A bookish mom confesses: “I don’t read parenting books.”
In eighth grade, I wrote a book report on a great little how-to from the school library, How to Test Your ESP. I learned the protocol and then tested my classmates’ clairvoyance and telepathy skills. The experience cemented what my 13-year-old brain already suspected – that books held, if not all, then most of the answers to life’s mysteries.
I have spent the years since junior high building my life around books. As the books editor for the Globe, I read for work and for pleasure. I consume books as regularly as I eat. In recent years, however, I have found my limit: I don’t read parenting books. A shocking confession, I know.
In my defense, I tried, honest. When I was pregnant with my first son, I gathered all the titles I was supposed to read – from What to Expect When You’re Expecting to anything written by Penelope Leach or published by La Leche League. The books remain in my bedroom, lining the bottom shelf of a bookcase, their spines pristine. When I first brought them home, I tried to dip in, but I found them cloyingly written, poorly edited, and a terrible waste of time. How could I make my way through Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child when I had an actual infant to admire and War and Peace to read?
It’s not as though I don’t welcome advice; I crave it and have been known to follow it blindly. I’m lucky enough to have loads of friends who had kids ahead of me, a mom who lives 8 miles away, some amazing preschool teachers, and a pediatrician who seems to have a catalog of the most recent Journal of the American Medical Association articles in her brain.
And while redirecting the behavior of my 3-year-old sometimes feels like advanced telekinesis – it would probably be easier to move an elephant with my mind – aren’t parenting skills, as ephemeral as parapsychological tendencies, even more difficult to learn from a book? Some things, it seems to me, are better learned by living.
Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you read parenting books and follow the advice in them? Which ones have you found to be useful?