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Seattle's Child turns 40: still fun, feisty and full of news for families

Much has changed about parenting and publishing since 1979, but Seattle's Child remains a Seattle institution

Ann Bergman published the first issue of Seattle’s Child in April 1979. It was the first local parenting publication in the country.



When the first issue of Seattle’s Child rolled off the presses 40 years ago this month (!), my first child was about to turn 1. The idea for the magazine was born out of my frustration over how difficult it was to find out what was going on around town of interest to families.    

I also was hungry for writing about parenting that rang true. The few national parenting publications simplified the messiness of home life by telling neat and tidy myths: If you were a “good mother” you loved that part of your life wholeheartedly, and if your kid was not “well-behaved” it was because you were doing something wrong. Mothers’ battles with depression, boredom and insecurity were seen as personal failures and dads who got “involved” at home received big bonus points. Luckily for me, my mom told me when I was pregnant that I “better do something besides stay home with the kids all day or else I’d go batty,” and I had a husband who fully supported my work, because despite the Women’s Lib movement, working moms in 1979 were often judged as selfish and neglectful of their kids and marriages.

We didn’t know then that babies arrive with their hard-wiring preinstalled, so we thought our fundamental task was to shape our kid like a lump of clay rather than getting to know them and accepting them for who they are. The countless nets that catch those of us who are privileged if we fall were invisible and unacknowledged.

Our Seattle’s Child staff of five moms — Sonia Cole, Breck Longstreth, Diane Bennion, Jody Karr and I — wedged in work while our kids slept and by trading off childcare. With no cellphones, internet or email, our “remote office” was my kitchen where we’d wipe the crumbs off the table and layout the magazine late at night. We fact-checked using an almanac. I’ll never forget the thrill of unlocking our tiny postal box at the Wedgwood post office and finding a check from our first paid subscriber.

The magazine publishing industry has gone through rough times in the past 10 years, so we are celebrating this month that our feisty little magazine has not only survived but is thriving, thanks to the loyalty of our readers and advertisers. We’re grateful that we get to continue telling with words and photographs stories about the parents and kids in our community. It also seems right that we chose this, our 40th anniversary month, to launch our new, state-of-the-art mobile app that will make it much easier for parents to find out what’s going on around town — a tech solution to the very same need that got us started in 1979.

Of course, I’ve gone through changes too — divorce and remarriage and now five children and two stepchildren, ages 23 to 40, and seven grandchildren, ages two weeks to 8 years, with another arriving next month. And although I’ve had many sleepless nights fretting over cash flow,  I’ve developed some tools of the trade to give me some sense of expertise as a publisher. But the work of parenting has brought me far more sleepless nights and remains to me as mysterious and challenging as it felt when I brought home that first baby.

So when the daughter who tugged at my pant leg as I edited the first issue texted me and her sister yesterday about her 8-year-old resisting her homework, “sit with her? bribe her? stay out of it?,” and her sister texted back sympathy, and that her 13-month-old is waking up in the middle of the night again after weeks of sleeping through, “go in and comfort? Let her cry?”

I only knew there weren’t any “right” answers, and once these questions faded, new ones would pop up.  And that I’m deeply grateful, personally and professionally, that I still have ringside seats to the circus of family life — harrowing near-misses, hilarious clowns, feats only possible with magic, and moments of joy so fleeting I’ll miss them if I look away.


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Timeline: Seattle's Child through the years

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