Awhile back, I had to make a decision that was necessary, but heartbreaking – and left me with more time on my hands. I needed to leave my professional position over a disagreement of approaches, but for me…and all who have fed my mind, body and spirit, I could not betray what I have been taught.
Fortunately, the extra time provides getting to a list of books I have been wanting to read…one of which is Parenting Forward: How to Raise Children with Justice, Mercy, and Kindness.
I’m an under liner. In pencil. I also have my own little code of using various numbers of stars and extra vertical lines in the margins, thicknesses of underlines, and when really impressive, I dog-ear the page. There are very few pages in my copy of Parenting Forward that I haven’t illuminated.
I could write a review on each chapter, lifting up the crafted insights that could change your way of being in relationship with others, but you should read the book instead.
So here are a few points:
- This is a touted as a “progressive” Christian book…but as one raised Christian but not in the Evangelical/Conservative culture, much of the religious unlearning Brandt speaks to is unfamiliar to me. However, the majority of her work is still relevant. Her personal story of unlearning her assimilation is an important part of the thesis as it requires all readers to reflect on how American cultural and/or religious assimilation is incorporated into their life. (So even if you are not Christian or religious…you may get something out of this book.)
- Brandt gracefully opens up the idea we’ve been doing things wrong all along. That by structuring society in ways that require conforming in order to survive and succeed, we are actually squeezing the life out of each other. We have gotten so good at conforming, at convincing ourselves that this is the right thing to do, that we can’t even see when we are hurting ourselves, others and our children! She demands, in a unoffensive way, that we wake-up and truly realize that this world doesn’t have to follow one prescription of how to think about things.
- As I was processing her words, I was also working on a resume of sorts and the concept of Space Maker came to mind. Brandt asks us over and over again to make space for others…make space for others to be themselves, to learn about themselves, for us to learn about them, for them to explore the world – all without shame and with appropriate tools and guidance. Our children need encouragement and safety nets, not a constant barrage of “do not enter” and “turn back” signs.
As Brandt highlights, I am still a work in process – and I take learning and relearning seriously. I take big and tiny steps to allow my children to not only be themselves, but help them allow others to be themselves. While we have our definite privileges, we also have a few of our own struggles too. I just hope, that more often then not, I can work towards freeing my children’s creative souls than aligning them to mine, or the world’s, wishes. And Parenting Forward, is the perfect resource to remind me how to be a Space Maker.