Friday, November 20, 2009

The Price of Privilege

My friend Lori passed this title on to me, not necessarily something she deemed a "must read," but interesting food for thought. What she appeared mildly enthusiastic about has provided a very interesting and engaging read for me.

I started this book on our beach trip. While I do recommend the book, I would not suggest for the beach. After reading a few pages I realized I needed pen and paper for note taking - a couple of extra items for our beach bag, and something about being hunched over taking notes compromised my even tan. (When on sand, stick to fiction.) Not a chapter would go by without needing to jot down some important idea or concept, which later of course became fodder for discussions with Corbin.

I don't know much about the author, Madeline Levine, Ph.D., but she writes with wisdom. She also happens to come across as academic and intelligent, but the wisdom of her words draw me in. I found myself wishing Dr. Levine was my next door neighbor, someone I could share a cup of coffee with from time to time and pick her brain for my current crop of parenting issues. Someone who might listen sympathetically and yet offer objective feedback to the way I handle situations with my growing kids. Fortunately, I do have these "neighbors" in my life, in the form of parents and friends, and much of Levine's advice and observations seem to coincide with much their trusted advice.

This book, born out of thirty years as a professional child psychologist in Southern CA, encapsulates Levine's observations and instructions and warnings for today's families. Her writing is both sympathetic and comforting, while at the same time she gives her readers a kick in the rear to get it together and parent wisely. Obviously, the book is geared toward privileged families - which nearly any one of you reading this blog fit into. But filter out all the privilege part, and it's just plain good parenting advice.

If you read this book, just a head's up that the psychology jargon included is more lengthy than many traditional parenting books. The text reflects a psychologist-author, so she defends her studies with full explanations of the psychology behind them, and gives brief definitions of psychology terms throughout in order to fully communicate her ideas. Personally, this non-medical reader appreciated the brief introduction into child psychology 101. But be prepared to skim a couple of sections if you're not into that.

The three things I loved most about reading Dr. Levine's book:
1 - She provides a fantastic platform for discussion concerning modern-day parenting. It took me a long time to read this book because I found myself wanting to chew on the information a little at a time, and I loved talking with Corbin through the main points.
2 - Levine's voice of reason goes against the negative patterns of our culture. Reading through her ideas and instructions and examples, I found myself wondering how many enemies Levine might have made through the process of writing and publishing this book. She is brave and courageous to inscribe in ink her not-so-politically-correct opinions. Whether I agree with every single thing or not, her courage is admirable.
3 - I'm realizing how much my parents and Corbin's parents did right. Psychology lingo aside, our parents emulated nearly all of Levine's instruction. The points Levine makes for healthy parenting (ideas such as delayed gratification, the real definition of success, the dangers of materialism) are familiar and for the most part come naturally for Corbin and me, having seen these concepts modeled in our own home for years. Something we can't thank our parents enough for.

Well, I may not get to be next-door neighbors with this neat lady, but I'm grateful for her words to get me thinking. A great read - be prepared to be challenged.