Toronto (co-author Psychoanalytic Reflections on a Gender-free Case, 2005), a clinical psychologist from the University of Michigan, affirms, with contributions from her psychologist husband, that both adults and children, even from infancy, ought to be recognized as individuals and active participants in the family relationship.
Despite Toronto’s professional background, this heartfelt autobiography of a mother’s challenges and choices in raising her four sons struggles in its mission to also function as a modern-parenting guidebook. She presents a seesaw paradigm of the parent-child relationship, which understands the core equality of parent and child and allows each to lead, follow and have needs met in a harmonious whole, replacing the cultural default of an up-down model where parents give and lead, and children receive and follow. She supports this with stories showing how much she appreciated her boys’ individual gifts from an early age, often nearly bragging about their accomplishments and good moral nature. Her now-adult sons also discuss their own upbringing, which they do with unmitigated warmth as well as family photos. Toronto’s insight that connected families have a cultural currency—for her family, it’s thinking "positively" about who you are, but it could be music, cooking or any shared activity—is useful in thinking about household dynamics and what happens when a child might not naturally fit into that shared experience. Her endorsement of the family meeting as a regular method of communication, in which each person gets equal opportunity to speak, is similarly a valuable model for maintaining a less top-down model of parenting. After all, everyone should be heard, she says. But ultimately, this good-natured, old-fashioned, grandmotherly storytelling comes mostly from focusing on one’s own choices and experiences, not guidance from a clinical psychologist based on deep comprehension of 21st-century family complexities. Peppered with family photos and common-sense advice, it’s more personal than professional.
Great parenting advice for raising well-adjusted kids, but not nuanced enough for a diverse audience.