I realized the other night that parenting has pushed me into full intellectual survival mode. I watched Child the Younger (who is not yet two) throw a blanket over his head and run, yelling, straight for a wall at full speed. This spectacle was like an infant version of a Braveheart battle scene, but I could only think: if he knocks himself out, maybe I can read three more pages before he regains consciousness. . .
This is my brain on toddlers.
I caught myself reading while stirring tapioca pudding on the stove, vaguely aware that if I wasn’t reading at that very moment my brain would actually dissolve itself and become one with that pot of pale, gelatinous, gently bubbling goo.
What separates me from tapioca these days? Anything I can pick up or put down in hurry; magazines, graphic novels, comics and zines are my lifeline.
The best mom magazine I’ve found is Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers. Each issue is filled with thought-provoking essays and articles that get to the core of what it means to be a mother in our time. There are no smarmy potty-training lectures or mind-numbing checklists or cutesy impossible birthday cakes I would never make in a million years or big corporate food advertisements for the unholy Uncrustables. (I’m sorry; if you’re really too busy to make a PB & J, you need more help than a frozen sealed crust-less sandwich can offer.)
Graphic novels and comics are more weapons of defense in my arsenal for brain cell preservation. Keiko Tobe's With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child is the fascinating and realistic saga of one family’s day-to-day struggles with the disorder. (Yes, the Japanese mothers resemble Barbies and the children have giant doe eyes, but that’s manga for you.)
Richard Thompson's brilliant comic strip Cul-de-sac keeps me subscribing to The Oregonian even though I currently have no time to read the rest of it. His first book of collected work is a fabulous introduction to the most searing and poignant comic since Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes. Any modern parent can commiserate with the family’s recent visit to P. J. Piehole’s, a soul-sucking chain restaurant with vaguely terrifying décor and pepper jack cheese in every menu item.
My go-to mom zine is Ayun Halliday's The East Village Inky. Halliday writes about her adventures as the (way cooler than you) mom of two living in New York’s East Village. It is a vicarious and hilarious thrill to follow her through one gritty urban experience after another. Kate Haas's Miranda: Motherhood and Other Adventures offers a more local take on parenting in P-town with bonus recipes.
Reading anything these days is an act of survival. I may not make it through that dusty copy of Bleak House on my nightstand before 2012, but a comic book will do for right now.
Because nobody wants brain pudding in their lunch box.