Reema Ahmed's book, Unparenting bears the tagline "Sharing Awkward Truths With Curious Kids." It is much, much more than that. It is a deeply philosophical book which has you question many of your own beliefs and practices, and seriously makes you think, not just about parenting, but about your own relationship with the world. It is also gently humorous in places. It can also punch you in the gut.
I read this book a few weeks ago, and have, since then, been wondering how to write about it without merely quoting Reema's words!
Reading (and practicing) Unparenting is likely to provide an antidote to Philip Larkin's immortal 'This Be the Verse':
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
I quote."in its rush to propagate our species, to achieve fulfilment and immortality, to feel whole and happy, we have forgotten something crucial to the survival of the very thing we need--the clarity to want to reproduce not because we feel we need children, but because we want them....very few parents think deeply about what a child really needs beyond the basic requirements of food, clothing and shelter...Does that tiny, beautiful, incredible, individual life exist because you want it to exist, because you're ready and prepared to welcome and nurture it with presence and joy? Or does it exist because you think it is something that must be done or simply because there was a condom 'accident'?....We need to probe deeper into our own patterns of need and neglect as parents that create these 'bad' children who never really grow up...Children are born powerless, innocent and harmless. If they destroy themselves and others, if they fall prey to violence and abuse, then surely, their circumstances are a reflection of the society they live in...children are routinely subjected to fear, punishment, deprivation and neglect. and no one intervenes. Why?"
The author describes real life cases of parenting gone wrong, cases that will break your heart. She speaks of body safety and abuse awareness, in terms which help safeguard rather than frighten the child. She speaks of the child's discovery of its own body, and its curiosity about self and other relevant bodies. The author guides parents to answer their child's questions pertaining to sex with sensitivity, and age appropriate information. The chapter headings speak for themselves, dealing with puberty, sex and reproduction, bullying, relationships, love and dating, single parents and dating, separation and divorce, loss and grief, emotions and mental health. She gives examples from her own life as a divorced single mother with a now teenage son. She writes of the support she has received from her natal family, as well as the difficulty of balancing the emotional needs of her child vis-a-vis the generational differences with her parents. She speaks of the need for support and friendships which sustain.
I find myself unable to do justice to this beautifully written, intensely honest book. I think that the best I can say about it is, Read It! It will transform you.
Unparenting is published by Penguin Random House India.