It’s nearly that time of year again: summer vacations, downtime, beaches, leisurely afternoons curled up with a book…. what are we talking about; we’re parents! There’s no downtime, especially during the summer months. No matter; we all still need to carve out time to read a good book. To make that a little bit easier, we asked Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick of Photosanity to review some of her top picks for summer reads for moms and dads.
Finding time to read as a parent is really hard, we know. Some days we’re lucky if we remember to brush our teeth! For those of you in the baby or toddler years, it may feel like you’ll never read a book again… but fear not, one day your children will be older and perhaps immersed in books themselves, or strong enough at swimming that you feel comfortable sitting beside the pool with a book – this happened for me last summer (my kids are 5 and 8), and it was revolutionary! I also listen to a lot of books on Audible while I’m in transit either walking to my office or riding the subway to and from the city.
Here are two of my favorites reads for parents – and no they are not parenting books! They are great reads, regardless of whether you have kids, but I found them relevant to parenting as well as to life, and particularly helpful post-election reading.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck
It’s because of Dweck that we read so much in parenting literature about praising for effort rather than outcome, talent or intelligence. We’re supposed to say “I like how hard you worked on that” rather than “Great job” or “I like how observant you are” rather than “You’re so smart!” but this can feel very counter-intuitive.
Mindset is worth reading to understand the thinking and research behind these directives. Dweck goes into detail about the difference between a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset, applicable in all areas of life from business to sports, art, creativity, education, relationships and more.
She proposes that while we are all born with inherent talents, skills, and traits, none of them are fixed, and all can be learned. Failure, then, is not a reflection on who you are or what you are capable of, but rather an opportunity to learn and improve. A growth mindset leads to higher levels of not just success but the ability to overcome adversity to find satisfaction and happiness.
In fact, my son’s second-grade class has been studying the growth mindset too! You can check out http://ideas.classdojo.com to see videos on concepts such as “your brain is a muscle,” “the magic of mistakes” and “the power of YET.”
Rising Strong presents a different but compatible take on overcoming adversity. Brown talks about an approach to resilience that looks at how you can take a “face down on the arena floor” type of moment and get curious about what put you there. She proposes that if you can look past your initial reactions and get to a deeper understanding of where those responses are coming from and own where you are, you can then get the courage to write your own new and more courageous ending.
She talks about the importance of owning our stories so we “don’t spend our lives being defined by them or denying them”, of how empathy and compassion are necessary to bring about healing, and, this was one of my favorite parts, about how her research found that the most compassionate people are the ones with the strongest boundaries – having boundaries was what enabled them to stay out of resentment and therefore be more compassionate.
Another concept I found very powerful was the idea that your life can be better when you assume that people are doing their best – this keeps you out of judgment and allows you to focus on what is, rather than on what should or could be.
Mindset is a little bit of an easier read, Rising Strong is more nuanced, but both have the power to fundamentally shape your approach to both parenting and life.
Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick is a family photographer turned photography coach for parents. She founded Photosanity to help parents find joy & connection through photographing their kids. Born and brought up in the UK, Alethea lives in Brooklyn with her husband and her two sons, Liam, age 8, and Jack, age 5.
Alethea has taught workshops at the Apple Store, Brooklyn Baby Expo, Brooklyn Babybites (now Mommybites) and online through Photosanity.com and other platforms. She has been interviewed on 1010WINS and featured in The Daily Mail, Cool Mom Picks, Apartment Therapy, Ask Moxie and Mom365.