About a week ago, I received a copy of comedian Elizabeth Beckwith’s spoof on parenting book Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation from HarperCollins. I normally don’t read parenting books because I’ve been burnt by them in the past, but I burst out laughing just at the title and cover alone. It reminded me so much of my Anne Taintor, one of my favorite modern artists. Both Taintor and Beckwith’s irreverent look at life is more representative of reality and emotionally supportive than what I find in most pregnancy and parenting books. Sometimes laughter can bring perspective and that can be a parent’s most useful tool.
I am so over the seemingly endless supply of oh-so-serious books on growing, birthing, and raising children. I’ve found that I leave those books feeling guilty and inadequate, especially those I read about childbirth and breast feeding. I decided to no longer read them. A prime example of this was when Allison was extremely colicky. After days and days of trying whatever I could think of help her, I was at the point where I wanted to jump out the window. I put her in her crib and picked up a book on breast feeding and caring for infants published by a pro-breast feeding organization. In it I found the tiniest of sections about the subject. I wish I had chucked the book against the wall as soon as I read the first line in that section. It went something like this: “I’ve never raised a baby with colic, but… ” In the end it basically said, “Don’t put your baby in the crib and walk away. What if the very next thing you try is the thing brings your baby the comfort needed?” Talk about guilt and manipulation! How could it possibly be beneficial for my children to bring them up when I feel that way?
While I’m sure that it is never the intent of the author, I truly believe that some of those pregnancy and parenting books do more harm than good. There are those in which the agenda becomes more important than the individual. This is not the case with Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation. I just knew that it would be right up my alley when I read the prologue about her childhood and how her parents raised her. As a mother of daughters 5 and 7, I can take it all to heart. The scene where Elizabeth’s father talks her out of a trip to Mexico without forbidding her to go gives me hope of making it through my daughter’s teen years. I wish I had the moxie to put my thoughts about parenting on paper like Elizabeth Beckwith has. Reading through it I am reminded of a pregnancy book, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine. I wish I had read that book instead of the over-earnest crunchy-granola books that I did read at the time. I would have come out emotionally stronger and better prepared for my life as a mother.
I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but after laughing my way through the first three chapters (and bits and pieces of the rest), I feel so much better about myself and my parenting. While guilt and manipulation may work to make your children behave better (ha!), Elizabeth realizes that it doesn’t do much at all for parents. There is no need to feel miserable in the most important role of one’s life. When it comes to parenting, I’m definitely on Team Beckwith.