Title: Parenting with Spiritual Power
Author: Julie K. Nelson
When I started thinking about getting pregnant for the first time, one of the first things I did was to buy What to Expect When You’re Expecting (this was back in the late 90s, before the books became sort of a joke). For the next few years, when my oldest two kids were little, I read lots and lots of parenting books. I read books on how to get babies to sleep, spirited children, love and logic, sensitive children, and everything in between. I even took a whole bunch of parenting classes based on these books.
And then I got super burned out of parenting books. I found that I could maintain the philosophies they espoused for a few weeks, and then there were things that were either unsustainable or felt weird, and then I felt like it didn’t work if I was only doing some things and not others. So I stopped reading parenting books, and it’s probably been at least seven or eight years since I picked one up voluntarily (other than the memoir-cum-parenting book in the vein of the Tiger Mother, which I love). Most days, my philosophy is to make sure they know I love them and to get to the end of the day with no major mishaps. It’s a victory if there’s no bloodshed.
So maybe I’m not the best person to review Julie K. Nelson’s new book Parenting with Spiritual Power. Nelson’s poetry has been published in Segullah, but she is also an educator and a non-fiction author. Someone more familiar with the genre could compare it with other books out there. I can tell you that Nelson takes familiar examples from the scriptures, some overtly related to parenting, others based more on principles that can be applied to parenting (Lehi and Sariah, and the brother of Jared are two examples), and in short chapters, she first explains the principles, then gives support for those principles from the scriptures and our church leaders, then gives examples of how to apply those principles to parenting. The book also includes a lot of discussion questions, presumably for use in faith-based parenting classes or possibly for book groups.
When I read the book, I felt like it was the kind of book that worked best as a reference. There are about twenty short chapters, and while it’s useful to read through all of them to get an overview, I felt that there were chapters that applied to my situation more than others. Because the chapters are short, they seem to serve as a jumping off point for further study if a family is struggling with a particular issue, or for a way for parents to ensure that what they’re trying to do with their family seems to resonate with principles of the gospel.
That said, when I finished reading Parenting with Spiritual Power, I felt a little bit overwhelmed and a little bit defeated. Nelson reiterates that good parents can have difficult children and that the book isn’t meant to make parents feel bad about themselves, but her examples felt so gospel-based to me that it made me wonder if my kids’ upbringing is a little too secular. Also, because the book covers so many different aspects of parenthood, with the only unifying theme as the gospel, it showed that gospel-centered parenting really runs the gamut of experience, but it also showed that there might be too much material for one slim volume to be a definitive source.