Bari Weiss and Nellie Bowles Get Parenting Advice on Honestly
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Bari and Nellie Are Having a Second Baby—and They Have Questions!

We called our favorite parents for their best advice on the eve of another Free Press baby.

As some of you know, Nellie and I are having another baby—any moment now—maybe even by the time you read these very words!

Going from one kid to two is no small challenge, so hoping to quell our nerves, we called up some of our favorite parents to give us advice before we become a family of four. We ask mom-of-six Bethany Mandel about the importance of birth order; dad-of-four Elon Gold about how to protect your marriage as your family expands; Amy and Lou Weiss (yes, those Weisses) about the best part of having kids; and Mary Katharine Ham—who has three daughters and a son—about how to prepare to raise a boy in a household of girls.

We learned a lot of parenting wisdom, and we think you will too.

Click below to listen to the full episode on the Honestly or read on for an edited excerpt of the best parenting wisdom. 

Bethany Mandel

On getting the toddler to help with the baby:

It’s important for the oldest child to participate as much as possible without making them feel like they’ve been given a job. For example, making a diaper change into an experience, like “Okay, we’re all going to do this together. I need you to take out a wipe for me.”

It’s going to be excruciating, and you will almost certainly get urinated on, but try to make it as participatory as possible.

On dealing with epic tantrums:

On a day-to-day level, if there’s two children crying, I always go to the older one first because they have the memory and they will hold it against you. My newborn will never remember if I left her crying on the floor for five minutes, when there was a Band-Aid that needed to be put on the two-year-old.

Also, in my house you have to treat everyone around you with love, kindness, and respect. And if that’s not happening, I will not countenance it. And there are very clear boundaries of behavior. And so having tantrums is not acceptable. I once had a kid fall on the floor screaming and crying in Trader Joe’s, and I walked away from her. I knew where she was. I could hear her. I was in the aisle over. I know where she is, but she will not be getting what she wants now. That’s it. I’m done. And she can meet me at the end of this aisle.

And people lost their minds. Trader Joe’s had two very different opinions on that parenting choice. There were some who thought I was a monster and some that were like, yeah. And I had multiple people walk up to me and share their opinion on that parenting choice. 

Elon Gold

On keeping a happy marriage after having four kids:
Fun is the key. Fun is such an important word. I always say that my top three priorities are God, family, and comedy. And the only reason I put God before family is because God gave me family.

The other important word is Shabbat. The fact that we have one day a week, every week, with no phones, no driving, no TV, no Netflix, no streaming, no nothing. I call it connecting by disconnecting. We are connecting and we’re having fun and we’re talking and we’re laughing and we’re eating and we’re taking walks. You don’t need a trip to Europe, you don’t need the money, you don’t need anything but each other.

We just celebrated 30 years. I attribute it to a few things. We’re high school sweethearts, so we grew up together. I absolutely believe in soul mates. And when I met Sacha, I was 15 years old. And I talked to her for three hours at this Sweet 16 party, and she left, and I turned to my friend Leon Lowenstein, and I said, “I’m going to marry that girl,” because it was divine. 

On finding joy amid the “torture”:

Everyone’s going to say, “It goes by like that.” They’re going to snap their fingers. And you’re not going to listen to them. Because when you’re in the thick of it, every second is an eternity. This is torture. I got the diapers and this and that; it’s hell, actually. And life is actually in slow motion when you have little kids, and every second is an eternity. Guess what? I’m in the “snap” moment. Two of my kids have left the house already. And when they leave, you go, How could you leave me? How? I did everything for you, I made you, I raised you, how could you leave me? But more importantly, I’m saying to myself, I can’t believe that I didn’t listen to people, and I didn’t savor every moment. Because everything is fleeting. Life is so fleeting. To me, a midlife crisis is everyone’s leaving you. It’s crazy.

Let me give you one piece of advice before I go. It’s three words. Cherish. Savor. Revel.

Amy and Lou Weiss

On taking inspiration from a mother’s wooden spoon:

LW: My favorite parenting book was Dr. Dobson. When you girls were little, I had a series of women that came into my store, and their kids were all unbelievably well-behaved, and I said, “Why are your kids so great?” And one woman said, “I have a wooden spoon in my purse.”

I soon learned this was from Dr. Dobson’s book Dare to Discipline, which basically says a child cannot push off into the lake from a moving dock. They need a firm dock in order to shove off. And so, your mother and I were that firm dock so you guys could shove off from.

On the best thing about having kids and why: 

AW: Having kids gives meaning to your life. It fills your life up to the brim. How else do you explain the decision to have kids? It makes life much more rewarding.

That said, it is the most humbling job you will ever do in your entire life. You have to be willing to give up so much. It’s not always easy, but it’s so much fun.

When they have control over their decision-making and they’re making these fantastic decisions and doing things that make a parent proud, it’s more rewarding and more exciting because you see all the work you put into it, and now they’re making decisions. You have to know when to let go. And when you’ve let go, and they’re on the right track and doing all these fabulous things out in the world, that’s the most rewarding part of being a parent to me. 

LW: For me, my peak experiences were the different oddball times. You know, I just see you guys flowering in your own ways, and it happens at all different ages. When you’re feeling your best self, that would always be very exciting for me. 

Mary Katharine Ham

On raising a boy, after having three girls:

You can see these differences pretty clearly. For instance, if my son is upset, if he’s fussy, our remedy is to hit him with a pillow—because aggression makes him happier. It triggers something that it didn’t trigger for the girls. If one of the girls were upset and I hit her with a pillow, she’d be like, “Why would you do that to me? I’m upset!” But he goes the other direction. He starts giggling. He wants to engage and he wants to fight back with me. 

On letting boys go out on a limb:

I think the American Psycholog[ical] Association at one point said that “masculinity is toxic.” But I don’t want to categorize the things that make boys. . . boys as automatically toxic, because that aggressive nature can turn into a protective nature, which is part of what my husband brings to this family. We don’t want to discourage that in our sons; I want him to be proud of who he is. I mean, my girls have a million “girl power” t-shirts, but we don’t have any for the little dude. I guess he’s got a tractor t-shirt.

As a mom, you have to train yourself to let them go out on a limb, sometimes literally. For boys, that can be very important. So I like to work on that, to let him climb structures and get out of my reach a bit, within safe parameters. When you have boys, your tolerance for a bit of chaos probably needs to go up in order for them to do the things that they need to do to healthily express themselves. 

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