Saturday, June 3, 2017

Blog Tour: Mary Ann Johnson's BECOMING A PRESENT PARENT

A number of years ago, my mother received her Master's Degree.  Before that, she had to write her thesis on teaching children the interpretation of music.  I was the proof-reader and captive audience and was therefore subject to her advisor's recommendations.

One e-mail stands out in my mind.  The advisor wanted to infuse this academic achievement of writing with some more pathos, so she recommended something along the lines of "I cherish the moments when a beloved student turns to me and says humbly, 'Mrs. Olsen, when you encourage me to achieve my very best...'"  You get the idea.  Even now, Mom and I can be reduced to giggles by the words, "I cherish the moments."

It is a style that I think of as General Conference story-telling.  If you're not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the leaders of the church come together every six months to instruct and enlighten the members and the stories they tell in the course of their discourses are always memorable.  But the stories all tend to feature a "sweet, young mother of six" or "beloved husband of fifty-three years."  General Conference stories are like click-bait headlines about "Spunky four-year-old puts hardened Democrat Congressmen in their place!!!!  I'm crying."  But because they always tie this into my faith, I forgive them for the hyperbole.

So, why am I telling you this?  Well, for one simple reason.  Mary Ann's book is not General Conference story-telling.  It's true that she tells story about her experience raising her children in all of its highs and lows, but it is a remarkably relatable medium.  

I have no kids.  I have six nephews, two nieces, a step-nephew and a dozen or so kids who treat me like a family member, but I absolutely loved reading this.  It taught me things about my relationships with children, but also with my friends and even my roommates.  When she talked about a moment when her daughter was venting about a schoolday problem and she tried to trouble-shoot the situation, I remembered that I had similarly once asked my best friend to stop fixing my feelings and let me just feel them.  

She also uses a variety of academic and unofficial sources, such as the Highlights magazine survey about parental interactions and articles by learned professionals.  She names scenarios that give you a foundation for understanding her principles that provoke thoughts about your own daily habits.

In short, the appeal of this book is that it approaches parenting with both realism and compassion and isn't afraid to admit to the author's own insecurities.  It was a self-help book that made it clear how much these techniques had already been of help to Mary Ann herself.