Two of My Favorite Parenting Books

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 9.39.44 PM When I first found out I was pregnant and for the entire nine months afterward, I spent hours a day pouring over every pregnancy, baby, and parenting book I could get my hands on (does every first-time parent do this?). Instead of tossing and turning with my big belly and sciatica (okay, I did a lot of this too), I was mesmerized by my bright iPod screen and the Kindle app reading books like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and The Baby Book.

Those books were great for preparing for my baby’s physical needs, but didn’t do much for preparing me for raising him, especially for dealing with “the terrible twos”–which I actually didn’t believe existed. It does. The books also didn’t help much with dealing with postpartum depression. After studying and reading a variety of books, blogs, and exploring different parenting paradigms, I’ve discovered a truth that my father-in-law, who taught family psychology at BYU-Idaho for 30 years and holds a PhD in Educational Psychology, had already tried to teach me:

Parenting books should be about the parent, not the child.

A majority of parenting issues arise not because a child misbehaves, but because the parent holds negative energy from his or her own childhood that prevents real connection, connection with the self and by that same token, connection with the child. And while I am certainly no expert on this subject, the lessons I’ve learned from these two books have helped me immensely to learn how to protect and honor my child’s spirit while discovering my own. It’s an amazing and difficult journey to recognize that your child has a soul. He (or she) does not belong to you. He is his own being, his own person, that you have the privilege of teaching and your child will teach you.

If you are interested in exploring these ideas further, check out Dr. Shefali Tsabury’s website and her Ted Talk. I’ve posted a clip from her interview with Oprah before. Watch it if you haven’t already. I believe the things she teaches are key to discovering your own self and by doing so, to helping your child discover his.

Here are two books that have helped me on my journey of self-discovery and in turn have helped me become more aware as I discipline and teach my own son.

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Compassionate Childrearing by Robert W. Firestone “It is vital for us to remember that children are not our possessions; they are not ours in the proprietary sense of the word; rather they belong to themselves and have the right to an independent existence” (17).

Perhaps the most painful book I’ve ever read, Compassionate Childrearing continues to be my teacher. My father-in-law recommends it as the one and only parenting book you ever need.

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The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabury

“It’s no surprise we fail to tune into our children’s essence. How can we listen to them, when so many of us barely listen to ourselves? How can we feel their spirit and hear the beat of their heart if we can’t do this in our own life?” (read more quotes here)

I plan to write an in-depth book review of this eye-opening book, but until I do, let me just say that Tsabury’s ideas are transformative. They focus on bringing awareness to not only the parent-child relationship, but also the relationship you have with yourself.

As a mother of a two-year-old and an expert at research, I am certainly no expert at parenting, but the above books have given me tools that I had been completely unaware even existed. If you are a struggling parent–or just want to learn more about yourself–I recommend them because they’ve helped me delve into myself in ways that continue to change me daily.

That said, I am always looking for more books to read. Comment below and recommend some for me.

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Why A Caged Bird Sings

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Caged Bird

A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange suns rays and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
can seldom see through his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I just finished I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Read my short review on Goodreads if you’re interested.

Second book down.

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees

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Thanks to my goal to read more books (I haven’t quantified it yet–maybe one per week, we’ll see), I finally read The Secret Life of Bees. When I was in high school, my drama teacher encouraged me to read it and maybe turn it into a monologue, but I never did it even though I had the best intentions. Anyway, fast forward ten years and the book is still on my mind. Not to mention while I was looking for books to put on my list, I found Oprah’s Book Club. This month she is reading The Invention of Wings also by Sue Monk Kidd–synchronicities, anyone?

This book was the perfect starting point for my goal to read more. It fed every bit of my soul and imagination. Here are a few of the thoughts I experienced while I read:

I am only to page 52 and I can feel Lily’s spiritual journey spilling out of the pages, jumping like beads of light. Never before has a piece of fiction touched my heart, broken it, and mended it again in so few pages. The bees have become my friends and the black Virgin Mary a symbol for my own changing paradigms. Reading with my window open, the sounds of birds and bees make this book come alive even more. Thank you, Sue Monk Kidd for opening the world of fiction for me again.

“I wondered if Mary had been an outdoor type who preferred trees and insects over the churchy halo she had on” (58).

Black Madonna Honey. I think I stopped more than Lily did when she found that picture on a bottle of honey. Peace and answers came to her in more ways than one through the Black Madonna.

I cried with them. Every time May went to the Wailing Wall, I longed for my own. I still consider going outside and building one for myself, and if I owned the land my house sits on, I probably would. Instead the world’s worries whir away in my center, welling deeply until I’m sure I have nothing more inside of me.

Then August said something. Something that struck me in that hole and started to fill it again.

“You’ve been halfway living your life for too long. May was saying that when it’s time to die, go ahead and die, when it’s time to live, live. Don’t sort of maybe live, but live like you’r going all out, like you’re not afraid” (211).

I want to keep bees now. I want to write again. I want to find the colors of the world and paste them to paper with the tip of my pen.

I echo Lily’s own little prayer. “Come on. Don’t mess up your time to live.”

Ocean at the End of the Lane

I recently finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I loved every bit of it. Neil Gaiman is quickly becoming my favorite author. The narrator had a great voice that was childlike and adult at the same time. The storytelling reminded me of a modern George MacDonald. And is a great read for someone who likes Coraline.

Every description of the food created by the Hempstocks made me hungry. I love cottage food and the food they made for him had me salivating.

“She gave me a china bowl filled with warm porridge from the stovetop, with a lump of homemade blackberry jam, my favorite, in the middle of the porridge, then she poured cream on it” (26).

The insights on childhood, not to mention adulthood, were inspiring.

“Small children believe themselves to be gods, or some of them do, and they can only be satisfied when the rest of the world goes along with their way of seeing things” (68 -69).

“Adults follow paths.  Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath the rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive” ( 77).

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and the always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world” (155).

Not to mention thought-provoking wisdom from the Hempstocks.

“Nobody actually looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody” (154).

The next quote is a spoiler, so don’t highlight it unless you don’t mind a little spoiling.

“A flash of resentment. It’s hard enough being alive, trying to survive in the world and find your places in it, to do the things you need to do to get by, without wondering if the thing you just did, whatever it was, was worth someone having … if not died, then having given up her life. It wasn’t fair” (231).

One of my favorites.

“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”

Then there was Neil Gaiman’s description of how he wrote the book. Some inspiring words for a writer.

“In Sarasota, Florida, Stephen King reminded me of the joy of just writing every day. Words save our lives, sometimes.”

Something to remember.