Friday, January 24, 2014

Book review: Life is a blender, by Yana Berlin

Call me unlucky or without a good choice in books, but all the parenting books I've read by now were too self-sufficient and extremely subjective, plus written on a lecturing tone that I don't fancy in any situations, but most specifically when it comes to parenting ideas. On the one hand, it makes sense to lecture, especially when your children are grown up and you can see already the achievements of your educational techniques. However, it may not work for everyone and the humble observation of this simple fact could be a beginning of a honest writing.
Despite my unfriendly observations, I enjoyed a couple of advices by Yana Berlin's Life is a blender. The most important is how to succeed in creating a family out of two different halves of other families. Without a proper balance and a lot of wisdom, the conflicts are predictable and the overall family ambiance can turn into a nightmare for all the members of the household. In her own words: 'A blended family requires a lot of work, patience, understanding, perseverance and open communication, but the first step is embracing the fact that all of you are one unit'. 

Do what's the best for you and the children

Another wise advise is to not insist to stay together while keeping repeating in denial that you do it 'for the sake of the children'. Sooner or later, the children will be the first victims of this situation. The family patterns are most likely transmitted from a generation to another and it is important to offer to the children a good and fair inspiration: 'Children are like sponges. They observe and learn from what they see happening around them'. And this is also true: 'There are no bad kids, but there are a lot of unfit parents out there'. I will not judge parenthood too harsh too, as each parent is special, as the children are too and learning how to deal and educate other persons is not something to judge in black and white.
I also agree with the general aim of her parenthood journey: 'raising your kids to be happy, honest and successful adults - adults who will want to continue the family bond throughout their lives'. After all, we all want this for our children, but our family, social and sometimes even political circumstances are openly preventing it from happening. 

Grounded in your corner? Not my cup of tea!

Berlin herself was born in the then Soviet Union, part of a Jewish family that was lucky to be allowed to escape the country to the Western world. The overall pedagogical knowledge in the old country is dramatically different to the ways in which the Western family patterns developed. Asking your child to time-out in a corner for a while as a punishment - in my old country, the custom was to ask the kid to stay on his/her knees on some nuts shells (sounds crazy but I saw kindergarden children being grounded like this) - sounds cruel or simply not outstandingly smart for a Western reader. Somehow, I bet the efficiency is almost nil. Most smart is to create weekly and daily habits when the family is gathering together - the Friday evening Shabbes meal is an example - and to share responsibilities between the members. 

'First parent, later friend'

I also agree with her three principles, even I would have expected more clarifications and advice about number one, for instance: '1. First parent, later friend; 2. Discipline; 3. Keep being consistent while reasonable and loving'.
As for the number one, a good friend of mine and an experienced therapist, told me the same, adding that: 'A child has only one mother, but can make many friends later'. I fully agree with the theories, but I am still looking how to find the right balance. 

The problematic professional directions

If till now I was relatively sympathetic and understood most part of the advices, the ideas about the professional orientation are, in my opinion, wrong for more than one reason. Yana Berlin says that the parents should decide mostly which school is the best for their children and to plan together the best financial coverage of the study years. True is that in the Western world, the issue of paying for the high education are bothering and a burden to be carried even for more than a decade after finishing the study years. 
'If your financial situation doesn't allow you to put your kids through school, help them make the right choices by choosing affordable yet credible school while borrowing as little money as possible'. What about delaying the entrance to the university and working for a while till you have enough funds to pay part of your studies? Or working during university? Or simply being bold and good enough to get a scholarship? 
On the other hand, one can be happy nowadays, without an academic education and there are many examples of people who didn't have one and still achieving social success.
There are many solutions and I think that this limited perspective doesn't help too much. 
Overall, it was an interesting lecture, but I still have so many questions non-answered that I will insist to search for a simple yet less lecturing type of parenting book.

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