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Tag Archives: parenting books

The Only Parenting Book I’ll Ever Read (Kind Of) – Part 2

5 May

Read part 1 here

During the first week of February, Shmerson and I were watching “The Colbert Report”. I admit – we generally skip the interviews, unless either of us finds the person intriguing. This time, we watched just because it was late and we weren’t quite ready to go to bed, but didn’t want to start another show.

Colbert interviewed an author named Jennifer Senior. If you’re in the US, you can watch the interview here.

Now, just for context, I’ve been watching Colbert since he premiered almost a decade ago. I’ve barely missed an episode. And there was a time that I did watch almost every interview as well. During all this time, there have only been two instances (out of what I assume are hundreds of interviews) where I was compelled to buy a book because of an interview on Colbert. The first was “Freakanomics“, the second was “Blink“.

The interview with Senior brought me to instance number 3.

It started when Senior said the words: “Joy is very hard to tolerate.” My ears perked up. I looked up from my game of Candy Crush (don’t judge me!). That felt true.

Then, she quoted a psychiatrist that she interviewed for her book. I later learned his name is George Valiant. The quote was: “Joy is grief inside out.”

When I heard that sentence I paused the show. I wrote it down. I swallowed it whole. I felt how poignant and true it was for me.

I even used it in a post a few days later, not yet knowing its attribution.

Then I went on Audible (no time to read, a long commute, and a problematic attention span has had me mostly in audio books over the last few years) and immediately bought Senior’s book: “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood”.

It took me a couple of months to get to it, but finally – a few of weeks ago – I finished it.

I finished it. I processed it.

Unlike the fake, temporary parting of the clouds that Mrs Whisperer’s book created, now having given myself some time to take it in, I can sincerely say that Senior’s book has profoundly changed me. It has changed the way I parent. Inside out.

But here’s the thing – it never once told me how I should raise Bunny. Not once.

What this book has done is made me change the way I understand parenting. Which has made me a profoundly different parent.

“All Joy and No Fun” is a book about context. It covers everything from newborns to older children leaving the nest, to losing a child. It covers these things by telling personal stories of real parents that are parenting today. How they’re parenting, why they make the choices they do.

Then it takes all of that information and puts it into a larger historical, sociological, and psychological context.

I’ll give away the twist, because Senior gives it away pretty early on herself:

Parenting as we know it has been around for less than a hundred years, and is trying to replace traditions and norms that were around for centuries.

Parenting equally between spouses (or the attempt to) has been around for even less time.

Which means that for the time being, we’re all pretty much flying by the seat of our pants. Where there once were rules, traditions and norms, now there are none. We are the pioneers. We are building new rules. And building new rules – especially in this day and age, when our world is evolving at the speed of light – is freaking hard.

Senior reminds us of that. Acknowledges how hard it really is.

At the same time, the stories that she tells and the research that she cites somehow managed to make me feel less alone. Less confused. Less like I’m walking through a dark tunnel full of landmines.

Senior talks about things that we refuse to say. She brings to light the darkest thoughts, the hardest feelings. Those things that parents (I think perhaps especially those parenting after infertility and loss) are afraid – even on these anonymous blogs – to say out loud.

Senior’s book – in short – is a parenting book about how to deal with being a parent.

With every chapter I found myself cheering, and crying, and nodding along.

And as I listened on I found that I was going through a profound transformation.

I was forgiving myself. I was forgiving Shmerson. I was becoming more understanding of why he is the father that he is, and why I am the mother that I am. I was becoming more tolerant of our differences.

And most importantly – I was becoming more tolerant of myself.

Because if Senior’s book has done anything – it’s made me understand what a shaky, scary, yet rewarding road I’m on. And that I’M the one on it. That parenting Bunny is just as much about me as it is about her. I deserve to feel it. I deserve to experience it.

I also deserve to build a life outside of it.

I think anyone who reads this book will most likely come away with something different. It may change you profoundly, it may give you a sense of belonging, or it may just give you some historical context. I don’t know.

But I do know that it’s worth your time. And I swear nobody is paying me to write this. I sincerely feel that every mother – whether she’s single, working, stay-at-home, married, divorced, young, or old – should read this book.

