Heather gave me my copy of The Three-Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor ages ago, I think it might even have been shortly before Gem was born. However, it bears re-reading every so often; a refresher, one might say (and for any parent of small ones who hasn't read it yet— get it at once, you need it!).
This is not one of those "serious" parenting manuals, and neither is it one of those collections of anecdotes designed to make you feel better about your own parenting skills and experiences. I have no objections to either of those types of parenting books; indeed, What To Expect The First Year and The Girlfriends' Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood are both still on my bookshelf (with well-creased spines to show my love for them). But The Three-Martini Playdate is another order of book altogether.
Part dry humour and part common sense, it has chapter headings such as "The Childproof House: How to Know If You've Gone Too Far", "Diaper Bag or Steamer Trunk?", and "Self-Esteem and Other Overrated Concepts". Every time I read this, either piecemeal or whole-way-through, I end up howling aloud with laughter... and then vowing to live by the underlying principles of it. Not the part about teaching your toddler to mix martinis, of course. But the advice on handling things like mealtimes and screaming is pretty good.
Any book that recommends Bizet's Carmen as child-friendly music— "Explain that chien means 'dog' in French and why Carmen uses such a pejorative to her lover, and your children will not care that this is opera and sung in a foreign language."— has definitely got something going for it (Mellor also recommends The Beatles and Django Reinhardt). Plus, I love the tone of dry sarcasm (not to mention the assumption that grown-up drinks, pedicures, and adult socializing are important parts of existence) which lifts The Three-Martini Playdate up above the usual gooey the-child-comes-first-you-are-of-no-importance tone of so many parenting books. This is parenting for Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.
Finally, the writing— the language itself— is clear and intelligent and multi-syllabic. Mellor uses words like 'egregious' and 'insidious'. She says 'paraphernalia' instead of 'stuff'. It isn't pompous at all, just well-written and a pleasure for educated readers. No talking down to the lowest common denominator here.