Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2001

At home, Norville is an anchored mom

April 29, 2001


— Deborah Norville, journalist, author and mother of three, is an accidental parenting expert.

"I think we're all out there, always looking for solutions for our kids, comparing with each other all the time. I'm an extension of it because people see me juggling work and home and they think I must have it all figured out."

That's not exactly true, she says, but whatever insight she does have, she'll put out there.

"I'm just another working mom, kind of a volunteer. I'm not selfish, I'll share something with others when I do figure it out."

And no question is too embarrassing or too personal.

Want to know about her quarreling kids? She makes her children put a quarter in a bucket each time they get into a fight. What's Norville's favorite childhood book? "The Cat in the Hat."

What would she have done differently in her career? That's easy: She wouldn't have obeyed the gag order she was under while working at NBC's "Today."

In 1997, she told the very public fiasco of her short-lived stint as a co-host of the morning show in a book that was part biography, part self-help book. But when she hit the road to promote "Back on Track: How to Straighten Out Your Life When It Throws You A Curve" (Simon & Schuster), it seemed her book-signings turned into parenting lessons. Now she's put those on paper, too.

"I Can Fly!" (Golden Books) is Norville's second children's book. It's a fictional pop-up book that parents can read to their kids or vice versa about the hidden talents buried within us all.

Children will absorb a lesson from the pages of a colorful storybook while they will ignore the same message when it comes in the form of a sermon from mom or dad, says Norville, 42.

Norville and husband Karl Wellner have two sons, Niki and Kyle, 10 and 6 respectively, and a 3-year-old daughter, Mikaela.

"My lectures were going right past them. They were tuning me out like changing channels on TV. But when kids 'discover' things themselves, they stick!"

To test her theory, Norville wrote a silly poem about a bully when Niki was having trouble at school with a tough kid. Niki saw his story in the poem even though Norville never mentioned him, the bully or any of the specific details and the message was planted.

So when Niki started to have difficulty sleeping, she again turned to storytelling.

Norville wrote "I Don't Want To Sleep Tonight" (Golden Books), which tells of the differences in a child's dreams on the nights he watches television compared to the nights he reads books at bedtime.

Once this lesson became a fictional story, Niki quickly accepted a "no-TV-on-weeknights" rule, a rule that has been extended to her other kids.

(Yes, it is ironic that her children don't watch a lot of television considering she earns her living as the anchor of "Inside Edition," Norville admits.)

Kyle was the inspiration for "I Can Fly!," explains Norville, because he is artistically inclined and she wanted to foster that talent. Praise for his paintings carries over as confidence in other aspects of his life, making him willing to try new things.

"The harm is not in failing but in never flying," Norville says.

But young Mikaela is sure the new book is about her. She thinks the blond girl on the cover is supposed to be her, although in real life she is still working on discovering her special talents.

Norville is quick to identify her own talents.

"My gift is sewing. It's what got me through the 'Today' show nonsense. When I was being criticized left and right, I said to myself, 'It's OK because I'm a seamstress.' ... I also have the gift of gab," she says.

Her departure from "Today" a decade ago was extremely difficult, Norville says, but now, after six years on "Inside Edition," she is coming into her own.

"I feel strong and confident now. I'm a good mom and that counts."

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