A post-Father's Day reading recommendation
Everyone is or has been at least one of these things: Parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew. Most of us inhabit more than one of those roles, and they can define us, shape us, and not uncommonly, dominate our self-understanding in ways both good and bad. There is no shortage of specific advice to parents on subjects from children's sleeping habits to discipline, and it comes in a vast range of qualities, from excellent to dreadful.
■ A theme common to many of these parental-advice books is to frame matters in training terms: Sleep training, potty training, discipline training, and so on. While the training mindset may be useful for specific subjects a child needs to learn, it's inadequate to the big picture of parenting. That's what makes Philippa Perry's "The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read" a refreshing and highly worthwhile alternative to read.
■ Perry, who practices as a psychotherapist and admits to her own parenting faults refreshingly and openly in her book, makes the excellent case that, fundamentally, "we should not see our babies, children, and teenagers as chores to feed and clean or otherwise fix but as people from the start, people we are going to have lifelong relationships with". In an engaging and warm tone, Perry offers thoughtful and accessible advice useful not only for parents, but for grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even adult children as well. Over and over, she directs many of the common complaints and conflicts of adult-and-child interactions to the root cause of considering the underlying relationship.
■ It's hard to look at a newborn and imagine that in very little time at all, that diapered bundle of cries will turn into an adult. But the more deliberately the adults around that child consider their relationships with the child (especially in times of conflict, but also when laying the groundwork to avoid conflict), the better the outlook for how both individuals and the relationship between them will mature.
■ This is a book with insights containing value for anyone -- even a childless orphan of advanced years, unless perhaps that individual is cloistered away from all human contact. But everyone else can gain at least some useful insight into relationships between generations, whether for current relationships or for understanding past ones. Perry reminds the reader that, even though we are all imperfect, parents (and other adults) don't have to strive to perfect the children in their orbits, because "[Y]ou are creating a person to love, not a work of art". The book's title may be over-the-top, but its advice is exceedingly well-grounded.