I was talking to E last night about parenting books. For some reason, I just really struggle with them, and they feel like a real chore to read. E read a few of them in the past, and I tried to read a few of them after her, but truth is, I find it very hard to get into them.
This makes me feel kind of guilty, because there's this niggling thought in my head that says 'if you really cared about your kids and about being a good parent, you'd be lapping this stuff up'. Sigh.
But I was trying to work out what it was that irked me so much, and I think very often it's because of the examples and illustrations used. It seems that so often with Christian parenting books, the examples of where things went badly are always about someone else, whereas the author then comes in with the answer of how to do things properly. Lists of all the ways people do things wrongly, and then the antidote and answer of how to do it properly. This kind of thing frustrates the heck out of me:
'I met Tim and Judy some years ago. Married for several years, with two young children, Tim and Judy loved their kids and were keen Christians. For the most part their house was a happy one, except when the kids didn't get their own way. When I was over at their house one day for lunch, I noticed the younger child hit the older child. On another occasion, I heard the elder boy swearing at his sister. I could see Tim and Judy didn't like this behaviour, but they seemed powerless to do anything about it. One day I pulled Tim aside, man to man, and reminded him of Ephesians 3, where it says...'
Now, that's a made up thing, but that could easily have come out of one of those books, and it just makes me not want to listen. Such and such had it wrong, I have the answers, and here's the story of how I showed them their error and helped them grow. I accept that the author is probably a specialist parenting dude or whatever, but to me it doesn't seem loving or helpful, but kind of surreptitiously boastful and proud.
I don't know, maybe I have a problem here, maybe I'm two sensitive and quick to jump down these authors' throats. Maybe the illustrations are even made up, as E suggested, so no ones' going to get hurt. But still, why do the examples have to be about someone else at all?
I think what struck me in reading Surprised By Joy was the way C.S. Lewis was so candid and honest, and self-deprecating, quick to admit his shortcomings and mistakes, and very reluctant to blow his own trumpet. Sure, it's an autobiography, so of course it's going to be about him, but still, the same rules apply, in my mind.
Parenting is such a tricky business, and there always going to be mistakes made, and differing opinions and lessons learned. There are no seven step plans that will work with every kid. So if you are going to write a book, why can't it be about your own mistakes and lessons learned, your own stories, your own realisations, told in a humble way, rather than presenting itself as the definitive answer? That would be a book I'd actually like to read, and one that would be encouraging rather than discouraging.
Anyway, that's the end of my rant. I feel better now.