Sometimes my three-year-old moves toward me, his sweet charming face filled with hope, holds out a book I loathe, and says, “You need to read this.” I avoid eye contact. I turn on the blender, like, I am crafting an invisible green smoothie and I have no idea what you want because I could not possibly hear you! Some of these books are obviously bad (anything with Thomas, Dora, et al). Some of these books require me to bark. A lot. Some of these books involve finding people who wear distinctive shirts.

Some of these dreaded books are classics. You may have received three copies of these at your baby shower, and they were all meaningfully inscribed, so you’re stuck with them. There is a certain book about youthful poultry that need to cross the road. Also, a certain book about a personified locomotive who just will not quit in this extremely repetitive way. The words in these books feel leaden on my tongue, and there are so very many words. You know what other books have way too many words? The ones about the monkey. I would never malign this cute, inquisitive monkey, but so many words, when the kids just need to be in bed already.

Yes, there are books that bring me down. But there are also books that help me, that warm my cynical, monkey-hating heart. When I read these books to my kids, all snuggled in their beds, it is exactly what I imagined parenthood would be like when I was pregnant, before I had any idea what was about to hit me. So I emotionally manipulate myself and my family by reading these – our most treasured books. They always make us me feel better, especially when I’m having a rough mom moment. Somehow they seem to cure whatever is ailing me that day. Why not try these out the next time you need a parenting pick me up?

  • Parenting Low Point #1: You picked your first grader up from school, and he was sobbing because his best friend was having a play date with someone else. Your three-year-old (who is practically four and still in diapers) relieved himself in a big way just before it was time to go to tennis so then you were running late. Both children were crying as you packed them into the car. The first grader stopped crying to play tennis, so things were looking up. But then as you watched, chatting up the PTO president who was sitting right next to you, your three-year-old said, “Mom, why are you drinking your wine so slow?” about the can of lemon seltzer you brought because you were trying to add a frisson of excitement to watching six-year-olds fail to make contact with a tennis ball. “This is not wine! It’s seltzer!” you said, really loud and kind of mean, so then your three-year-old felt stupid. The PTO president looked away.
  • Read this: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz 

There are days when anything that can go wrong will, and any kid who has to go shoe shopping and then to the dentist after school has legitimate complaints. And things just keep getting worse. “My bath was too hot, I got soap in my eyes, my marble went down the drain, and I had to wear my railroad train pajamas. I hate my railroad-train pajamas.” Alexander’s litany of complaints is so perfectly written it’s impossible to trip over the words. I love the ultra ‘70s illustrations (the carpool is driven by a mom in a VW bug, and she is rocking enormous glasses). Plus your kids will think it’s hilarious if every time something goes wrong, you say, “I think I’ll move to Australia.” (Buy it on Amazon for $4.51)