Book Review – A Quiet Place: Essays on Life and Family
The introduction sent echoes of recognition through me, as I felt a kinship with Peggy O’Mara’s journey to writing.
I also felt an affinity for the parenting style she espouses. Although we did not attachment parent, I have come to a point in my life when I can wish that we had continued, when Jeremiah was a baby, to do as instinct led us. I remember feeling as though I was abandoning him each time I put him down, and I believe he did, too, judging by the power of his cries.
So, I read the introduction with a bit of sadness and wistfulness for a closeness to and consideration for my children that was missing, when they were very small.
I enjoyed most of the essays, although there was a streak of “Mother Knows Best” morality that seemed to suggest strongly that children aren’t capable of making choices that my own unschooled children and their friends make on a regular basis, and a seeming glossing-over of the effect divorce can have on children, even when the family remains close.
I was in full agreement with her attitudes on breastfeeding, on attending to the needs of healthy children and birth in a way that does not treat these natural phenomena as diseases. However, this seems to come at the expense of any discussion at all of the fact that birth can and sometimes does become a medical emergency, and that there are times when intervention may be the only way to save child and/or mother. Given my personal history, this lack of balance smacks of propaganda and worries me.
Still, I had respect for our differences of opinion, because the author had done her research, made a good deal of sense, in most instances, and I could feel her caring and genuine love for children.
I agreed with the critical view given in the essay “having a baby in america” (http://mothering.com/pregnancy-birth/having-a-baby-in-america ) of the American Academy of Pediatrics and their attitude toward cesarean births, medicated deliveries, and nursing, and the caution that an association with such obvious pro-early weaning and formula feeding biases cannot be fully trusted to give sound advice on breastfeeding.
So it was with a sense of bewilderment that I read the very next essay, “tv is not good for kids” (http://www.mothering.com/tv-is-not-good-for-kids),in which the AAP is very heavily quoted as a trusted resource. It was especially jarring since the essay cited things like decreased imagination (the author avowed this was true for her own children; although there is substantial documented evidence of the rampant imagination of my kids and others like them who watch exactly as much or as little television as they choose each day), increased violence (my children, and others I know who freely watch and game as they like are, on the whole, less violent than many controlled children I have observed), and no mention at all made of the number of hours children spend in school and thereby cut off from parental emotional support (school and school-things very often occupy more of a child’s time than television does).
I understand that these essays all appeared as editorials in Mothering, and, as such, these two did not run in consecutive months. Still, it was a very poor choice of placement in the book, and the subsequent essays, although still deep, meaningful, and thought-provoking, had lost a little of their luster, and felt a little too much like they were serving an agenda more than truth for me to take them as seriously as I did those that went before.
That being said, there was the advantage of my critical mind being engaged, so that I could more fully evaluate each essay and the ideas it contained, comparing them against my own beliefs and experiences
The style of the writing was friendly, well-informed – perhaps, just a touch, like a lecturing mother who truly does want the best for you, but has her own idea of what that is, and that may well supersede your own. And, when it does, she is more likely to consider you in the wrong than to realize that there are many, many answers in life, and very, very few absolutes.
Ratings: Scored with 1 as low; 5 as high.
Readabilty: 3. I found the small-letter titles off-putting, and there was a pedantic, inflexible element there that soured the reading somewhat. The storytelling was well-done and descriptive.
Informative:4. I learned quite a bit, and found myself considering new ideas and perspectives more than once.
Credibilty:2. I don’t like having an agenda pushed at me so forcefully; I prefer to make my own decisions. Also, discrediting a source that is later used leads me to believe the author might not be remotely objective, and her research colored by her personal biases and beliefs to an uncomfortable degree.
Overall Rating: 3. I would recommend this book – and a cup of salt for liberal dosing alongside. There are quite a few wonderful, heartfelt essays – and those that seem meant to force the author’s own opinions into her readers’ mind sas though they were concrete, absolute facts.
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