Earlier this month and a couple days before my youngest son went back to school for his last semester of college, we were out to dinner with my parents. Some delicacy came to our attention and I said to him, "Hey, I can include this in your next care package." He and I both laughed, the joke being that I have sent few care packages during his and his brother's cumulative eight years of college. Many mothers box up their son's and daughter's favorite treats and comfort items at frequent intervals and ship them off to schools across the nation to the delight of their children and children's roommates. I have not been one of those mothers. Although I'm reasonably confident I've been a good mother--despite the care package delinquency--I'll admit to a little critic deep inside that gets busy sometimes tallying up my failures, deservedly or undeservedly, particularly now that I'm on the letting-go side of mothering. Like all myths, the myth of the perfect mother is tenacious.
Leslie Leyland Fields, my former SPU MFA writing mentor and now friend, has a new book about other myths of parenting. In Parenting Is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt, Fields tackles--with honesty and eloquence--distorted ways of thinking about parenting that are 1) not true, and 2) not at all helpful to either child or parent. As I read this book, I underlined what I wanted to remember for being a mother now, but wished that it had been around when I was new to the job. Unlike a parenting book that gives a list of rules (do this, don't do that), this book constructs a mental and spiritual context from which to parent, like a friend along the way. I'll gratefully use it now and give it with enthusiasm to new parents who always seem to receive more than enough onesies and rattles.