This 2022 ‘Best of’ List Includes Swaddling a Chicken
For my last newsletter of 2022, I want to highlight parenting media that I loved this year. I tend toward three varieties of entertainment in this category: whatever makes me laugh, whatever makes me feel seen and whatever teaches me something new about history, science or a personal experience. Some of what made my list isn’t explicitly about parenting but provided insights about family life that will stick with me into the new year.
What made me laugh
I watch stand-up comedy almost every night before bed. It shuffles me off to sleep on a blissful note and serves as a palate cleanser, if you will, after all those episodes of “Snapped.” One of the best comedy specials this year was Ms. Pat’s delightfully blue “Y’all Wanna Hear Something Crazy?” Her storytelling is so real and somehow makes stand-up seem effortless. Ms. Pat has four kids of her own and she’s raising her niece’s four kids, and she’s funny about everything she’s been through, which is a lot. She even has a joke about “Snapped” — a woman after my own heart!
Rosebud Baker’s Instagram is one of my favorites. The “Saturday Night Live” writer and stand-up comedian has been chronicling her I.V.F. — I want to say “journey” here, but I share her aversion to that word. She also manages to pull off a joke about her miscarriage (I’ve written about my own, far more earnestly) — a testament to her comedic dexterity. It made me feel that we are continuing to find ways to express ourselves around the things we go through in our reproductive lives, and after years of drinking from a fire hose of sometimes repetitive #parenting content, to see something genuinely new is exciting.
And a bunch of TikTokers! Amber Wallin, who makes videos about her husband and her adorable baby; Jen Hamilton, a self-described labor and delivery nurse and mom who can swaddle anything, including a chicken; Khaled Ereikat, who has a series of videos in which he narrates his parents’ hilariously chaotic texts; and The Leighton Show, for peak dad humor.
What made me feel seen
“Flight” by Lynn Steger Strong. The novel follows three siblings and their spouses and children all cooped up together to celebrate Christmas, their first without the family matriarch. They’re at odds about an inheritance, which drives some of the plot, but the contours of the family relationships are what I’ve held onto weeks after reading the story. Strong brilliantly describes the interior feelings of each family member and all the complicated and varied interactions among the siblings, in-laws, spouses, parents and their children. I identified with different characters at different points and found their emotional world tremendously satisfying.
“Essential Labor” by Angela Garbes — part memoir, part history, part “galvanizing manifesto” — is a series of essays about how caregiving has been undervalued around the globe. What touched me most deeply about this beautiful book was the story of Garbes’s family: Her parents, a nurse and a doctor, immigrated from the Philippines, and she shares their personal saga in a delicate and detailed way that makes it feel universal through its specificity.
What taught me
“A Passage to Parenthood” by Akhil Sharma for The New Yorker. Sharma and his wife became first-time parents in their 50s, and he is so full of grace about his parents, whom he describes as “tormented people.” He muses about his mortality as an older dad who might not live to see his daughter’s adulthood, and explains:
Though I had children earlier in life, I thought these were excellent messages to pass on to a kid, ones that I want my daughters to absorb, too.
“Maternal Instinct Is a Myth That Men Created,” by Chelsea Conaboy for Times Opinion. This guest essay is adapted from “Mother Brain: How Neuroscience Is Rewriting the Story of Parenthood,” Conaboy’s book, which taught me so much about the science of maternity I never knew before. For example: “Using brain imaging technology and other tools, and building on extensive animal literature, researchers around the globe have found that the adaptation of the human parental brain takes time, driven as much by experience — by exposure to the powerful stimuli babies provide — as by the hormonal shifts of pregnancy and childbirth.”
(Bonus!) Crowdsourced recommendations
I asked my Twitter followers what parenting media they enjoyed this year. Here are a few things that were mentioned multiple times:
“I’ll Show Myself Out” by Jessi Klein is a funny (and deep) collection of essays. Klein can turn a trip to the supermarket in search of “Nom-Noms” into an existential hero’s journey.
“The School for Good Mothers” by Jessamine Chan is a perfectly eerie novel about a maternal re-education camp. (I, too, loved it.)
“Turning Red” is a Disney-Pixar movie about puberty and an evolving mother-daughter relationship. (We loved this one so much in our house that we still refer to getting angry as “Panda-ing out.”)
Ophira Eisenberg’s podcast, “Parenting Is a Joke,” is very funny and I can’t wait to catch up on the latest episodes during this holiday week.
Have a wonderful New Year, and I’ll see you back here next Wednesday.
Parenting can be a grind. Let’s celebrate the tiny victories.
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