Friday Favorites: The Best Articles I Read This Year
I've said this before: reading is one of the best ways for me to stay sane as a parent. Reading lets me go on a trip when I haven't left the house in days—no real pants or makeup necessary. Reading helps me exercise my analytical skills and brain muscles when I've been talking toddler for eight hours straight ("No, it's not time for lollipop num-num, it's time for night-night"). Reading inspires me to keep writing, because frankly, I can use the reminder that words matter.
I now read slowly, and sometimes sporadically, since becoming a parent. I used to devour a couple books a month, but now reading after 8:00pm is a sure way to start snoozing. But I still read, and I've found that reading articles and shorter pieces has become my go-to. I'm sure my friends and family are tired of hearing me say, "I read an article that said..."—I start an embarrassing number of sentences that way. I love to share the stuff I read, though. Here's a roundup of the best articles I've read this year—and guys, some of these are perfection. All of them are fantastic in one way or another. I've put them in categories so you can find your jam.
"A Manifesto Against 'Parenting'" by Alison Gopnik in The Wall Street Journal
Gopnik makes a compelling plea to stop complicating child-rearing—to stop focusing on the minutiae of methods and instead respond to our children's unique needs as a gardener responds to the needs of different plants.
Best quote: "Middle-class parents obsess about small variations in parenting techniques. Should you co-sleep with your babies or let them cry it out? Should strollers face front or back? How much homework should children have? How much time should they spend on the computer? There is almost no evidence that any of this has much predictable effect on what children will be like when they grow up. Does this mean that parents don’t matter? To the contrary: From a scientific perspective, being a parent, as opposed to 'parenting,' is crucially important, but it’s important in a very different way."
"Instead of denying our own sadness to our kids, we should teach them how to cope" by Smita Malhotra in The Washington Post
Malhotra explores the reasons we hide every emotion but happiness from our children, particularly when they're younger. Her conclusion made me think about allowing my girls to "sit with" their feelings, take stock of their emotions, and ultimately live healthier emotional lives.
Best quote: "By constantly telling children to 'turn that frown upside down,' our society sends them the message that being sad is almost unnatural. That it is something that needs to be fixed immediately. I find myself trying to protect my child from any emotion but happiness."
"WHY WE NEED TO STOP TECH-SHAMING OUR KIDS" BY KIRA LEWIS ON SUNSHINE AND HURRICANES
I love this call to stop using technology as a tool to shame (other peoples') kids. It's quintessentially human to scapegoat, and technology seems to be a favorite scapegoat for all the "problems" with "kids these days." The reminder to look at technology more critically and holistically is timely.
Best quote: "Technology is a part of our kids lives and a part they embrace and enjoy. We need to stop implying that their childhoods are somehow less because of it. That isn’t fair to them. It is our job as parents to help them learn to use technology safely, responsibly and in moderation. Perhaps that is hard, because we ourselves are struggling to do the same. But that isn’t technology’s fault."
"I WAS JUST HER" BY ASHLEE GAD ON COFFEE + CRUMBS
Oh, I need to read this every day. The stages of parenthood are full and fleeting, and stepping outside of them for just a moment always helps me put one foot in front of the other and stir up some gratitude.
Best quote: "I smile at her, and fight the urge to say something wise and all-knowing like, 'Don’t worry, it gets easier.' She isn’t frazzled. Her hands are simply full, much like mine had been one year prior. I was just her. One year ago, I was the mom with the tiny baby and a potty training toddler. I was the one carting around a snap-n-go stroller taking up entire bathrooms while helping my oldest kid on and off toilets big enough to practically swallow him. Oh how far we’ve come."
"Off Brand" by Sarah Bessey
Sarah Bessey explores how the story we tell ourselves about who we are can become a straight jacket. I particularly relate to her stories about how motherhood forced her "off brand," and her message is freeing.
Best quote: "A brand isn’t exclusive to corporations or non-profits. We often embrace a certain 'brand' for our lives as regular people, we have a story we want to tell with our lives and we expect everything in our life – our food, our worship, our budget, our homes, our friends – to all reinforce that story. This isn’t always bad but it can be restrictive. We are often unconsciously thinking of what our choices communicate to the world about who we are and what we value and what our purpose is in this life... Sometimes the story we tell ourselves about our own lives can become a prison, it can keep us from the real life that is waiting for us."
