May 30, 2014

Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi (from a Parent Who Was Lucky to Survive.) {Book Review}

Photo by Tobias Koepe

(Editors Note: The reviewer was given a free copy of the book, but it would take more than that to sway her to write a less than totally honest review).

Just when you think it is safe to leave the kitchen, along comes Brian Leaf with his latest book on yogi parenting.

There is so much guilt around how we raise our children that I don’t know if I can take any more, but Leaf gives us many reasons to laugh at ourselves along the way. How refreshing!

While I’ve been consumed recently by my son’s graduation and imminent departure for college, Leaf takes me back to the days of diapers and endless discussion of how to parent young people in Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi.

Spoiler alert: No matter how hard you try to make them perfect, they are going to grow up human anyway.

To be clear: parenting is hard. Conscious parenting is even harder. I did not drink until I had children, or at least, I didn’t drink that much.

Now, my answer to just about everything is vodka.

However, like Leaf, I am a yogi. I am not as good a yogi, as I have no idea whatsoever about the whereabouts of the placenta from my two births. On the other hand, Leaf can water the tree that grows from his child’s placenta on the daily.

According to my family, my parenting is radical enough. I have done the best I could to listen to my children, take their side when other adults would take advantage, and eat with them almost every night. My kids never ate mac n’ cheese at a children’s table. They ate what we ate, at our table. I felt this sent a valuable message which was that if the rest of us had to suffer with my cooking then by God, they would have to suffer too.

So now I’ve read the latest Misadventures from Leaf and I have to say, I am a better person for it. Plus, I adore Brian Leaf. I just love how freaking earnest he is. Long after many of us would buckle up a kid in a car seat, Leaf will ponder, and muse, and negotiate, and analyze the mystery and wonder of the morality of the constraint of a human body.

Leaf begins with the beginning, by being an ardent supporter of home birth, hypno-birth, and breath birth. I am often asked, “What is the most yogic way to have a baby?” My answer is, the way that produces a healthy baby and mother.

If you have to use a hospital so nobody dies, then that is the most yogic way, which Leaf seems to agree with (sort of).

Meanwhile, hoping for the best, his wife chose to wait out a six-day labor of intense pain before going to the hospital because the baby was in fetal distress. God bless her. If it was my second delivery, I wouldn’t have had the time for that because my toddler would have needed dinner.

Leaf explores all the ins and outs of raising young children including co-sleeping, attachment parenting and cloth diapers. I tried attachment parenting, briefly, but now that I have teenagers I think much more highly of it as I would actually know where they are if they were still attached to me.

Choosing cloth diapers is important as we have a real crisis today in managing our waste and the environment. Leaf (who goes us one further by buying used cloth diapers) feels that cloth diapers combined with “Elimination Communication” contributed to an early toilet training at age two. My “elimination communication” consisted of asking the boys to give up diapers in exchange for a new truck. Whatever works is my motto.

After Attachment Parenting Leaf leans toward Free Range Parenting, which I believe is allowing the elementary-aged child to climb down from the parent’s arms and play in the front yard. If this is difficult, then prepare for the day that your child can drive, because you will truly understand the meaning of letting go.

Overall, parenting is an individual journey that is hard to share with others without giving a lot of advice laced with a ton of judgment, but Leaf does a beautiful job of describing the conundrums of a parent trying to the right thing. There is a bit too much information for my taste (I know now that he has a very hairy penis, and so, I’ve shared this disturbing image with you too), but he wins you over with his candid, self-deprecating style.

In yoga, there is no one way to do the pose. Neither is there only one way to raise a child. The winner isn’t necessarily the one who bears a six-day labor. The winner is the one who raises a happy, healthy, productive and conscious human being. If it takes an occasional vodka martini or a disposable diaper, then how you get there is your own journey.

Don’t judge until you have walked a mile in a parent’s shoes holding a screaming baby.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Tobias Koepe Flickr

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