You’ve Probably Seen The Headlines….
About Toddlers and Cell Phones:
“Smartphone, Tablet Overuse Among Toddlers May Stunt Development,” (cbc.ca, February 3, 2015)
About Parenting and Cell Phones:
(deseretnews.com, February 15, 2013)
Note: Judgmental much?
Yes, many folks on the Internet have strong opinions about cell phones, toddlers, and the parents who own at least one of each. Therefore, I was very curious about how
this subject matter would be incorporated into a read-aloud picture book for very young children when I was asked to review #BabyLove: My Toddler Life, which was written and illustrated by Corine Dehghanpisheh. I ended up on the final page of the story nodding in an enthusiastic manner, complete with a big smile on my face. What a great story this is! Not only was the book entertaining, but the characters and the plot totally resonated with me as well.
Assessing The Story Message
Since my first year on my own as a public elementary school teacher back in 2004, whenever I’d had questions regarding an unfamiliar book’s content and/or message, I’d read it myself, first. Doing so has been the only fool-proof way to be 100% sure that the literature I choose to expose my students to has an acceptable message and storyline for public school students in whatever particular grade and setting I am currently teaching.
When I became a mom, this practice carried over to the books I selected to read to and/or with my young children, as well. Besides assessing obvious factors like the presence of any violence or inappropriate language, I also think it is very important to assess the message/theme of any story I read to and/or with my kids…. from about S2’s age onward. Though in the case of S10, this only applies when she wants to read adult books these days.
Does the story message complement or diverge from the beliefs and value systems Mike and I choose to instill in our children? That is a very important question to me, and paramount in deciding whether a book is chosen as a nightly read-aloud, stored away for later, donated, or straight-up recycled.
- We would never read S2 books with racial stereotypes or old-fashioned, anti-feminist, static gender roles. An example of a NO book regarding racial stereotypes can be seen in the disturbing video below, from 1938:
- We would also never read S2 any religious books, until she could discern between fantasy and reality. Both Mike and myself are not religious people, and we are choosing to raise our children without organized religion.
We would not read S2 books where characters act in a manner deemed unacceptable to us, especially if they receive no consequence for such behavior. Though I will admit that The Giving Tree got through my filter without a pre-read, though that book more annoyed me than offended me. I thought TGT was a classic book about a generous tree! Yet, I had apparently never sat down and actually read the thing, because UGH. A generous tree that gets consumed by an ungrateful brat boy-man, who ends up using her corpse as his ass-pillow at story’s end. Yeah, I’m not a fan. Of course, that book is one of S2’s current favorites.
Damn you, Shel Silverstein!
- Finally, we would not read S2 any books where we vehemently disagree with the book’s theme, message, or story moral. Enter, #BabyLove: My Toddler Life. This was the question on my mind as I read the story today, on my own. Why? When it comes to toddlers and moms and cell phones, everyone has an opinion, and I am no different! So, before reading this book to S2, I wanted to make sure that the plot line jived with my and Mike’s feelings on toddlers, parenting, cell phones, social media, toddler curiosity, and reasons for disobedience in very young children.
Verdict: I am happy to report that I just handed Mike the book to read to S2 for her bedtime this evening. I absolutely love this book’s message, as it is pretty much identical to my own feelings on this subject!
Real, Relatable, Imperfect Characters
Without spoiling the story, I have to say that Corine Dehghanpisheh had me holding my breath between pages more than once, as I awaited her to have the mom character do something that would make me put the book aside, and say, “nope, not for S2.” There were more than a few opportunities to throw out messages I didn’t agree with, and every single time, Corine chose the story path I would have taken, had I been the author.
The mom character? She ain’t perfect. She is EveryMom! Heck, she is ME, and I sure as hell ain’t perfect. What kid wants a perfect mother, anyway? I doubt mine do, and I hope like heck they don’t. If they do desire perfection, my advice is to best get over that quick. Because perfection? Ain’t happenin’ in this here house.
The toddler character in the story? Totally S2, but a boy. Curious. Active. Smart. Mischievous. Loving. Attention-Seeking. Real. And yes, NOT A PERFECTLY BEHAVED ANGEL. Who the heck wants a perfectly behaved angel toddler, anyway? NOT ME. I would probably gain an inferiority complex!