I will most likely never read another parenting book. I still think that my original thesis is right: Books that tell you how to parent are silly. Now that I understand how new and evolving our concept of parenting is, these books seem even more silly to me.

This, however, is a not a book about how to parent. This is a book that tells you WHY you parent.

And that makes all the difference in the world.

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The Only Parenting Book I’ll Ever Read (Kind Of) – Part 1

4 May

This one’s a long one, so I’m splitting it up into two parts. Happy reading!

When I was pregnant with Bunny (and every pregnancy before her) I was terrified. I was way too terrified to read anything about parenting. I justified this by saying that I don’t want to stick to one doctrine and I’d rather learn by experience and through community and friends.

This did lead to a few embarrassing situations, since Bunny was born on a holiday. I didn’t even have the basic newborn care class they give to new moms at the hospital. The result? A diaper rash when Bunny was four days old was the way I learned that you need to use diaper cream every time you put on a diaper.

The discovery of a thick layer of dirt at two weeks old is how I learned that washing behind the ears is not just a cliche that 50’s moms told their kids.

But generally I muddled through, and really didn’t feel the need to get into a parenting book.

Then came the inevitable: I was going back to work, Bunny was moving to her own room, her daytime sleeping habits were terrible (even though she was sleeping 6 hour stretches at night) and we had NO SCHEDULE. So I caved.

When Bunny was about 3 months old I read “The Baby Whisperer”.

For about 3 days there I felt like the clouds had parted and I knew ALL THE THINGS. Here was the best way ever to solve every problem Bunny had and everything will be sunshine and unicorn farts because this woman knew EVERYTHING.

Sure – the book was slightly condescending. Sure – there were a few annoying things about her tone. But hey – she made SENSE! SHE EXPLAINED STUFF! SHE GAVE STRUCTURE! (Apparently she also made me type in all caps).

I picked out a couple of choice chapters on sleep and establishing habits and made Shmerson read those parts of the book too.

Then a week passed.

Then 2 weeks passed.

The truth is that around day four of trying the not-so-aptly-named “EASY” method I saw I was walking a precarious path. At the end of week one I started to realize that maybe said whisperer was not really whispering to me. By week two, my new mantra was “EASY my ass”.

When it comes down to it, here’s what I learned from the Baby Whisperer:

1) The best way to wrap a towel around your baby when you take him/her out of the bath is by sticking one corner of said towel in your mouth. I’m putting this tip first because honestly this most useful thing in the book. Towel-wrapping before I learned this trick was slippery, precarious, and frankly terrifying.

2) The stages of sleep for a baby. This was super-helpful in understanding why Bunny cried when she was tired, and also helped me understand that sometimes crying is just her way of falling asleep. Really awesome info. Though I could have found that by googling.

3) Dream feeding to sleep through the night. Worked like a charm and brought Bunny to 10 and 11-hour stretches. But again – google would have done the trick.

4) Establishing a bedtime routine helps get a baby to sleep more easily. Honestly – I already knew that – picked it up from a friend. So I guess she only gets credit for reminding me that I knew it already.

Here are a couple of other things I learned from the baby whisperer:

1) A baby is not a machine or a computer. There’s only so much “programming” they can take in, and some things are just a matter of temperament.

2) Bunny does not like to sleep during the day. Trying to shoehorn her into some sort of schedule, even if it’s a fluid one, will not work. She’s just a crappy nap-taker. It’s just how she is. I tried every trick in Mrs Whisperer’s playbook. Twice. Three times. I did EVERYTHING. And yet – Bunny continued to be a terrible napper. She’s been sleeping through the night since 3 months. But daytime – forgettuboutit. To this day the only time Bunny sleeps for more than 40 minutes during the day is when she’s snuggled up to me. Even then it doesn’t always work.

3) Parenting books are silly.

Yep. My original thesis – diaper-rash and crusty-ear inducing as it was – was right. I think parenting books are silly. I think that a child is a fluid, constantly changing being and there are no manuals that will teach me how to raise that being. I can do research – sure. But to think that any one book would change the way I parent completely, or would be the end-all be-all solution for everything – in my eyes at least – felt silly.

Then, sometime during the first week of February, I watched an episode of “The Colbert Report” and realized, yet again, that I was wrong.

[To Be Continued Tomorrow…]

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