Neither Anette nor I have done a lot of the required child-rearing reading. I did read a few books about international adoption, including the Lost Daughters of China, which was okay, and Love in the Driest Season, which was also just okay. The former was a bit precious, the latter sort of outraged (but also self-righteous) about the state of the world and the (dire) state of Africa. I started one book on interracial adoption which was well-intentioned, poorly written and ultimately kind of misguided, I thought. It recommended bringing up your black child as if you were a black family living in a black community. And that just seems a bit reductive. And wrong. Anette and me and Adinah and V. are an interracial family, with four very different origins, and we live in a very white-ass northern European land, where we have dear friends who are both black and white. I love the complexity of our...thing.
But I have finally been reading a parenthood book that I like a lot: Your Competent Child, by Jesper Juul. The premise of the book is that we must learn to deal with our kids as if they were actual people, who have dignity and deserve our respect. Sounds simple, right? Fine, then you try it.
Anyway, as a writer, this guy is the king, the Ernest Hemingway of parenthood prose. He writes very cleanly and simply, but the ideas he packs into those words are so provocative and smart and challenging.
Accordingly, one of my favorite parts of the book is where Juul explains the way he thinks parents should talk to their kids. He recommends using "personal language," which he says centers around three very straightforward binary phrases:
"I want to. I don't want to.
I like. I don't like.
I will. I will not."
Read it again, and let it soak in. He's saying we gotta drop "should" and "must" and "that's enough!" We gotta say what we want, and even take responsibility for it.
Brilliant, insightful, and very difficult (for some of us) to do.
But I've been trying. Actually, I want to try to talk to adults more like this.