The summary of #BabyLove on most websites does state the plot point where the mom found her toddler son using her phone without her permission, so I feel ok stating that detail here. Most likely, if this book were written, say, back in the 1950s, that detail may have been followed by an event I wouldn’t want to read about (think old-school discipline tactics). Luckily, Dehghanpisheh is a modern mom, and her mom character reacts the EXACT same way I would if I saw S2 playing with my phone without permission. But you’ll have to buy the book to find out what that is.
I will say this, though:
Do you think the mom’s initial reaction to her kid taking her phone is the perfect-sensitive-understanding-peaceful response all those “positive discipline” books tell you is best?
Ha. If I am saying that I relate well to the mom character, that should answer that question in two simple letters.
Does the mom end up choosing the perfect-sensitive-understanding-peaceful response to what appears to be “misbehavior” on her toddler’s part, but really, truly is absolutely something else entirely?
YES. I love that Mom character!!
Takeaway: Moderation Is Key
I feel like the themes/takeaways in this book are appropriate for both kids and grown-ups. That is an impressive feat, to have the same themes resonate with two vastly different populations of people. So, well done, Corine Dehghanpisheh.
Takeaway: Sometimes, modern moms of today (and dads as well) have their phones with them when spending time with their kid/kids. And sometimes these same moms use their phones and take photos and videos. Sometimes these moms even share said photos and videos on social media. And you know what? As long as these moms aren’t ignoring their kid/kids the whole entire duration of time spent together, it is ALL GOOD.
Theme: Sometimes you gotta do you, and that’s just how it is.
Takeaway: Sometimes, it is more important to stop passively recording your child’s life. While sharing photos and videos and updates with virtual people, don’t forget to share your focus, love, and communication with the actual, flesh-and-blood person sitting in the room with you, too. Basically, learn to know when its time to put the effing phone away, get yo ass down on the floor with your kid, and play with them!
Theme: Your toddler-aged child loves you. They want your attention. You are their whole. damn. world. So be sure to make lots of time for them, and ONLY them.
This book is all about doing things in moderation. The cell phone is the focus, but the ‘moderation’ concept applies to so much more than that in life! Television, extra-curricular activities, sleep, dessert….. learning to regulate yourself without deprivation or over-indulgence? Priceless. Teaching your kid to self-regulate using yourself as a model? Invaluable.
So thank you, Corine, for writing this great book. I truly appreciate your message, and can say that it is as close to my own as one could possibly get.
As stated earlier, Corine Dehghanpisheh is not only the author of this book, but she is also the illustrator. Though I am far from an art critic, I can confidently say that each page can be described as bold, colorful, and eye-catching. The font used is child-appropriate and the print is nice and large, yet the words are placed in areas where they don’t interfere with the illustrations either, which take up the entire surface of each page. The words are written in white, and the slightly-bolded white block letters stand out against the brightly-colored pages, making the story easy to read by an adult. An adult who is most likely balancing a wiggly toddler on their lap as they read, to boot. My husband and I do thank you for that ease of reading feature, Corine.
The Toughest Critic’s Review: S2
This evening, Mike read #BabyLove: My Toddler Life to S2 for her bedtime story. The verdict? She enjoyed it, and paid attention the whole time! S2, like most kids her age, seemed to enjoy both the book’s rhythm and its rhyme scheme as well as the colorful illustrations. Mike also said that S2 asked a LOT of questions while listening to the story, particularly regarding the illustrations, which quite obviously caught her eye. He was even able to relate the content of the story to when S2 asks (pretty much daily) to see “you pictures” on my phone (she calls them “you pictures” because when she was much younger and didn’t have her pronouns straight, I used to show her pictures of herself on the phone and exclaim, “that’s YOU!” She knows her pronouns correctly now, but the “you pictures” thing stuck.)
We put S2 to bed 45 minutes later than usual tonight, and she only had two abbreviated naps today as well (due to a long drive mid-day). With all that, she still sat through the book. That speaks volumes!
Overall, I just loved this book. Besides containing a great message, the book has vivid illustrations, an engaging storyline, a modern setting, relatable characters, and it is just a fun, pleasurable read! I’d give it 5/5 stars, no question! I highly recommend picking up #BabyLove: My Toddler Life, especially if you are a ‘moderation’ parent of a toddler, like me!
Thank you so much for reading. Until next time!
Disclosure: The book was provided to the reviewer. All thoughts belong to the reviewer and have not been influenced.