It is time for parents to think outside the box, and Joanne Holbrook’s Your Passport to Parenting is just the ticket to a whole new world of advice and wisdom about raising children to be secure, happy, confident adults.
Joanne has lived around the world, in South Africa, Australia, the United States, and Germany, as well as visited numerous countries and had friends of many ethnicities. More importantly, she’s a mom of two. She has blended those experiences into creating this book, one of the most original, practical, and helpful parenting books in years.
Joanne’s mission as a parent was determined when one of her best friends who didn’t have children said to her, “Why would anyone want kids? All parents do is complain about having them?” Joanne was stunned but soon realized it was common for parents to say things like, “I need a bottle of wine at night,” or “I just want to hide from them for a few hours.” She knew these comments were made when parents felt overwhelmed, but that they still loved their children immensely. Still, she decided something wasn’t right if a parent wasn’t having as much fun parenting as their kids were having being children. So she began to look for better ways to parent by collecting advice on parenting.
In her mission, Joanne also dug into her own past as a white child growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. She shares lessons she learned about how to treat people as a result of those experiences that ranged from not being allowed to play with a Native girl to her mother having to hide their African housekeeper from the police.
Joanne has collected stories from parents she came into contact with from Denmark to the Dominican Republic and everywhere in between. She learned wisdom from a Scottish mother who tells her children the stories of their births as bedtime stories to build their concept of identity and strengthen their mother/child bond. An English mother who was a magistrate taught Joanne not to lecture her children. Instead, this mother would come home and share her work day with her children, such as telling them about the teenager in her court that day who was in trouble for drug use, which served as a moral lesson to her children.
One of my favorite concepts in the book is a question Joanne taught her children to ask themselves when making decisions: “How will this help my future self?” She has taught her children to think about their futures and what they want, and that has helped them make decisions that will help them get there or at least not send them on another path.
But what I most applaud Joanne for is that she hasn’t forgotten what it is like to be a child. She remembers that children live in a magical world, that their reality is not the same as ours. She understands that a child will have a relationship with a Teddy bear as if it were a real person, so when helping your child to clean up their room, you shouldn’t toss the Teddy into the toy chest. Instead, we need to respect our children’s relationships with their stuffed animals. Joanne says if we want to communicate with and relate to our kids on their level, it’s important we remember what it was like to live in that imaginative world and involve ourselves in it. She advocates playing with our children, but warns, “If parents end up playing games we do not enjoy, we will not have any fun, and the kids will not benefit at all. So, do not do what you do not enjoy. Children will soon learn what to involve you in and what to leave you out of.”
Your Passport to Parenting is full of numerous other tools, including how to use Dora the Explorer to help children understand and accept the list of errands you have to do that will involve them, how to teach them gratitude the Fijian way, and the advantage of swap days where they pretend to be the parent and you the child so you can see how they would parent you-an eye-opening experience that actually reveals what they think of your parenting.
Most importantly, Joanne reveals that parenting is not always easy and all parents are doing the best job they can. Consequently, unless a parent is placing a child in danger, we should never criticize another’s parenting. Here is where thinking outside the box comes in as well as understanding that just because we do things a certain way in the United States doesn’t mean that’s the best way. For example, Joanne explains how in Denmark parents leave their children to nap in strollers outside while they go into a coffee shop-mom can still see her child through the window and Danish moms believe the cool air is good for their children. However, a Danish mother in New York was arrested for child neglect for leaving her child in a stroller-she wasn’t wrong-just the victim of a cultural difference.
Other examples about judging parents come from Joanne’s personal experiences as well as parents with special needs children-especially those whose needs may not be visibly obvious. For example, when an autistic boy had a meltdown in the ice cream line, another mom’s comment that he didn’t deserve ice cream did not help the situation, especially since she could not understand the child’s reaction or that it was normal for him.
Joanne reminds us, “We can never judge a mom or dad in a moment. You do not know where they are in their day, week, or year. You have no idea what has happened before or after, and one glimpse into their lives does not tell you the whole story. Your perspective might not be entirely accurate.”
I hope you will take this armchair trip around the world with Joanne to discover how other parents parent. I think you will come away feeling wiser about how to parent as well as having more parenting tools. Most of all, you may be relieved to discover how well you are doing as a parent.