Archives for Book Review
To call my daughter a picky eater would be an understatement. Her diet consists primarily of wheat, dairy, and a few fruits and veggies. I considered it a culinary success when she finally ate a beef hot dog this weekend. Figuring out how to interact with my daughter around her eating has been tricky. When I get worried about her protein or calorie intake I start “encouraging” (read: nagging) her to try something new or at least take another bite or two of whatever she’s currently eating. But I don’t want to meal times to become power struggles so I try, whenever possible, to trust that if I offer her a range of healthy foods (and yes, even unhealthy ones on occasion), she will eat what she needs. For the most part, children are much better at eating mindfully than adults are. As the years go by (especially adolescence), many of us lose touch with our ability to eat when we are hungry and stop eating when we’re not. Food and hunger get mixed up with body image and cultural and commercial messages about what, when, and how we should eat. Combine all of that with a desire to use food to soothe ourselves in rough times and eventually we get to a place where what we put in our bodies has virtually nothing to do with what our bodies actually need.
My older daughter (age 4) and I have been talking about my meditation practice lately. She knows where my meditation cushion is, and she understands that I use it to sit and pay attention to my breathing. She also knows that meditating helps me stay calmer, happier, and less likely to get frustrated and snap at her and her sister. I'm happy to talk to her about it, but to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting her to meditate yet. Then I did a Google Images search for "child meditating" and came across a range of amazing pictures of children sitting "criss-cross applesauce" (as my daughter would call it) with their eyes closed. They're pretty incredible. Needless to say, I was thrilled to find out that my daughter is also learning about these concepts from her daycare providers and preschool teachers. She came home the other day talking about a book in which a cow gets really mad and then learns to meditate from his grandfather. (I mentioned it on my Facebook page and got a great response!) Our copy of “Moody Cow Meditates” by Kerry Lee Maclean arrived yesterday, and my daughters were excited to read it. It’s a lovely story, and was very age appropriate for my 4 year old. Some of the concepts may have been a bit advanced for my younger daughter (she’s not yet 3), but she seemed to enjoy it quite a bit anyway.
"All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent parents should accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves." I read these words in the description of Andrew Solomon's latest book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. I haven't yet read the book, as it just came out, but it's on my list. In it, Solomon (who won the National Book Award for The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression) draws on interviews with over 300 families in which the children were profoundly different from their parents. He spoke with families dealing with schizophrenia, deafness, and other disabilities, as well as those with transgender children and prodigies. (For more information, you can also visit the book's website.) The quote above caught my attention, as it is one that I struggle with on a regular basis, in small and big ways. My daughter doesn't seem interested in math and science, but that would be a good career for her, so should we push it? She's an anxious child; do I embrace the anxiety (a genetic gift I gave to her) and make life easier when I can? Or do I push her to face it, and hopefully overcome it? And of course, there is the obsession with Hello Kitty and the Disney Princesses. Do I accept my fate (and their love of all things girly and pink) or push forward with my wish for them to be strong, independent girls, unphased by the glitter and glam of pop Americana? And what about the bigger questions, the future? As much as I'd love to tell you that I don't have plans for my daughters, that I am willing to follow them on whatever path they may choose, it's not entirely true. I expect them to be healthy and functional, contributing members of society. I hope they get an education, find life partners, start families, and work hard at careers that inspire them. I want them to be happy, and make the world a better place. Now that I've written it all out, it seems like an awful lot to expect of another person. And yet, I can't imagine wanting anything less for them.
I recently attended a lecture through my local Community Education program, and the presenter offered a great list of books related to mindful parenting. I haven't read all of them yet, but I'd like to share them with you, along with their author's websites (when available). Raising Happiness by Christine Carter, PhD A Pebble in Your Pocket by Thich Nhat Hanh, Phillipe Ames, and Nguyen Thi Hop Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh Mindful Movements by Thich Nhat Hanh and Wietske Vriezen Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Jon and Myra Kabat-Zinn