When Jaime Morrison Curtis's
two-year-old daughter, Scarlet Jane, is older, she'll have a special read
waiting for her. The tot was the inspiration for her mom's new book, Prudent Advice:
Lessons for My Baby Daughter (A Life List for Every Woman).
pieces of advice range from whimsical (#4: When given the opportunity, wear a
costume) to weighty (#77: Sometimes it's just not about you). "It's a
timeless set of life lessons for women of all ages," said Christine Schillig, v-p and editorial director at Andrews
McMeel. Interspersed throughout are poems,
inspirational quotes, recipes, artwork and handy tools like a New York City
subway map (#12: Whenever possible, take the train).
Dispensing advice to offspring is
an age-old custom--the epitaph in Prudent
Advice is from a 1794 tome with tips from a mother to her daughter--and Curtis
gives it a modern spin. She combines traditional advice (#1: Always send a
thank-you note) with guidance on contemporary topics
(#21: Pay attention to politics).
"A lot of advice books tend to
be written by older women speaking to younger women after decades of life
experience. That's one of the things about Prudent
Advice that is fresh and real," Schillig said. "It comes from
someone who is new to the experience of motherhood, when you still remember a
lot of odd little things as well as more profound, larger things." A
favorite recommendation with Schillig and other Andrews McMeels staffers: #193:
Leggings are not pants.
The book is based on Curtis's blog,
which she launched after Scarlet's birth. Beset by anxiety that her daughter
could someday be left motherless, she began compiling words of wisdom for
"I want my daughter to know my
expectations of her aren't based on what it means to be a good woman but what
it means to be a good person. My expectations of her are that she should be
thoughtful and kind and think for herself and be independent," explained
Curtis. "It isn't about being a good cook or a good wife or keeping a
clean house, but I do include tips on those things, too, that I thought were
helpful." (#5: Learn to love cooking if you can. If you can't, still have
a few simple dishes that you can prepare well.)
Curtis eventually shared her
endeavor with a few friends, who in turn told their acquaintances about it.
After ApartmentTherapy.com featured the blog, "it took on a life of its
own," said Curtis, who is the Los Angeles editor for DailyCandy Kids and
founder of the crafting website PrudentBaby.com. Thousands of e-mails poured in
from friends, family and strangers around the world, all eager to offer their
thoughts on what should be included on the list.
Some 85% of the ideas Curtis
received were based on what not to
do, say, wear or think. "It would have been much simpler and easier to
write a list of 'don'ts,' " she said. "Every now and then I do
use it, but sparingly and only for things I think are really important--things
so central to my value system they justify a blanket statement like 'don't do
this' (for example: #3: Don't underestimate your father's ability to understand
you)." Rather than "a list of ways to be or not be," Prudent Advice is a collection of "thoughts
and guidelines for my little girl to help her find more satisfaction with her
life and point her away from mistakes I made," said Curtis.
One item in particular on the list
will come in handy for Scarlet to remember her mom's heartfelt advice: #70: If
you love a poem, passage, speech, or piece of prose, memorize it. Then you will
always have it with you.
More of Jaime
Morrison Curtis's wise advice:
#7: Make time for the art museum in every city you visit.
You learn much about a city and
yourself when you see its art collection. A good museum will fill your chest
until it feels as though your heart could explode.
#157: If you want to leave a party and you don't have a
good excuse, spill something on yourself.
#212: Remember that most fairy tales were written by men.
Some of the greatest writers of
children's fables were male: The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, even
Walt Disney. You are not a tiny princess awaiting rescue by a valiant man, a
symbol of frailty and naïveté, or the punch line in a morality tale. The women
in those stories were crafted by a different sex at a different time for a
different audience; these days you slay the dragon yourself.
#221: You don't need the extended warranty.