There is no denying that I’ve used books, my ability to retain useless information, and my passion for reading to pretty much raise Jack. I’d like to say that I was born to be a mom, that the instinct came to me naturally and that the moment I became a mother it all fell into place – it definitely did not.
In fact, I’ll admit something I don’t always admit. When Jack was first born, I loved him because he was mine and I had worked so hard to make him but I wasn’t in love with him. We were strangers and it took almost an entire year for me to come to a place where I was completely and irrevocably in love with my child. I knew what it meant to literally want to bring the moon down for them and scarier still, I finally understood the adage, “I would kill for my child.” I got it.
The trip towards motherhood was a bumpy one and at a few months old I had about two books under my wing and they were both on basic child development. I knew the basics of parenting 101 but when it came to relating to and understanding my child as he came into his own personality, I was completely lost. At around 8 months he really started to come into his own and I realized I was getting more and more frustrated as my controlling personality matched his indignant and curious one. We weren’t working out and we were in break up mode. Yes, I wanted to break up with my infant but when he’s yours, well there isn’t anything you can do but learn and adjust. So that’s what I did. I wanted to connect with him so much and I knew that he was brand spanking new to the world and was working off of instincts. I on the other hand knew better and could work with him instead of making him work with me.
The discovery of an entirely new method of parenting changed my life. I realized that there was a subset of parents focused on a new style of parenting. This parenting was present. It was calm, peaceful, and understanding. It respected the child and its limitations as well as its capabilities. I started down a rabbit hole of information. A lot of it seemed bogus but once I started incorporating what I read into our lives I finally started to connect with Jack in a way I didn’t think possible.
The lack of patience I thought I had was suddenly overflowing, and this incredible amount of empathy suddenly fell into place.
1 . During a yoga mommy and me class our fantastic yoga teacher asked what we were reading if anything at all. While this question would seem like it’s up my alley I was a tiny bit sad that at 6 months into being a mom I hadn’t really found time to read. I used to read a dozen or more books a year and here I was sitting in a yoga class being asked my favorite question ever! I admitted to not having read anything in awhile but as the circle of moms admitted, one after another, that they too hadn’t read much I felt better. One mom with a gaggle of children did admit that she was re-reading a book because she had, as of late, been wanting to strangle child number 4, 5, and 6. She needed perspective. That book was “It’s OK Not to Share.” This book is one of my favorites. The idea of sharing when a child is engaged in play with a toy is dated. One of the best examples in this book goes as follows; As an adult we go over to a friends house, grab their car keys and start walking out the door. They protest and their husband says, “Hey there, wife, you need to share.” No, this is not realistic and if we aren’t expected to do it then why should a 2 year old that doesn’t understand why some other child is taking their toy expect to be controlled, patient, and giving. Aside from this lesson, this book offers several other logical solutions to parenting blunders and questions.
2. So you read It’s OK NOT to Share and your child is 8 years old. You feel slightly jipped because while a few of the techniques in the book worked for you it wasn’t quite what you needed. It’s okay because Heather Shumaker has a follow up to her first best seller and it’s one you’ll want to put on your book shelf for later use if you currently have babies and toddlers. If you have older and school aged children, It’s OK to Go UP the SLIDE is for you. It covers everything from the necessity of recess to why children shouldn’t bring homework home and how you can best deal with these situations when they come from an outside influence.
3. Find yourself yelling at your 3 year old because if they do the exact opposite of what you suggest one more time you are seriously going to pack your bags and leave? Yeah, No – Drama Discipline might be the book for you. This book has been a favorite of mine from about 15 months on. While some of the techniques are best on children slightly older I definitely started using and benefiting from what I read early on. This was the second “peaceful” or “respectful” parenting book that I read and it helped changed my connection to Jack. The best part of this book is that it explains how a child’s brain works, why they do and feel the way they do and how a parent can best cope with the big emotions and chaos that come with being 2 or 12 and in control of very little around you. If you read any book at all, make it this one.
4. The Whole Brain Child started it all. I read No-Drama Discipline not knowing that there was a “first” book by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson I started a little backwards but this book is also an exceptional read and is a great guide to “nurturing your child’s developing mind.” This book also helps understand what’s going on in our child’s brain that makes them do and react the way they do, bring us to a better understanding of what they need and how to deal with it.
5. Number 5 is mostly for Austin parents but if you can find something similar like this for your city I recommend making it one of your go to parenting books. If you’re moving to Austin and you’re a parent make Exploring Austin with Kids the first book you buy. One of the best ways to connect with our kids is by exploring what your city has to offer and letting them lead the way. I know it sounds counter intuitive but even when they’re two, pick a place to visit (anything from your local zoo to a popular park) and just let them lead you. See where they take you. You’ll have the most fun being care free with your child and you’ll be able to come down to their level. I realize this is difficult when you don’t have time and you work 40+ hours a week but just taking a few hours a month to discover a new place with your child will make them and you open up more. Exploring Austin with Kids is a great resource because we mark off the places we’ve been to and where we’d like to visit again and this book is so helpful as it has a ton of details and you can decide if a certain place will work for you and your family or not. It’s connecting on the most basic and rawest of levels – exploring what’s around you.
“Kids who achieve the best outcomes in life — emotionally, relationally, and even educationally — have parents who raise them with a high degree of connection and nurturing, while also communicating and maintaining clear limits and high expectations.” No Drama Discipline
Go, read, connect. 🙂
Jack’s Mom in Austin