We spend so much time learning – kindergarten, school, college, master degree.. well, you name it, years and years of study – and they teach us so many useful (along with useless) stuff, but what it’s really important they miss to teach us Every. Single. Time: how to be better humans, how to be better parents, how to simply be. And I can’t be sure about you, but for me those are the things I’d like to know more about.
I read this book at the beginning of the year, upon deciding that I would probably like to have a baby.
And I thought about it – about me becoming a mother – and it scared me endlessly… I mean, I am not even able to keep a flower alive, least I can help a kid grow, right? And I am a perfectionist (which wouldn’t be that bad per se), I have the least amount of patience a woman can possibly have, I can barely take care of myself and my husband (well, ‘barely’ is a tough word, but you get my point) and I don’t know how in the world would I take care of a real, breathing child?!
So it was indeed a decision. For starters, I decided to be better myself, for the sake of my future kid. Because I don’t simply want to have a baby, I want to be the best possible mom for that child. I want to give love, to make myself be patient, I want to teach him/her the principles of a good, healthy life. People say that this is the first step: knowing what you lack and then working to make things better. I truly hope they are right. They better be!
Now back to the book. I don’t believe there is an universal recipe for raising children. You can’t just pick a book and say “I will do it this way!”. But you can learn a lot from each book you read, they can make you think about some issues and the different ways to fix them, they can help you analyse options and figure out what’s the best one for you, they can even help you widen your boundaries, finding new means to improve your own way of thinking.
And you are smart, so you can use your best judgement in order to chose the things you’d like to implement, to try.
And this being said, it’s not like I could resonate with everything in the book (the grown up kids part, for example, as that’s a subject I’ll be interested in probably later), but I did love plenty of the content hidden inside. Also, this book was not only about the things I want to try in the future, with my kid, but it defined very well the problems I had when I was a child and it explained the easiest ways to solve them. After reading, I better understood my actions (present or past) and even my own way of thinking, defined by the mistakes of my parents or the things they did well.
It also helps that the authors are genuinely talking about their own experience(s). Their tone in the book is light and fun, easy to sink in, though they give great advices. They talk about the mistakes they made, but also take pride in their good choices and I loved to read about real-life examples, not only the theory behind them.
Now… I am completely unsure how one would or should review a book like this. All I can say is that I loved many chapters from it and I could resonate with some of the scenes described (maybe because I did agree with them; or there was something that reminded me of my own childhood, my own parents; or simply because I realised just how small things can have an extreme impact on children). And I will tell you a bit about some of those…
One of the ideas I liked is that you (as a parent) are not here to make them* “happy” (your kids will pursue their own happiness regardless of what you want for them anyways), but you are here to prepare them for life – for the ups and downs. Your role as a parent is to ‘build’ them up, to make them strong. They need to know you will always stand by their side, but you need to also prepare them for the moments you won’t be around. Keeping you kids safe won’t protect them forever, you need to give them the chance to protect themselves. And as much as you’d like to do everything with and for them, sometimes you need to take a step back and simply let them be.
Sometimes we also forget that (in just some ways) kids come as a blank slate, so we need to help them develop actual mechanisms for thinking, making choices, we need to help them find (by explaining) the logic behind all the things we (as adults) usually take for granted. They are not computers, so we need to help their mind make connections and understand our ways of thinking. And you know what’s funny… That this applies to each person we know – we shouldn’t assume that we know what others think and vice versa, life would be so much simpler if we’d finally understand that the brain functions differently for each of us and there would be a lot less misunderstandings if we would simply say what we think and not just assume that people already know it.
Then come the feelings, we want our kids to show their love, to show compassion, but did we ever teach them? We want them to be patient, to stay still, but did we take the time to tell them all about that? We want them to cook, to clean, but do we have the patience ourselves to show them how to do it? Did we encourage them to take risks, to make choices? Did we make sure they had the means to do the things they are after? We want so much from them, but did we give enough? Were we there for them when they needed us the most?
And here comes the notion of time.. You can not be a good parent if you are not actually there. Spending time alone with your kids creates the connection you need between you and them. Talk about the things that interest them, play the games they like and watch the movies they enjoy, talk about those things and more and get to know each other. Show interest and appreciation whenever you can. Ask and answer questions. Be present, be 100% into the discussion no matter what problems (or, why not, other interests) plague your thoughts at the moment. Sometimes they may not be looking for an answer, but maybe just for a conversation with you, so don’t lie to them, don’t ignore their needs and give then age-appropriate answers. Ask them what they think because they might be looking for a way to nurture their ways of thinking, and try not to criticise their attempts.
There are many other things I would like to talk about (notions like discipline and limits, consequences of actions – which can be very tricky and should be enforced without violence, verbal or physical; consistency and coordinations – at which my parents actually excelled; social skills and oh! so much more), but I don’t need to write a book about this book, do I?
As the authors mention, you can’t be a perfect parent, you will make mistakes, you will do things that feel right but turn out wrong, but if you love your children and you try to give them the best education.. that’s probably quite enough. Give them love, be there for them, help them evolve, teach them all the things you want them to know, all the things they need to learn, and don’t stand in their way when they feel the need to grow. You are their coach, if you wish, but you don’t get to live through them, you need to have your own life.
And remember… if you are there too, in the place I am now, questioning if you might be prepared to be a good parent, questioning if you are “good enough” – then you actually are on the right path. Keep going!
A copy has been provided for review. I am so happy for the chance to read it!
* Note: I used “them” instead of “him/her” not because I think you should have many children (I for instance want just one :p ), but because it was easier to write *