"10 SIMPLE FACTS TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT THIS ELECTION" BY DAVID WONG IN CRACKED
If you're feeling like most of America in the fevered days leading up to the 2016 election, you could probably use this article. This article made me laugh out loud and genuinely made me feel better about the crazy parade 2016 has been. This piece includes gems like "Elections Are What We Have Instead of Wars," "They're Your Neighbors, Not Monsters," and some hilarious 1800s political cartoons. Warning: this article sports many well-placed swears, which ups the humor for me, but if it's not your thing, maybe click on another link here.
Best quote: "Those people lining up to vote for [insert candidate you're most scared of] would, in the vast majority of cases, call for help if they saw you wounded in the street. Some of the ones with the most ignorant slogans on their T-shirts would dive into freezing water to save you from drowning. They're your neighbors, your co-workers, your customers. In the last month, one of them has probably offered you their spot in line at the grocery store and struck up a pleasant conversation about sports in the waiting room at the dentist."
"The Governing Cancer of Our Time" by David Brooks in The New York Times
David Brooks' defense of politics is succinct and smart. Don't read it if you're election-weary, but do read it, because it's important.
Best quote: "The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal. But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way."
"How my fantasy of marriage settled into the reality of marriage" by Annabel Monaghan in The Week
Monaghan's look at "the reality of marriage" is enjoyable and thoroughly relatable. It made me grateful again for my husband, and reminded me of the days when we argued over petty stuff. Real life makes you stop worrying about squabbles and instead realize the goodness of what you have.
Best quote: "When life starts to happen, you learn a lot about who your partner is. It's no longer Saturday night all the time. Adulthood can feel like a string of Mondays. Once you've moved through a patch of real life with someone, you learn a lot about the depth of their kindness, the strength of their integrity, and the staying power of their sense of humor. It's then that you stop sweating stuff like the ice trays."
"Some Days I Just Don't Want to Show Up for My Marriage—But I Do, Anyway" by Christine Suhan on Babble
This article is a good reminder that "fake it 'til you make it" can be decent advice when adult life gets tough. There's something to be said for balance here—where not acknowledging your own fears or frustrations can be seriously damaging—but sometimes, biting the bullet and "acting like it" could be the solution to genuinely "feeling like it."
Best quote: "Today, I act my way into feeling, instead of feeling my way into acting. I show up when I don’t want to show up. I cook dinner for my children when the sight of my kitchen repulses me. I kiss my husband and tell him I love him even when I feel like he owes me the world’s biggest apology. I stay when I want to go, I act as if I’m all in. Because I am."
Jen Wise makes a great point here: sometimes our calls for more "realness" on social media is really just another way to compete (again). Peoples' honesty on social media has encouraged me more than once, but we don't owe our friends or followers a daily gut-spilling in order to be acceptable.
Best quote: "The thing is, we’re right in thinking this is only part of the picture. Of course that friend with the gorgeous house and endless wardrobe has problems. Or course your co-worker who is out with friends every weekend struggles in her own way. But why should we demand a public display of their weaknesses just to feel ok with their strengths?"
"Here's How I Keep My Boy Safe-ish Online" by Glennon Doyle Melton
Here's the thing: you should follow Glennon. This isn't her best article of the year (by far). But here, have a Glennon Doyle Melton article, and read about internet safety—because really, this is a great piece.
Best quote (in response to her son's question): "Well, honey. Requesting privacy on the internet is sort of like requesting privacy in the middle of a baseball stadium during the World Series. Both the internet and baseball stadiums are—by very definition—very public places. If you say things on the internet or in a baseball stadium, people are free to hear those things. Your mother is one of the people who are free to hear. This is true for many reasons—not the least of which is that she has undoubtedly purchased your tickets to both the internet and the baseball stadium."
"Why Can't We See That We're Living in a Golden Age?" by Johan Norberg in the Spectator
It was the best of times, it was... well, actually, it's just always the worst of times. At least, that's what you'd think if you read the words of humanity from basically any era. It seems we have a tendency to believe the bad to the exclusion of acknowledging the good. Norberg's piece makes the case for optimism.
Best quote: "In almost every way human beings today lead more prosperous, safer and longer lives — and we have all the data we need to prove it. So why does everybody remain convinced that the world is going to the dogs? Because that is what we pay attention to, as the thoroughbred fretters we are. The psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have shown that people do not base their assumptions on how frequently something happens, but on how easy it is to recall examples. This ‘availability heuristic’ means that the more memorable an incident is, the more probable we think it is. And what is more memorable than horror? What do you remember best — your neighbour’s story about a decent restaurant which serves excellent lamb stew, or his warning about the place where he was poisoned and threw up all over his boss’s wife?"
Now it's your turn. Share some words with me!