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Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice Paperback – October 25, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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From the author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food comes a horrifying-yet-hysterical book dedicated to the expert parenting advice from previous generations. Each glossy page includes vintage print ads and photos accompanied by James Lilek's mean comments. But then, what other response is possible, when faced with cough syrup advertisement with a happy child exclaiming, "A cough syrup good enough to eat with ice cream"!

General categories include "Clothing and Accessories" (including a pattern to make a headband that binds protruding ears to babies' heads), "Bowels" (featuring an ad with the text, "If he spanks me again, I'm going to run away from home"), and "The Good Old Days", which offers several detailed options for creating a home delivery center. In every chapter, Lilek's comments are the equivalent of cracks from your most sarcastic friend.

For any new parent who's tired of modern advice books, or expecting parents in need of a touch of humor amidst the stress of pregnancy, look no further. Every page has a laugh, and every page will remind the reader that sooner or later, almost all parenting advice will end up having the same worth as what's included here. Jill Lightner

About the Author

James Lileks is a columnist for the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis. He is the author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food and Interior Desecrations. His website, lileks.com, is among the most popular humor sites on the Internet.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400082285
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400082285
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on December 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
Need to set up a home birthing center, but all you've got on hand are a stack of newspapers and a packet of sterile vulva pads? Or maybe your baby's already arrived, but his ears are annoyingly prominent? Perhaps you're not sure how long you have to boil milk to tame its indigestible curds. Let James Lileks lead you through some of the sage parenting advice our forbears listened to in the olden days, back when "most of Mom's time was spent boiling bottles, dads were curious grumpy stubbled things that appeared in the house for no discernible reason, car seats resembled launching pads, and the children were spanked with hairbrushes for the sin of Constipation."

In his beautifully illustrated Mommy Knows Worst Lileks reproduces scores of old ads and newspaper columns offering their often questionable advice about raising children. (Hint: whatever you do, DON'T PICK UP JUNIOR! You might land him in an insane asylum.) But better than the ads themselves is Lileks's snarky commentary on them, which will have you laughing aloud sometimes several times a page.

["The nursing mother should cleanse her nipples before and after each feeding with boric acid solution."]

"There's nothing wrong with boric acid, except for the acid part; no matter how mild the stuff may be, this passage still seems to suggest that nursing mothers should plunge their teats into something one associates with the innards of automotive batteries."

Not quite as amusing in the second half (on fatherhood, clothes and accessories) as the first, but the section early on in the book on health and hygiene (Tuesday is Diaper Boiling Day!) is alone worth the price of admission.

Reviewed by Debra Hamel, author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece
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I may send this book to all my childen--several of whom now have kids of their own--just to give them a glimpse of the world into which I was born in the early 1950s.

Fortunately, my own mother was (a) a registered nurse, (b) highly intelligent and (c) tough as nails, so she didn't pay attention to most of this rather scary advice. Also, I was the 5th of 6 kids, so she had already perfected her approach on them. (Of course, whether or not she was ready for _me_ is another question entirely; it is telling that even now when our family gets togther, they tend to tell "Bruce" stories from several decades ago.)

Anyway, this is Lileks' best book to date--it came today and I read it cover-to-cover this evening, suffering several near-pulmonary-arrest fits of laughter in the process. My only complaint: it's far too short. I'm sure there is far more material out there for Lileks to skewer. Heck, I suspect even Dr. Spock's original (1946) _Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care_ would have produced a few gems.

As Lileks says, it seems a wonder how we all survived--though I think the creeping nannyism of our current society has swung too far in the other direction. That said, I'm definitely giving away copies of this book for Christmas this year. ..bruce..
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I am 45 years old and recently told my kids that in my day, infants didn't have car seats or booster seats (or even seat belts!) They asked in disbelief, where did you go in the car? I said, Nana and Pop just laid me on the floor of the car. This book proved to my kids that I was telling the truth about the dangers kids and babies lived through back then--and all the jaw-droppingly unbelievably bad advice mothers were given.

My 12-year-old son loved the product that allowed parents in apartments to get fresh air and sunshine for an infant by hanging the baby out the window in some sort of box contraption. My 16-year-old daughter is reading it from cover to cover and getting a bigger kick out of it than I did.

It was a nice day in Missouri here today, and I had the doors and windows open. I was laughing so hard while I read this book in one sitting (I could not wait to see what was next--oh, spanking children with hairbrushes for not having had a bowel movement that day, that'll teach 'em!) I was surprised the neighbors didn't call someone from the looney bin to pick me up. This book is a scream, literally!
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Format: Paperback
Columnist and blogger James Lileks is making a third career out of dredging up ludicrous adverts and articles from times past and mercilessly ragging on them. Someday the copyright police will catch on to all the unattributed and unauthorized repurposing and slam Lileks in jail, but until then I'll keep buying them.

In "Mommy Knows Worst" he takes on the dark past's hair-raising notions of scientific child care. There's a lot here, and I wish there was more. He could probably have done a whole second volume on educational fads and kiddie snack foods.

In terms of editing and layout "Mommy Knows Worst" is the best of Lilek's snark volumes. In terms of laughs, it doesn't quite reach the brilliant heights of "The Gallery of Regrettable Foods." However, there is plenty here to like, and I imagine parents befuddled by today's parenting advice and marketing campaigns will find it especially funny.

I've ordered a short stack of copies for Xmas gifts.
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