Chaos, Wonder and the Spiritual Adventure of Parenting, edited by Sarah Conover and Tracy Springberry

Even before I became pregnant with my first child, I began amassing baby care and parenting books. Unsure of myself as a parent, I sought solace in the opinions of others. Over the last decade, I’ve grown into my role as mother enough that I’ve given away most of the books I’d collected in those early uncertain years. Most days, I trust in my ability to doggy paddle through the waters of motherhood and make the best choices—or at least the best I can manage—for my children and my family. I do some spot-checking, looking back to trusted authors to borrow their faith in a parent’s abilities on those days when I feel the water at my chin and rising quickly, but mostly I feel competent enough to weather the fear on my own or with a phone call to a friend.

Now that I’ve left the parenting instruction manuals at thrift stores in three states, I’ve found myself yearning for a different sort of book. I find myself looking for a book that reflects the spiritual nature of my life as the mother of small humans, that recognizes the challenges and the joys as part of something that feels much larger than the decision about how much screen time my kids should have or the anxious moments scanning tiny print to make sure there are no hydrogenated oils in the store-bought cookies. Because I’m a UU and because I’ve had great luck finding the kinds of books that speak to me in the UUA bookstore, I aimed my browser in that direction and found Chaos, Wonder and the Spiritual Adventure of Parenting, which turned out to be just what I’ve been seeking.

Sarah Conover and Tracy Springberry join their essays with those of twenty-four other writers from a variety of faith traditions to tell stories of how parenthood has broken open their hearts, as Rosemary Bray McNatt puts it in her essay. Reading this anthology, I felt like I was in the presence of kindred spirits, surrounded by people who, though they come from very different backgrounds, face the same daily struggle I do of remaining sane in the face of the huge emotions our children bring to the surface.

Through their successes and failures, loves and losses, these fellow parents uncover more strength and love within them than they imagined was there. I especially love the stories about how the challenges of parenting has made these individuals more effective and patient in helping others outside their families. This is one of the fears I have—that the skills I’m developing at home with my children aren’t really transferrable to the adult-filled Outside World and once my children leave the nest I’ll be completely useless—and reading about those who’ve seen this whole thing through to the post-kids-at-home stage helps me feel less terrified for the future.

“How do we change our conditioned responses from the wounds inflicted by our families of origin so that we don’t harm our own children? Either parenting becomes our spiritual practice, or we bequeath the damage to another generation.” -Sarah Conover, from her essay, “Orthopraxy”

Read for the 2015 TBR challenge.

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