Book Review: Keep Calm And Mommy On by by Tanu Shree Singh
“That is exactly what motherhood seems like sometimes – velvet bugs scattering from a broken jar.”
I laughed out loud. Both at the vivid imagery that sentence evoked, and at the ironical fact it evinced… that parenting is a journey fraught with peril and pitfalls.
It’s a really long ‘examination’ on the subject of ‘Life’ – one that lasts a good twenty years or more… One where a hapless mom or dad can only hope and pray to pass graciously, not come out with shiny honors!
Because the “exam questions” are really, really tough.
- Am I an adequate parent?
- Is there a defined parenting path I followed?
- Did I ensure optimal levels of “cognitive functioning”?
- Have I “charted their trajectories” properly?
How CAN we, as parents, ever hope to answer them?!
But this book lets you dare to dream bigger. To anticipate a richer, better, more fulfilling experience in raising a child. And do it, not with rosy hopes and unreal fantasy, but while being rooted in solid ground truths and sober pragmatism.
Right from the beginning, I found myself highlighting snippets to return to later.
“Anger doesn’t work. Inner-cheek-gnawing, teeth-clenching patience does. And there is no cape. I wish there was.”
(Me, too. I’d wear it oh-so-proudly!)
“Don’t break into a sweat, blabber, distract, or worse, shoo them away. That only gets them more curious, and makes sure they don’t come to you for answers.”
“As parents, we somehow tend to measure everything by its usefulness.”
“Everything is discussed and dealt with – some with hugs and some with a timeout.”
“I know that this is the most heartbreaking part of parenthood, but they do grow up.”
“Sometimes, we need to simply talk to children to make them more human – talk, not preach.”
“Each day, I question myself – am I doing the right thing?”
“As a parent, my focus is on providing opportunities”
“Do what you do best – love unconditionally and breathe deeply. You just might make it without a trip to the shrink!”
You probably won’t agree with everything in “Keep Calm & Mommy On”.
There’s a section on religious instruction. Having studied in Christian schools myself, and seen how little that has influenced my spiritual journey since, I tend to agree with the author about a certain style or approach. But another parent with a different background or experience might disagree – even quite strongly.
And if you thought religion was the most contentious issue at stake, think again. There’s plenty of frank talk about porn and ‘moisture-bating’ (loved that word play!), news and teenage crushes, gender roles and sexual orientation, and a lot, lot more.
In other words, this isn’t a “guidebook to parenting” that one follows, step by step.
It’s an interesting, intriguing, thought-provoking manifesto to being a parent – one that forces you to confront and address each topic covered in it, iron out your conflicts to your own satisfaction, before you devise your own model or rulebook to follow in your unique journey through parenthood.
The value, to my mind, is in bringing up issues that matter. Ones you might overlook, forget, or even ignore – because they are uncomfortable, overly sensitive, or controversial.
- Death. Genderism. And yes… Sex.
- Doing Your Kids’ Homework! (It IS a big deal – and you’ll learn why).
- Budgeting and Money Management. Delaying Gratification. Reading Books.
- The Joy of Nothingness (“They were floating in the blissful nothingness of the ‘best days of their lives'”).
This last was my favorite chapter in the book.
“What summer camps did we go to, as kids? And did we get bored?” Tanu Shree asks.
“Unplanned days give kids time to unwind, regroup and reenergize… In this in-between world, they are flourishing, discovering themselves, and taking a fresh look at the world around – while doing nothing.”
Maybe more parents will think that way after reading this book.
Personally, I’m past the stage where most of these lessons matter any longer. Yet I read the book actively, intently, sub-consciously scoring myself on past performance along the way… and in the end, (I think) passing the test comfortably!
For me, the core message that shines through the book is this:
Foster trust with your children, so that they feel comfortable coming to you for anything. Information. Support. Advice. Guidance. Love.
Following ‘Keep Calm & Mommy On’ is one way to make it happen.
You might even get through the adventure, mind and body intact, to proudly join Tanu Shree in citing the sanity plea: “It has been 15 years and I am still sane.”
Which reminds me of a funny quote:
Insanity is hereditary; you can get it from your kids!
So… Keep Calm, Mommy On!