Great parenting books aren’t always the apparent best sellers. It’s too easy to get bogged down in too much expert advice, too much ‘science says,’ too many prescriptive formulae about the million and one little things we apparently need to do in order to make sure we don’t permanently traumatize, stunt, or otherwise damage our (inherently vulnerable) children.
Refreshingly, Carl Waggett’s Keeping Me Awake is not at all this kind of book. It’s a gem among parenting books for three reasons.
First, it’s written by a father — not one of those psychologist or pediatrician types who writes parenting books full of advice that do little more than suggest to mothers that their parenting style needs to become even more labour-intensive, emotionally aware and mother-centred than it already is. No, Mr. Wagett is an altogether different kind of father-author. He’s just a regular father, writing about what he thinks is important for dads (and moms) to think about when it comes to raising children, and how important it is for dads to be involved parents — to actually spend time hanging out with their kids and really getting to know what makes them tick.
Secondly, Keeping Me Awake is written as a parable; similar to books like The Celestine Prophecy and Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Although the content is respectably serious in its muster, the parable style gives it a fresh, somewhat more playful and engaging feel than many of the mainstream parenting books on the market.
Thirdly, Keeping Me Awake gives us a sense of the father’s perspective and experience in parenting. This also is something refreshing and new. Through the main character’s struggle to figure out how to best deal with his son’s shyness issues ( which had been framed by ‘experts’ as an emotional problem that required correcting) — and his related struggle trying to figure out the priorities of his role as a ‘good father’ (i.e., successful provider of opportunities and lifestyle for one’s family versus the involved and engaged ‘spend more time with the kids and family’ type of role) — we learn that dads worry just as much as mothers about how to raise their children well.
The teachings that Waggett’s main character receives are sage. They reflect many of the basic wisdoms about parenting that can easily become lost amidst the noise created by our obsessively scientifically-guided, expert-driven, consumerist-based parenting culture. Like the powerful teaching that, more than anything, good parenting is about how you build your relationship with your child — and how important it is to listen, engage in, and positively cultivate their day-to-day interests, relationships, and development. It’s about providing strong leadership, and firm yet gentle guidance.
Equally as important, it’s about listening to your gut instincts, prioritizing family togetherness, and never forgetting the simple yet powerful fact that kids don’t want fancy stuff as much as they just want you (especially Dad).
A recommended read, definitely. If not for the quality of writing (remember, it’s just a regular dad who wrote this — no fancy publisher, high-paid editor or agent involved), read Keeping Me Awake for the honest and powerful ‘father perspective’ it provides, and for the teachings it shares.