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Jessica Mills, 'My Mother Wears Combat Boots: a parenting guide for the rest of us'
A plaudit for this book calls it “proof that you don't have to stop rockin' once you become a parent”.
Having never started rockin', I'm perhaps not the intended audience but found it an interesting addition to the panoply of parenting books I've read over the past four years. The book started life as columns for US zine Maximum Rock and Roll, on the theme of “punk parent[ing]”, and much of the content reflects this origin.
There is some useful stuff here, not covered in other parenting books: setting up a childcare co-op and cooperative skool (sic), organising childcare for protests, the perils of consumerism. However, the book generally suffers from TMI (too much information) syndrome, combined with what I can only describe as “gackiness”: sentimentality combined with an unswerving faith that readers will find the every utterance of the author's small daughter as fascinating as she does.
Perhaps it's just my British reserve, but I did gag slightly at sentences (and there are lots of them) such as “I told [her newborn] about all the fun we're going to have and all the love we're going to share”. I struggled too with some of the author's childrearing philosophy. On the one hand, she claims to be rearing a “free” child, free of authoritarian influences, of pressure to consume and to fit in. She doesn't believe in censorship - at all - so her toddler daughter is allowed to have Barbies, Disney girly ick and the like, but then she complains that at the age of four, the child has become obsessed with her appearance and her clothes and even wants to wear make-up. It seems to me that one is an (almost) inevitable consequence of the other.
To my mind, parenthood involves making judgments that the child isn't mature enough to make for her/himself, and may well involve censorship, whether of Barbie dolls or slasher movies. Likewise with swearing: Mills permits her child to swear freely (quoting, with approval, its chanting of “Barbie is a fucker”) but then expects her, at age three, to understand the social contexts in which she mustn't swear (ie in front of grandma).
There is a degree of certainty over these practices which I found rather tiresome: there seems to be no consideration that it's possible to steer children away from certain behaviours, attitudes or consumer goods without being authoritarian. Overall, I found this book has some interesting ideas and insights - particularly the chapters mentioned above - and had a useful resource section, but suffers badly from self-indulgence and is probably 200 pages longer than it needs to be.