There’s a joke about a guy who’s standing under a corner street light at night, scanning the ground, obviously looking for something. A passerby asks, “Did you lose something?” The guy answers, “Yeah, I’ve lost my keys.” The passerby begins to join in the search and says, “So you just heard them fall here?” The guy answers, “No, actually I dropped them way back there in the middle of the block, but the light’s much better here.”
The title of this book announces that it’s a book about parenting, and, truly, it is. But it’s not the kind of parenting book you’re probably used to, with step-wise descriptions of developmental stages and corresponding optimal parenting strategies. That’s because this discussion presumes that, like the guy in the joke, we tend to look for the keys to optimal parenting in a place and a light that’s most comfortable to us, when those keys are actually resting elsewhere—a place to which our mind’s eye is less accustomed. Unlike the guy in the joke, we aren’t searching in the wrong place because we’re foolish, but because we’re certain it’s the right place.
We Mistrust Our Relational Nature
Imagine that our society didn’t trust the part of our human nature that handles bone growth. Imagine that, from the devoted perspective of loving parents, we all believed our children’s bones would grow monstrously in all directions, overtaxing their muscles and their hearts and offending our aesthetics, if we didn’t actively intervene. What would we do then?
A First Lesson for Lewis: The Fork in the Road
Lucy and David are lying awake at three in the morning. Facing each other on their pillows, they are softly debating whether or not to go to Lewis, their five-month-old first-born child, who is crying in his crib in the next room. Lucy was just up with him twenty minutes ago. He was fed and changed and had briefly fallen back asleep. Now he is crying again. He didn’t seem sick. He probably, they’re concluding, just wants attention.
Lewis’s Experience Is the Message;
Presumed Innocence Frees Us to Receive It
So is the implication here that Lucy and David should go to Lewis every time he cries? Yes, it is. The goal would be that every time Lewis cries they come pretty quickly, right after the few minutes of waiting to see if he’ll just drop back off to sleep.