A short, empathetic debut guide to conscientious parenting.
Dukes has produced a clearheaded, well-designed book about how parents can be “consistently located in [their] child’s world” by combatting the rushing pace of modern life. The author looks at the full spectrum of parental responsibilities and stresses that the key to fulfilling the parenting role is paying attention—to one’s own needs and limitations and to every detail of one’s children’s lives. Parents must take heed of “the amount of incidental time we spend with our children,” he writes. “Simply put, presence.” In Dukes’ formulation, such consistent presence isn’t smothering but rather nurturing—a heightened sensitivity and awareness of the “stew of past, present, and future parental influences” that inevitably inform the relationship. In many instances, the author’s concept of “present” parenting boils down to giving mothers and fathers permission to forgive themselves for shortcomings and oversights. “Parenting is not a problem to be fixed,” he reminds readers—a somewhat counterintuitive observation for a parenting guide. “Perfect parenting is a myth.” Instead of flawlessness, he argues, caregivers should strive for openness and sensitivity to the incredible power of example, which children use to learn about the world around them. Gently but firmly, he advises parents that a crucial step is to become less self-absorbed; for example, he warns them not to “enter your child’s day locked inside your mood.” His prose throughout is straightforward and mostly free of self-help cant, and many of his concepts come as much-needed reminders of basic ideas, especially for overworked or sometimes-absent parents who may lose sight of the awe and wonder of raising kids. Parenting, Dukes writes, represents the opportunity to “start fresh every day,” and his book offers readers a great deal of help in seizing that opportunity.
A conversational and compassionate handbook for kids’ caregivers.