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Gentle Parenting, Birth and Motherhood: Three Short Book Reviews

"I have, indeed, turned over a good many books." Nathaniel Hawthorne

I don't read novels any more. The last time I sat and lost myself in a beautiful story was when my first daughter was a baby, and I would sit carefully with her hooked in the crook of my left arm, asleep but occasionally flutter sucking at my breast, whilst with my free right hand I held and quietly turned the pages of my book. Now, with a four year old and a two year old, neither of my hands are free, and the frustration of being constantly interrupted has become part of the fabric of my existence. I don't read novels, just as I don't get comfy in a chair: there is no time or chance to sink deeply into anything.

So as not to forget completely how to read, I now prefer what I call 'dipping books', the sort that you can pick up and put down, read a bit in the middle and a bit at the back, whilst chopping cheese into cubes or grilling fish fingers. Parenting books, non fiction, poetry anthologies, all lend themselves well to this approach - a dip here, a dip there, turning them over in your hands and mind until you feel as if you have read them from cover to cover. Here are three such books I've been sent for review.

Positive Parenting in Action - The how-to guide for putting positive parenting principles into practice in early childhood, by Rebecca Eanes and Laura Ling.

You might know of Rebecca Eanes from her Facebook page and blog Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. Rebecca has now moved on from that page, but in the time she spent running it she, along with co-author Laura Ling, devoted a huge amount of energy to researching child development, with the particular focus on finding strategies to create an environment with firm loving boundaries, without resorting to threats or violence.

Many of us want to parent in this way, but it can be difficult. Not only do we have to 'unlearn' the messages given to us in our own childhood and often in our current society, but we also have to replace them with new ways of thinking and behaving. In the hectic heat of real life parenting, we can feel at a loss and find ourselves falling back on the old ways simply because we just don't know what to do instead.

Enter this book. Of its 69 pages, only the first 15 are devoted to theory. The large part of the book looks at specific parenting scenarios and makes suggestions for ways to parent positively. Many situations are covered, for example hitting, whining, interrupting, lying, sibling rivalry, meal times and night times. In each category the authors look at several different real life situations, explore what might be behind the child's behaviour, and make concrete suggestions for you as the parent to follow.

An excellent book: endlessly useful and practical, and with love and kindness firmly at its heart.

Positive Parenting in Action is available as an ebook from uploadnsell.

Memoirs of a Singing Birth, by Elena Skoko

This truly is a beautiful book for anyone with a passion for childbirth, and would make a particularly lovely gift for a pregnant woman. Elena Skoko writes with insight, wisdom and wit about her journey into motherhood, weaving into her birth story a wealth of information about birthing practices, the politics and history of childbirth, and the actual reality of her own birth experience.

Skoko - who forms a blues band, Bluebird and Skoko, with her partner - is an inspiring narrator. All women - not just pregnant ones - could benefit from borrowing a pinch of her courage and vulnerability, her thirst for knowledge and her open mind, her spirituality, her sexuality and her womanliness. In spite of being a modern Western woman, with all the fear and baggage around childbearing that this brings, Skoko chooses to reclaim birth for herself and make it's song her own.

Memoirs of a Singing Birth is available in paperback at Lulu and Amazon US & UK. Memoirs of a Singing Birth is also published as ebook on Smashwords.

Poetry of a Hobo Mama, by Lauren Wayne

Lauren Wayne writes the popular blog Hobo Mama and runs the Natural Parents Network. For some reason in spite of these credentials I was a bit skeptical when I took my first dip into her volume of poetry. Maybe it's because it's so easy to write poetry badly, and these days anyone with an internet connection can publish the sort of dross that a few years ago would have stayed safely under the mattress. My cynicism quickly melted away, however, within moments of beginning to read Poetry of a Hobo Mama. Wayne forges short, stark, luminous poems out of the deep melting pot of motherhood, bringing us little creations filled with exquisite detail on birth, love, miscarriage, breastfeeding, mortality - even elevating pumping to a thing of beauty! (The first tantalizing drip — drip — drip / like the flirting of a sprinkler / just out of reach on a hot day).

Wayne explores the great emotional contrasts of motherhood perfectly. She understands the bitter-sweet combination of sacrifice and pay-off and distills it into verse with skill, humour and heart. She knows what it's like to love someone more than you ever thought possible and still resent them for leaving a trail of lego, yoghurt and snot all over your once tidy life. She even laments the loss of time to read in Never Check Out Anything from the Library Again:

Reading’s not for you,
that careful paging through of paper,
tender paper that tears so easily you’ve found,
covers that get bent and dust jackets ripped off.
And there’s so much to reading, getting lost in the story,
in a paragraph,
just one damn sentence, please, and it’s no use,
because he won’t let you now.

No time to read...but, for now, time to dip, to turn over many books...knowing that one day we will sink deeply into our chair and our novel...enjoying the space, the silence...and mourning a whole new set of losses.

Poetry of a Hobo Mama is available from Amazon UK and US and createspace.

If you would like me to review your book on this blog, please feel free to get in touch.


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