Five Minutes with Myla Goldberg
The Brooklyn-based writer talks about how to foster empathy in a 3-year-old and the high price of glittery sneakers
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
2 girls, ages 6 and 3
Is sleep training cruel?
It's really hard to do, but I'm a firm believer that the relative short-term unhappiness it causes helps everyone in the long run.
What books do you like to read to your kids?
Anything by Dr. Seuss, or by Arnold Lobel, who I consider to be the philosopher king of children's literature.
Do you have any favorite Jewish authors?
I don't seek out Jewish authors, per se, but authors I like who happen to be Jewish include Mordechai Gerstein (for kids), whose book The Giant is a beautiful, melancholy thing, and for grown-ups Bruno Schulz, a fantastical and fantastic Polish short story writer who was killed during the Holocaust.
Do you plan to (or do you already) send your kids to Hebrew School? And if so, do they enjoy it?
My older daughter has just started Hebrew school and is really excited to be learning a new alphabet!
Is there any Jewish thing that your family did when you were a kid that you don't want to do with your kids?
I hated going to services every Friday night. I haven't been to a Shabbat service since I left for college, and I suspect I will continue that trend.
What's the most expensive thing you ever bought for your kid?
For their enjoyment, or out of necessity? I'm always shocked by how expensive shoes are. This year I let my oldest daughter pick out her own sneakers, and of course she wanted the ones covered in glitter and sparkly butterflies. Then there's the tickets to the Nutcracker that I just got her for Chanukah because her friend is playing a Partygoer in Act I. Ah, New York City, where Chanukah tickets to the Nutcracker makes perfect sense. But, man, ballet is expensive!
A large part of your novel Bee Season focuses on Jewish mysticism. Do you find you can incorporate any of those ideas into your parenting style?
A major point of Jewish mysticism is to seek transcendence, which for daily use can be generalized into the idea of seeking happiness and fulfillment. By doing my best to be an open, accepting, and communicative parent, I'm hoping my kids will have the confidence and strength to seek their own happiness and fulfillment in their lives.
Your latest novel, The False Friend, deals in part with the cruelty that young girls often treat each other with. Do you have any methods for preventing your own children from being mean to others and/or dealing with bullies?
While trying to foster empathy in a 3-year-old can be a bit daunting at times, I figure if you start early and keep at it, you'll end up with kids who are more able to see things from another person's perspective, which goes a long way toward stopping cruelty before it begins. Being bullied is an incredibly difficult thing to deal with. I try to stay in touch with what's going on in my children's lives, so that if something small starts happening it can perhaps be dealt with before it turns into something bigger. I'm also on a constant mission to foster the sort of self-confidence that can withstand teasing and perhaps stop it from turning into anything more.
Are you a kveller?
When I like something, I want to tell everyone about it all the time. Most recently, I kvelled about having been able to actually FEED a GIRAFFE at the New York State fair. It was one of the coolest things I've ever been allowed to do.
--Interview by Molly Tolsky
Myla Goldberg is the author of three novels, Bee Season, Wickett's Remedy, and most recently, The False Friend. She is also the author of the essay collection, Time's Magpie, and the children's book, Catching the Moon. She writes and teaches in Brooklyn, NY. Find more at www.mylagoldberg.com.