Motherhood, as I shared last week, has been a stumbling path for me. I always wanted to do it well, but I was unprepared. Who is prepared, though? The mountains of parenting books persuade me that, at least, I was not alone in my cluelessness!
As I reflected on things my daughter taught me, I could not help but recall with gratitude my other teachers.
Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. I don’t know how I this book came into my hands, but it captured my imagination instantly and created a more peaceful household the minute I started implementing its advice.
This is a how-to book on effective communication between parents and children. Dialogues, cartoons, and exercises take you through common trouble areas and show you what doesn’t work and what works better. This book delivers on skills – you will learn how to listen to your children and how to reply and initiate conversation. But it does so in a manner that affirms, in the words of the authors, “the dignity and humanity of both parents and children.” That’s why I cried when I read it: I cried with grief to learn all I’d misunderstood, and I cried with relief to understand.
Bonnie Harris, When Your Kids Push Your Buttons. A friend passed this on to me, but I didn’t open it until one day when I was purging my bookshelves. I decided to read just the first few pages, but after that I could not put it down.
This book helps you to understand why you react the way you do and how you can respond better, so that you can cultivate a better relationship with your child – the true basis of your authority as a parent. For me, it built seamlessly on the How to Talk book. But it went deeper into the whys, which helped me to be more confident. Her second book, Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids, is also excellent.
Lucky for us, Harris publishes fresh, free content regularly via her website, Connective Parenting; biweekly newsletter; and podcast, Tell Me About Your Kids.
Janet Lansbury, Elevating Childcare website and Unruffled, the podcast. I discovered Janet Lansbury when my children were well past the age her advice is targeted to. But her messages about allowing feelings and maintaining boundaries are vital not only to parenting at any age, but to relationships of any kind.
Lansbury’s philosophies are in harmony with Faber, Mazlish, and Harris. What sets her apart is her compassion for and deep understanding of the point of view and capacities of infants and toddlers. Elevating Childcare indeed.
Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen, and Naomi Stadlen, What Mothers Do (Especially When It Looks Like Nothing). These are not how-to books. Instead, they actually capture, beautifully, what motherhood is like.
Momma Zen, a gift from my best friend, is the memoir of a Buddhist priest. Reading how she – even she – was unprepared for and humbled by motherhood, captured my heart. Her writing is so beautiful – clear and resonant, like a prayer bell – that I started reading it again the minute I finished it.
What Mothers Do was a gift from a client when I was, once more, well-past the age it was targeted to. Yet it felt just as true when my children were 4 and 6 as when they were babies. Written by a therapist who runs a circle for new mothers, it features their words and is organized by themes they speak, such as, “I get nothing done all day,” and “So tired I could die.” Right?
I give these books to new mothers, so they know they are not alone.
Byron Katie, Loving What Is. Katie is not a childcare expert, but she understands how to end suffering through understanding. Her Inquiry method (“The Work”) transformed all my relationships. “Magic Words to Make Love Grow” describes a few of the ways how. Whenever I’m upset and confused, including with my kids, The Work helps me find clarity.
My best friend. Though she has not published a parenting book or a motherhood memoir, Sarah is one of my biggest influences. She and I had our first borns within five days of each other, so we’ve been through everything together.
I will respect her New England sensibilities and keep my admiration brief. It goes without saying that she’s wicked smart and generously shared everything she knew with me. It also goes without saying that she’s hilarious and made me laugh all the time. But deeper than those dazzling qualities, what I most admire is her internal compass. She always seemed to know what to do. Yet she didn’t judge me for not knowing what to do. Her warm and generous faith in me gave me the courage to keep trying.
Thanks to all my teachers!