Parenting Traps

Winging it

A bookish mom confesses: “I don’t read parenting books.”

By Nicole Lamy
June 6, 2010

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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 Do you read parenting books and follow the advice in them? Which ones have you found to be useful?

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