Book review of ‘Raising Parents, Raising Kids’ by Dawn Menken

Raising Parents, Raising Kids by Dawn Menken

The process of parenting is both an inner experience and a literal calling. We are all called to develop a parent inside of ourselves. We all long to find in ourselves a good parent, a wise guide, or calm centre – whatever we may call it. In this sense everyone is called to parent, though not everyone is called to have children.

I described this book to a friend as “process work for parents’. It really does do what the title describes, helping us as parents to find deeper meaning and awareness in parenting both our children and ourselves.

Supporting children’s inner lives means supporting our children to dream. By dreaming, I don’t just mean nighttime dreams, but also feelings, fantasies, and the imaginary world.

In particular the note it sounded about inclusivity, and not marginalizing parts of our children, inspired me as a parent to communicate more with my son. My son, will be 18 in a month, so I wanted to finish this book before then, and whilst I wished I had read it when he was younger it is still very useful. I found it helped me with studying process work topics outside of parenting, notably with dreams and diversity. It’s also a very readable book and is filled with countless examples of her extensive practice with children.

It does not shy away from standing strongly for core values inherent with our Process Work worldview. This quote jumped out for me:

“My experience informs me that there are certain feelings that are supported for boys, and others more for girls. Girls are still discouraged from expressing anger and being direct. Girls still receive the message early on to be “nice” to accommodate, and to not hurt others. Boys get less support to show sensitive feelings, tenderness, and still get the message that crying is weak”.

Personally I found the chapter on difference and standing up for diversity in children – which was next to the chapter on bullying, especially inspiring, and it helped me with my own thesis immediately as I wrote it – although my thesis is seemingly on a different topic. It addresses head on the need in society; starting with us as parents to encourage acceptance of all of us in our increasingly diverse world, with different family constellations.

“Gender uncertainty opens up a world of human experience not male experience of female experience. It means as humans we are unlimited in our capacity and interest in being whole, not being split in a gender category that defines us..”

Fittingly one of the chapters is on parenting the planet, and how by bringing up children, and ourselves with the bigger picture of how to make the world a better place.
Parenting the planet means parenting for the future. It means caring for our environment, our educational systems, our political systems, and global relations. It means caring for our inner lives and deepest dreams and nurturing our relationships. It also means stepping into a parenting role in moment-to-moment situations – on the playground, at work, in our relationship, on the streets and in our neighborhoods. Some of us who parent in this sense are grassroots community workers, mentors, teachers, social workers, and neighbours who are backbones of our communities. These elders are sorely needed. Eldership does not refer to age, but to the sense of caring for the whole.

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