Five Minutes with Sam Apple
The writer of American Parent dishes on the most horrific bris moments and parenting crazes
How many kids do you have and what are their names and ages?
Three: Isaac (4), Nina (2), Lila (2)
Do you use disposable or cloth diapers?
We've always used disposable diapers. I admire people who use cloth diapers, but after looking at the evidence, I'm not convinced that cloth diapers are that much better for the environment. And if I'm going to be washing large, feces-stained napkins every day, I need to be absolutely sure that I'm saving the world.
Is sleep training cruel?
Maybe. But only during the training part. If it works, as it seems to for most parents who stick with it, a baby might end up crying much less in the long run. We only turned to sleep training out of desperation, but I think it was probably the single best parenting decision we made. I have no stake in the larger debate. I think people should do whatever works best for both the parents and the baby.
Which parenting books are on your shelf?
I enjoy the books that look at the science of infant development. The Scientist in The Crib by Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff, and Patricia K. Kuhl is a good read. I also enjoyed The Myth of the First Three Years by John T. Bruer, a book which goes into great detail in explaining why all the claims about infant stimulation that you find on baby products are nonsensical. That doesn't mean that all of the "developmental" products are necessarily a waste of money. A lot of toys are seemingly fun for babies -- whether or not they make them any smarter.
Do you consider yourself a stereotypical Jewish parent?
Hmm. I'm certainly neurotic and overprotective -- so I guess I fit the stereotype. But I'm not convinced that Jewish parents are so much more neurotic than the rest. All parents are neurotic. Parenting is a neurosis-inducing endeavor.
Do you plan to (or do you already) send your kids to Hebrew School? And if so, do they enjoy it?
Right now they attend a JCC preschool. Later they'll most likely go to public schools and a Hebrew School on Sundays. I am concerned about finding a Hebrew school that will be genuinely enjoyable for them -- if such a thing exists? If we have to drag them there against their wills, I don't think it makes much sense.
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 think we might all be better off with shorter seders.
How many preschools did you apply to?
We got lucky and got into the first one we applied to in New York. Then we decided to move to the Philadelphia area. My wife called a preschool in Philly to ask how we could get on a list for the upcoming year. The people in Philly didn't know what she was talking about. They were like, "There are no lists. Just show up." It seemed far too easy to be true.
What's the most expensive thing you ever bought for your kid?
Well, my in-laws got us a Bugaboo stroller. I didn't pay, and I still feel pretty guilty about it.
In American Parent, you mention learning about the eccentricities of your own bris--a conga line, a mohel in a cowboy hat, etc. What was the most memorable thing about your son's bris?
I think the most memorable thing was the pre-bris examination. To keep Isaac calm, the mohel -- or mohelet, in this case -- took a small round sponge, dipped it into a mixture of red wine and sugar water, and then let it drip into Isaac's mouth. It turned out that the sponge looked exactly like Isaac's infant scrotum and when my wife walked into the room to see the mohelet holding it above Isaac's head... Well, let's just say she wasn't amused.
Are there any parenting crazes that you're embarrassed to be a part of?
Pretty much all of them. The weird thing about parenting crazes, in my experiences, is that even when you're skeptical or downright cynical, you somehow get sucked in. I think the sign language and singing class was the most embarrassing, especially as Isaac wasn't old enough to make a single sign. Then again, I do now have a way to communicate that I want milk should I ever lose the power of speech.
With so many books and products marketed towards women, do you think fathers get the shaft in the parenting world?
I don't think fathers get shafted in terms of products -- or, if we do, we're lucky for it. But I do think that fathers need more chances to get together with other fathers. My wife always seems to be getting together with other moms or going to moms' night out things. But there doesn't seem to be many gatherings for dads. Or, maybe there are, and I'm just not getting invited. Hmm.
So, you came up with the name of our site, Kveller. Are you yourself a kveller?
I'm a kvelling machine. Even when Isaac is having a tantrum and literally beating me, I can't get over how wonderful he is. It's really sick.
--Interview by Molly Tolsky