Expert Parenting

 I've been reading all these parenting books lately.  As you know from past posts, things are not totally smooth on the parenting front and I'm struggling.  Struggling to figure out how to be a loving, calm parent when my Jewish instincts make me want to rant and rave for all sorts of non-emergent reasons. I am not a naturally very patient person (no doubt, a surprise to everyone) and Harvey is testing the absolute limits of my sanity.  Plus, June is needing a little more from her parents right now - it seems kids cycle through this, doesn't it? - where she is more emotional, sensitive and easily frazzled (shit, have I done this??).

So, in my spare time, I've been devouring tips and tools - from every expert in the field to good friends to our next door neighbors.  Here is what I am learning:

1.  Everyone, at some point, wonders how the fuck they got here.  As many of the books I am reading were written in the 70s and 80s, I guess our parents did, too.  Shocking.

2. Most parents, at some point, have locked themselves in the bathroom with a book/iPhone/iPad/large drink and pretended they are shitting for a really, really long time.

3. Boys are harder than girls, except when (see next point)

4. Girls are harder then boys.

5. Yelling, like one-night stands, rarely works out the way you want it to, but feels really fucking awesome in the moment.  Sometimes, it helps to phone a friend who will reassure you that he/she has done it, too.  Like, once.  Twice at the most.  Nevermind, you are the only asshole yelling.

6.  Calming yourself first, before approaching your child over whatever issue has arisen, is always a win-win.  This just makes me smile.

7.  Artisan coffee and craft cocktails are our generation's response to parenting woes, each applicable to a different point in the day (technically, but not really a hard-and-fast rule, I have come to realize).  Though often expensive, we are owed this, dammit.

8.  Show your child respect, at every age, and you will develop a respectful relationship with them to last the ages.  I'm paraphrasing, now, but this shit is for real.

9. Remember you are the adult, the parent - not the friend. Never forget the importance of that role in your child's life, even as they approach adulthood.  My parents were cool, but I still don't want to go clubbing with them.  I DO want them to help me pay for the safe Uber ride home, though...

10. You are not alone.  I mean, yes, sometimes you are the only one in the house at 3am while your child is vomiting up bags of licorice and pepperoni pizza you stupidly let them eat while your Sig O. was out of town, but emotionally, someone will be there for you at, like, 8am so you can call and sob and bitch.  And, they will tell you they get it.  If they are a parent, they probably really do.  Which brings us all the way back to point one.

On top of the above, I have recently realized that school is the modern day version of "it takes a village."  This summer has been wonderful, but I can see at the end, despite all the camps and day trips and vacations, my eldest is aching for some regular old 9a-3p outside the home.  I don't blame her - school at the kindergarten level is fucking amazing.  When was the last time you got to spend 6 hours eating and hanging out with all of your friends at someone else's expense?  College?? 

With June gone, and Harvey still napping 2-3 hours a day (Dear God, may you never take this away), I will have a lot of time on my days off to devote to working on my parenting skills:  I will read, roll play and probably write down some good tips to put on the fridge, a la Frank Castanza's "Serenity now!" mantra.  I will be impressive.  You will see.

Meanwhile, the following cake in no way fits into anything I've just discussed.  I mostly just needed to vent.  And to share my newfound wisdom.  But it's a good cake, made of all things back-to-school, and I guess in that way it is apropos.  So, if my tips above don't help your parenting, this cake could buy you a moment or two of grateful silence from any children you have.  And that, in a peanut-butter nutshell, is what good parenting is really all about.  

P.S. If you want some book recommendations, see below the recipe for my favorite 3 so far.

PB&J Snack Cake

The base cake is a graham cracker cake I adapted from Food52.  It's a little on the dense side, and not too sweet, so it pairs well with the jam and slightly salty peanut butter frosting.  I like making it simple and keeping it as a single layer cake.  But, the recipe can accommodate a layer cake, if you want to go all out!

For the cake:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares or buy the pre-made crumbs)

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, room temp

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk, room temp

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans (or one 9" square pan) and line the bottoms with parchment.  Grease and flour the parchment and sides.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, and baking powder; set aside.

In a large bowl with beaters, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.

Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour and milk in thirds, alternating between each and mixing gently after each addition.  Mix thoroughly but be careful not to overbeat.

Divide the batter evenly between your two prepared pans (or square pan).  Smooth the top.  Bake for about 25 minutes (or until golden brown and starting to pull away from the sides of the pans).  Cool for at least 20 minutes in the pan, then turn onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.  Can be made ahead, wrapped well and refrigerated for up to 2 days, frozen for up to 1 month.  

For the frosting/filling:

½  cup unsalted butter, room temp/softened

1 cup smooth peanut butter, room temp (make sure its no-stir, or your result will be an oily frosting that separates!)

2-3 cups powdered sugar

¼ cup milk, plus more, as needed

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ tsp salt

1/2 cup of your favorite jam (raspberry kills here, IMO )

1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts (optional)

Large ziplock bag (1 gallon) for piping (see below)

Beat butter in medium bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Add in peanut butter, beating well to combine.  Beat in 1 cup of the powdered sugar, then milk and vanilla. Gradually add in remaining 1.5-2  cups powdered sugar, beating after each addition until smooth.  Add more milk by the tablespoon to make soft and spreadable, as needed.


If making a single layer cake, spread the jam over the top of the cake evenly.  Refridgerate for 30 minutes, until the jam firms a bit.  Put all of your frosting into a large Ziploc, then cut one of the corners to use as a make-shift piping bag.  Gently pipe the frosting onto the cake in large rows, until a thick layer largely covers all the jammy bits.  Smooth out the frosting and cover any peeking jam with a knife or off-set spatula, being careful not to disrupt jam layer below. Sprinkle with chopped salted peanuts, if desired.

If making the 8 inch later cake, place the bottom layer on a plate or cake stand.  Spread this later evenly with the jam.  Place second later on top and smooth the PB frosting along the top.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Current Parenting Books:

How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen and Listen so Your Kids Will Talk.  

No Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture the Developing Mind

Parenting with Love and Logic  Note: there's a secular and non-secular version.

Up Next:

Calm the F*ck Down: The Only Parenting Technique You'll Ever Need