Thank you for joining me in my new blogging adventure. So much of the work that I do is personalized to the people sitting in front of me in the moment. I believe firmly that parenting needs to be a very personal endeavor. As one of my clients summarized it recently, “there is no one right way to parent; there are wrong ways to parent, but there is no one right way.” This idea is freeing and affirming. If your friends all seem to be sleep training their babies but it just doesn’t feel right to you, you don’t have to do it. If your friends are nursing on demand, but you have tried that and it makes you feel your world is unmanageably chaotic, go ahead and create a schedule that works for you and your baby.
One of the constants of parenting is the day by day, minute by minute choices we make. This is true from before our children are born until they launch into the big world as adults. And—ask your own parents if you doubt it—even after that. Another constant is the degree to which we don’t have control. Many of us are faced with this in the process of conceiving, carrying and birthing our children. All of us learn as our children grow that they come to us with temperaments, strengths, challenges, and their own combination of intelligences.
Many of us come to parenting knowing what we don’t want to do in raising our children. Some of us come into it with some clarity about what we do want to do. If we are fortunate, we have partners in raising our children, and our partners are somewhere near enough to being on the same page with us. Single parents are fortunate if they find extended family or friends who are on more or less the same page and can partner with them to some extent.
Parenting is, to a great extent, a creative endeavor. Each of us needs to find our own, authentic self expression as parents. Like creative artists, we build on traditions of those who came before us. Also like creative artists, our work benefits from our study of theory, and of technique. Picasso didn’t paint the way he did because he couldn’t make his faces come out “right.” He had a command of theory and technique that allowed him to make his own choices and to find his own way.
Our families and cultures of origin may have provided us with our traditions for the art of parenting, of shaping the shared life of a family into a nurturing environment. Our friends and current cultural milieu influence our choices. But our work will benefit significantly if we familiarize ourselves with theory and technique.
I don’t recommend following any book or expert precisely: paint-by-numbers parenting is not effective. But I highly recommend reading a variety of sources to build your own repertoire, to create your own palette and style.
Parents are busy people. It is my hope to provide you with reviews of books on the theory and technique of parenting. These reviews may give you material you find useful in itself. I hope they will also help you determine which books will be most helpful to you in the current moment of your development as a parent. Reading a whole book can be a significant investment of time and energy in the life of a parent. I hope to help you make those investments in books that will give you what you need.
Emily Shapiro advises New York City parents who are navigating the nursery and independent school admissions process, through her business, Emily Shapiro Consulting.