Book Review: The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff

The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff

What an interesting read!  Some aspects really good and some aspects really “off.”  And it can really mess with your confidence as a parent, at the same time, building your trust in your instincts.  How’s that for confusing?

This book was written back in the ’70s and I can imagine it being one of the books and concepts that really triggered the “attachment parenting” movement.  It’s written by a woman that, by chance, ended up living with and studying a tribe of natives in the deep Amazon jungle. Over many trips back and forth, she learned a lot about how they raised their children and lived with each other, noticing the differences between them and us. She is a little over the top in her admiration of these people and seems to lose her ability to objectively judge the situation; also, given that it’s about 40 years in the past, there are certain observations that really turn you off (like how homosexuals are a certain way because of how their mother treated them!)  But overall, her observations are something to learn from, as long as you take them with a grain of salt! I can imagine that coming from the 60’s the advice she was giving was quite extreme.  Nowadays we tend to practice a lot of this already, just as the trend of the times.

My biggest takeaways:

Your children become what you expect of them.  If you talk down to them, they will have a poor vocabulary.  If you speak intelligently and of intelligent things, you show them that you expect them to understand; and they do! Or they will.  If you tell them “be careful, don’t fall” – they will do what you expect of them – and fall!  Ok, maybe that one is not 100% believable, but I do agree that you want to put things in a positive perspective to give them confidence rather than add to the epidemic of worry in our society.

Live your life and take your baby and children along for the ride.  So many parents today just play with their kids all day long, let the laundry slide, don’t have a social life, get utterly depressed, and then wonder why their kids feel so entitled.  I like the idea that we should live our lives as we would like to, and bring our kids with us!  They will learn how to behave better through example than by playing with a multitude of toys.  If you’re vacuuming and they’re interested, give them a mini vacuum to help you.  If you’re cooking and they’re interested, find things to allow them to help you.  If you’re going out to eat, take them with you and show them how to behave.  I couldn’t agree with this one more!  As I think back on the really good days with PJ, they are the days when we just had to get things done and he was right alongside us helping.  It makes him happy too!  It also really helps me to feel that I’m setting a good example for my kids by living my life, working and going out with friends.  Now, if this author were to have her way, I would take my baby to work with me and let him be a part of my whole day. Unfortunately that’s not ideal in our office world.

Ease the transition from the womb to the world a little bit better. Don’t just move your baby from crib to stroller to swing.  Hold your baby. Wear your baby.  Let them hear the heartbeat they have known since they’ve existed.  This part really touched me and made me want to hold LJ tighter. The hard part here is the advice to keep your child in your bed as long as possible – until they’re ready to be on their own.  I seriously don’t have a problem with the family bed, but with both boys, they were in their own room by 6-8 weeks.  We all just sleep better that way (them and me!)  Now that PJ is older, I’m sure he would LOVE to sleep in our bed.  But I can’t say that it would be fun.  We would all sleep horribly for some time.  What this book makes me wonder is what type of lesson I’m missing out on teaching him by doing this.  But alas!   We can’t all do everything. If I’m to get enough sleep and work too, I need my space and quiet!

Don’t help when they don’t need it, but once they ask, help right away. This can help to build confidence and allow them to see that their needs are responded to, that they have a place in their world.  I’ve always thought this, but it helps to have someone say it explicitly to believe that it’s worth it and working.  It’s hard to hold back showing them what to do and how to do it better. I know it’s better if they learn to do it on their own.

I rate this 4 out of 5 stars.  Mostly because the message it gives is so different than other parenting books.  I’ll be passing it on to my next pregnant friend or relative.  As the quote on the front says…

“If the world could be saved by a book, this just might be the book” – John Holt


Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This is not a book about “cancer kids” but rather a book about young teenage attitude, intellect, heart, heartbreak, and loss.

Part of me was annoyed reading this book and part of me yearned to feel the way these kids felt so deeply. Hazel meets Augustus in a cancer support group for kids. She has terminal lung cancer and he’s recovered from bone cancer. As they spend time together and learn to love each other you think about the inevitable moment when one of them will no longer be there. In the beginning you feel cynical that it’s just “young love” or infatuation. But as the characters grow together and love each other more, you begin to feel it more deeply as well. There is a moment where they are on a plane together where they tell each other “I love you.” When reading their words and thoughts I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about that intense feeling that you have when you first realize this and tell someone you love them. Being married almost 9 years it’s been awhile since that happened. Although I am very happily married and thoroughly love my husband, it is a very different manifestation of that feeling of love. One I am happy to have! But oh so different than that newly-in-love feeling.

One other aspect of this book that resonated with me is the need for sick people to feel that they are capable. At one point Augustine drives himself to a gas station to buy cigarettes (he “not smokes” as a statement against smoking!) He obviously wasn’t capable of this at the time and paid the price with a trip to the emergency room. My mom is currently battling breast cancer, and as I help her with her recovery from different surgeries and treatments, I want to help her with everything I possibly can! But there are moments where I can tell – she just wants to do it herself! And I can resonate. Hardly a comparable circumstance, but having just had a baby, and c-section at that, there were a few weeks there where people wanted to help and help and help. And I couldn’t keep myself from feeling that I just wanted to show that I could do it myself! Maybe I get that from my mom 🙂 But how do you balance that as someone caring for someone else in need? You want them to feel empowered, but you also just want to care for them. I don’t think there’s an easy answer here… I haven’t really found it yet.

We read this book in my book club and there was positive response from everyone who read it. That said, some could not read it. You start the book knowing that it will be a sad topic. Even with the wit and humor it does get heavy at the end. Most people will be ok with this – it helps you to think about mortality and leaving your stamp on the world. But I can see how someone dealing with similar issues might not want to go there.

Overall I rate this a 4 out of 5 stars. I liked it. The writing was witty and intelligent. The story touching. Not on my favorites list, but I would pass the book on to a friend.