Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wendy Mogel: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children

I wouldn't normally include a review here for a child-rearing book, especially one coming from a Jewish perspective. I know it's not going to have a mass appeal, but this book blew me away. Jewish values aside, it's an amazingly insightful book that breaks down parenting and relating to your children in ways that prepare them for the great big world without forcing them to grow up too fast or struggle to live beyond their potential.

The biggest take-away I got from this book wasn't how to raise better Jewish children it was simply to just relax. Parents on average spend so much time worrying about so many things that they neglect spending time with their children simply as parents. Stop worrying about whether your kid is the highest achiever in the class, stop being concerned about threatening your kids autonomy when they get defiant, stop worrying about being liked all the time by your children. RELAX. Let your kid fail - let it be okay to be perfect only some of the time. Be brave enough to set boundaries - to teach your kid how to respect you and the world around them, how to do for themselves. Remember to spend real moments with your children when they still want to be children.

Factoring in Judaism to these simple life practices worked surprisingly well and I learned a few new things about my religion's laid back attitude. While I know I won't become the type of parent who finds more religion in my daily life after kids that I had before them, it's extremely reassuring to know that core values I have developed independently of being Jewish actually fit in nicely with my religion.

This book holds a lot more within it than just the need to slow things down and is worth a read for anyone with kids of their own who may be struggling with ways to connect a practical life to a spiritual one. I'd certainly recommend it to any Jewish parents with kids under the age of 16.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wild Ducks Flying Backward by Tom Robbins

This collection of short works is brown down into sections that are pretty unique; not that I would expect anything ordinary from Tom Robbins. You get an assortment of travel articles, tributes, stories/poems/song lyrics, musings & critiques, and responses to basic questions. I definitely have an opinion on each section - I either loved it or was totally bored by it - and have to sat that on the whole, this collection wasn't up to the standard of entertainment I've come to appreciate with Robbins' work.

Those pieces included from the last 15 years or so more closely math the prose style I find most entertaining and if you were only going to read one section the travel articles would get my vote.

Possibly these pieces are just too grounded in reality - real reality - when what I've always admired about Robbins' work is his extraordinary; things like cognizant, inanimate objects. But, if you're a Robbins fan who has made it through his whole library of books, this one can't be passed up. If you're a fan of his style, but can honestly admit you don't like everything he's written (like my utter dislike for Another Roadside Attraction) skip this and reread Skinny Legs and All. It'll be time better spent.