Mama Confession: I hate parenting books.
Sure, I’ll read them, occasionally benefit from advice the authors work so hard to share with me. I respect the craft. The trouble with parenting books is that they are HOMEWORK – assigned reading designed to get me through the next parenting quiz and improve my score on the standardized test. My reading time is measured in precious milliseconds. Unless I need to triage a specific family emergency, I will grab a book that transports me far, far away from the cares of modern parenting.
When I think about books that inform my parenting style, it’s not the ones I devoured in a panic during my first pregnancy (Dr Sears, anyone?) Filled with useful facts, those books gathered dust once I was in the trenches of momhood. It was other books that etched a deeper mark on me, books I read when I was focused and my head not made of sleep-deprived swiss cheese. These books are sealed into the spine of my character, and the ideas they spark help me be the best mother I can be.
“The first step toward meaningful change is by far the easiest: stop buying it.”
When I first read Fast Food Nation a decade ago, I pretty much lived on processed and fast foods. I was single, working several jobs, and had no interest in how food got from wherever food was made into my hungry belly. This was the first book I read that challenged me to think hard about how my choices affected both my health and the agricultural industry. Nowadays, I don’t live a perfect clean food lifestyle, but I do at least question everything I give my children to eat. The lack of fast food options here in Vermont was is in the “pro” column when my family decided to move here. There is no question in my mind that my kids are healthier because I read this book.
“Power is essentially amoral and one of the most important skills to acquire is the ability to see circumstances rather than good or evil.”
Let me be clear: I DO NOT LIKE THIS BOOK. It is full of cold-blooded political advice from history’s greatest monsters, better suited to the writer’s room at House of Cards than Mommy’s bedside table. And yet, when faced with a recalcitrant four year old, I often find myself thinking of Law 3: Conceal your Intentions, or Law 29: Plan All The Way To The End. The battle over cleaning bedrooms sometimes requires the bold schemings of Machiavelli. I’ll pick up this book every few months, read a passage on analyzing advantage, and plot new ways to convince little people to make better choices. Sometimes being a mom means being a superior dictator. Not proud, but true.
“If you couldn’t find any weirdness, maybe we’ll just have to make some!”
Calvin and Hobbes make me laugh. It is a laughter sharpened by recognizing my own childhood as a creative loner who had fierce adventures with imaginary friends. These days, Calvin and Hobbes remind me that the view from inside childhood is shaped by the prism of our desire to understand the world on our own terms. The frame of reference is completely different for a child who is still building their library of experience. I need to remember this every day, and make the world magical for my kiddos.