Monday, September 24, 2012

Parental Reading and All the Advice You Can Handle

I recently read two parenting books.  As I mentioned earlier this week, I am finding that non-fiction books are so much easier to read when you have so many demands on your time.  It is far easier to put down a non-fiction book and run off to take care of something than a novel! 

My husband told me I should be writing a parenting book instead of reading them (isn’t he sweet??), but I told him that I really do enjoy looking at the different perspectives out there.  As I have always been interested in child development and education, it seems a bit natural to read these kinds of books!  At least, to me it does.  I, also, love a little inspiration and parenting books always make me think.

The two books I just finished were so different that is was truly funny.  The first was Parenting A Free Child: An Unschooled Life.  The second was Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.  The first was all about freedom.  Let your kids do anything they want and do not interfere.  Bebe was the story of a woman’s experience in France raising her three children among the posh set.  She kept calling them middle class, but I have a really hard time believing that middle class French people hire a nanny just so they can go shopping.

Parenting a Free Child was a bit over the edge for me.  I have to admit that I didn’t even really read all of it.  I got to the point that I started speed-reading through the end because it got rather silly.  To set no boundaries for your children is never a good idea.  Freedom, I understand to an extent, but allowing your children to do whatever they want and never tell them no, is simply not going to raise a child who has any idea that the world does involve some disappointment.  Kream goes as far as to say that you should allow your child to watch what they want on TV whenever they want, just eat whenever they want, etc.  No need for family meals.  Why should they have to wait?  Just grab what they want, when they want.  While I can see where this would have some validity, the idea of completely throwing out family meals does not speak to me as a better choice for a family. 

At the end of the book she had a list of things she wished parents never said to their children.  I hate to admit, but my husband and I sat back and laughed about almost everything on the list.  Never count to three?  Counting to three is big.  It gives a child a chance to make the decision of whether they want to behave or not.  Talk about giving a kid freedom of choice!  It also said she wished people would never tell their kid they did a good job at something.  Again, I can see a bit of good in this, as too much praise makes anyone egotistical and makes them expect praise no matter what, but I don’t think that was her reasoning behind it.


Bringing up Bebe, which I never would have bought had I done a bit a more research on the author, was a whole lot of dysfunction and posh mothers.  Trust me, I have my fair share of dysfunction (it makes people interesting) but quite often I got the feeling that Druckerman was just using this book to complain about her husband and how hard it was to raise her three kids.  She also spent a lot of time complaining about the French while trying to convince the reader they should parent like them.

Druckerman had some excellent points, however.  And most of those good points I had garnered already from other parenting books that I found far more helpful and inspirational (I will post some links to those at the end of this post, so if you are bored just scroll down, although I will have some good stuff in between, I promise).  One of the basic concepts that I feel strongly about was the idea of giving your child boundaries but within those boundaries is a lot of freedom.  She called it cadre.  When children have boundaries they have a better sense of security, yet that freedom also gives them a sense of self, helps them garner a vast creative spirit, and gives them the ability to truly function happily (see better examples and reasoning of this in books like Heaven on Earth and Simplicity Parenting).  These things together can create an amazing relationship between you and your children.  I was given all the freedom I could stand when I was a kid. I actually tried to get grounded and felt unloved because I didn’t.  I was lucky God was looking out for me, because I could have made some grand mistakes.

Another concept inside Druckerman’s book that I found very important was the idea of maternal guilt.  I have been told many times, not always in very nice tones, that “I wish I had time to knit” or “I wish I had time to blog.”  After one such comment I remember looking at that person and saying, “Do you have time to watch TV?”  The response was a rather sputtered reply.  You watch TV, I knit.  Hey!  I can knit while I watch TV!  I can knit while my family listens to an audio book, too!  So many times we as mothers tend to focus so much on how many sacrifices we can make.  The more we make, the better we must be as parents.  And when anyone whispers the word hobby you more often than not find someone will stick up their nose in the air.

After eight kids I have learned one incredibly valuable thing.  I need ME time.  It is not selfish or cruel to my kids or my husband.  I am a better wife and mother when I have something to look forward to.  When I come home from a night out or get a morning where I can do something for me uninterrupted, I am a happier and more collected mom.  I have more to give.  So many times judgment is too easily passed in mom circles. 

I was reading the other day on someone’s blog that they were ashamed to buy formula for their baby, that they hid it under a bunch of vegetables in their cart at the store.  It reminded me of exactly how I felt when I knew I was going to have to start bottle-feeding Sweet Pea when I got pregnant with Tiger.  I felt so much shame!  I wondered what everyone was going to think… what they were going to say behind my back!  How self-defeating that was!  What a waste of time!

According to Druckerman this doesn’t happen much in France, yet she also talks about how women thought she was crazy for not wanting to put her kids in the government run day care.  Don’t get me started on the day care stuff in that book.  Let me just say, that chapter was where I almost shut the book.  Having worked in day care and been in day care, I would never recommend it just so you could get some time to go shopping.  If you have to use it, then that is another thing.  But to use it just so you can be alone all day is hardly good parenting.  Oh, see?  There I am being judgmental!  Sorry.

So, I have to say the good that I got out of Druckerman’s book was beneficial.  I am determined to stop caring so much about what others think and to get some time to myself.  I had let that go big time after Tiger was born and it has led to depression and the feeling that I am very alone.  Alone with eight kids?  You bet.  It is important to do things for yourself.  Don’t wait so long that your kids start giving you suggestions for mom’s night out!  And don’t feel guilty about doing what is best for you and your family. 

Let go of self-depreciating thoughts too.  People are going to judge.  Often those judgments have little basis in fact.  They may take the idea of one little thing they know about you and blow it out of proportion.  “Well, because she makes granola she is probably someone who just lets her kids run wild and do drugs and have premarital sex.  They are so worldly!”  Seriously???  So the advice I took away from this book, and the author really isn’t someone I would put up as an example, is to have time for yourself and try not to be too judgmental of other’s parenting choices.  You don’t have to have your kids play with that family who lets their kids run wild and swear, but try and not to make assumptions.

So instead of these two books, I want to recommend some books to you that are worth buying!  These are books I have on my permanent shelf:

Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne

How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections By Amanda Blake Soule

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