How to Be a Parent, by A. BalkanSarah MangusoRivka GalchenPamela DruckermanMichelle TeaEmma DonoghueBen LernerEllen RosenbushKarl Taro GreenfeldClaire Messud

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These are tough times for parents. Not because child rearing has gotten any harder — it’s the same as it ever was — but because we are newly overrich in hand-wringing books and articles on the subject. The decision to have children, according to these panicked dispatches, is only the first in a cascade of choices that will either make or break your kid, save or ruin your life.

Eye idol from the Temple of the Eyes, Tell Brak, Syria © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York City

Eye idol from the Temple of the Eyes, Tell Brak, Syria © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York City

This forum, however, is not prescriptive but descriptive: not “how you should” but “how we have,” which is probably the best kind of advice a mother or father could give. The poem and the essays that follow tell you things about being a parent that you can’t get from a jeremiad about having it all or a numbered list of sleep-training tips. (If we really wanted to give you parenting advice, we probably wouldn’t be including a poem, which, as Ben Lerner puts it, is a great place “to make information disappear.”) The ten writers we brought together describe at least ten ways of being a parent, with room for disagreement and contradiction. There is no life-hacking here — just life.



Sarah Manguso, “The Grand Shattering”
Rivka Galchen, “Notes on Some Twentieth-Century Writers”
Pamela Druckerman, “Curling Parents and Little Emperors”
A. Balkan, “Self-Portrait with Daughters”
Michelle Tea, “Part Neither, Part Both”
Emma Donoghue, “The Donor”
Ben Lerner, “Untitled (Triptych)”
Ellen Rosenbush, “On Being a Stepparent”
Karl Taro Greenfeld, “Fever”
Claire Messud, “In Praise of Boredom”

is a poet who lives in New York.


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