A few months ago, I was taking a yoga class, during which the teacher casually remarked “sometimes we have to practice doing the things that are hard”. Since then, I hear her voice speaking these words in my head almost every day, and as I read Danya Ruttenberg’s book “Nurture the Wow”, they resonated even more strongly.
In the past, I haven’t been much of book highlighter, but my pen got an unusual workout as I raced through this book. Ruttenberg’s premise, that parenting can be understood as a spiritual practice, and that the Jewish tradition contains texts and images that could help steer parents in the right direction reflected the best parenting advice I had received back when I was pregnant. She reminded me of the truths that parenting is something that happens every day, and that a child is a person. In other words, every day I have to show up trying to be the best parent I can be, but what I have to give on any given day is changeable. There are days when having to be the adult in the relationship with my three year old seems an unattainable and unreasonable expectation. Another day may find me glowing with pride at what we have learned together. My child is a person, and as such, she has (strong!) feelings, needs, and preferences that deserve to be respected, if not always fulfilled.
Being a slightly seasoned parent, I am nearly 100% certain that I appreciated Ruttenberg’s words much more now than I would have with a newborn. Aside from the practical considerations that parents of newborns don’t always have to read, I believe I gained more in reading the book from being able to consider my particular relationship with my child. In doing so, I could engage more completely with the intimacy of the topic. Spirituality and parenting are lovely concepts, but I needed some experience with both in order to connect more deeply with Ruttenberg’s ideas.
Ruttenberg’s tone is serious, as befits the challenge of her subject, but her fluency in describing her ideas and her healthy sprinkling of personal anecdotes allows the reader to approach the book with greater confidence. It is not a how-to guide. There are no worksheets or quizzes, simply the opportunity to consider how as parents we choose to approach the task that is among those closest to our hearts.
Over the next couple of days I will be tweeting some of my favorite passages from this book with #nurturethewow. Follow me there @bookandblintz, and let me know if these words speak to you as well.