtacks lying about. ... Affixing padding on the corner of every table, however, is taking it too far. There are sharp, pointy things out there. ... They need to learn, and they will not learn if you are hiding things under rubber bumpers and behind doorknob guards. ... One should welcome the little accidents and near accidents that teach one's child about danger and instruct him, often dramatically, how to avoid it."

On bedtime: "Letting children choose their own bedtimes is, simply put, insane. ... Why would a parent rob himself of a load of free time, in addition to robbing his child of some much-needed sleep?"Mellor's two sons, 12 and 6, have bedtimes of 8 or 8:30. And they're usually asleep seconds after their heads hit the pillow. "We have never made it seem like bedtime is a bad thing."Besides, she said, it's not a parent's role to be best friend to one's children. "You have to lead them. Think about the kind of adults you want them to become - the kind of adults you want to hang out with."
From the London Times:

The Sunday Times - Books
March 27, 2005

A little night reading: What Lisa Hilton has on her bedside table

It takes a really good writer to use expletives well. Flaubert swore a lot in his letters, and I’m finding Geoffrey Wall’s Flaubert: A Life (Faber) extremely heartening. American novels make me impatient at the moment, they seem obsessed with motivation, which feels rather unsophisticated, a bit Hollywood. But Elizabeth Gaffney’s Metropolis (Heinemann) can be excused its neat conclusion as it manages to create a vast, panoramic history of 19th-century New York without ever seeming forced.
Most parenting books make me weak with guilt before I’ve even opened them, so I’m loving Christie Mellor’s The Three Martini Playdate (Chronicle), which has refreshing chapter headings such as Children’s Music — Why?. Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety (Riverhead) is a more serious examination of the mothers-as-martyrs trend that seems to be so insidiously pervasive. I can’t wait to give birth so I can discuss it over a cognac and cigarette.

Meme Girl
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fall in to Reading--The Three Martini Playdate

There is a joke in my husband's family--not a joke, really--about how in the world the parents, particularly moms, survived our generation's childhood. My mother-in-law is oldest of three siblings; she had five kids, her sister had four, and her brother had three, so there were often events where there were three moms and twelve cousins running around. This was especially true in summer, when all the moms moved up to the mountains for the hot season (pre-AC days) and the dads came up on weekends after putting in a full week at work. "How did you do it?" the kids now ask, and often answer their own question: "I remember a lot of Manhattans."

Enter my next book in my Fall in to Reading list: The Three-Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor. I should have listened to Anjali back in September when she recommended it as a fast, fun read; it is absolutely both of those things. And the illustrations are fabulous--very 1950's style women and kids in somewhat silly or outrageous poses, like the kewpie-ish tyke on the front with the shaker of martinis, or the Leave-It-To-Beaver-era dad in full suit, holding a kid in a towel post-bath.

Christie Mellor is very amusing. She writes as though she is the modern embodiment of David Sedaris's mother in Naked, with lots of references to martinis and cigarettes and other things that are pretty far out of my daily life and always have been. Her premise is that before your kids were born, you were the center of your own universe. You are bigger than they are. Why did you let them win?

At least from my perspective she swings back and forth between honestly good advice and outrageous you-can't-be-serious ones. I agreed with several of her stances, as do most sane parents I know (birthday parties have gotten out of hand; too many toys do nobody any good), and I got lots of giggles out of her suggestions (buy the smallest possible toys so they are easy to hide when guests come over). And I can't wait to try her retro party recipes (weenie fondue and devilish eggs). But maybe because I'm in a sensitive point about my own parenting, it was hard not to feel prickly about some of her "suggestions," tongue in cheek as they may have been. While I love the title of the chapter "Bedtime: Is 5:30 Too Early?" right now it's such a battle in our house, I think I've lost my sense of humor on the topic.

But, that's far more about me than the book. This was a super-quick and funny read, and it was easy to recognize myself and several other parents in it. Whatever your parenting pet peeve, you'll find it in here, skewered nicely, and all in a good-looking, compact form, ready to be swallowed in one bite, or enjoyed in nibbles, like the hors d'ouevres she recommends. Which I will be serving in our book group discussion on Thursday--if only I can get the boys to nap.

james frank dean design & photography