I am an avid reader and, since the boys came home, this has extended to parenting books.
But, remarkably few of this growing pile have been all that memorable or helpful. Yet there is one book that never fails to inspire me with new energy for the task: ‘Zagazoo’ by Quentin Blake.
It’s a children’s book, so perhaps part of its magic lies in the way I read it: there’s always at least one child snuggled up to share the book with me. Reading to the children is an unalloyed pleasure (I am tensing up as I write this, wondering if I am cursing us to never enjoy reading again). It is a moment of shared interest and pleasure and even my least snuggly boy gets good and close to see all the pictures. Perhaps reading this book makes me feel good about parenting because I always read it to the children.
Yet, there is a wonderful message in the book itself. So, here are my top reasons why ‘Zagazoo’ may be the best parenting book of all:
1) The book tells the story of new parents who find their lovely baby has a lot of surprising and tricky behaviours. Which is good preparation for any parents to be, and reassuring for anyone with children!
2) Every time the parents despair of handling their child, the narrator says ‘but then . . .’ and the child’s behaviours change all over again. Again, very realistic and kind of reassuring. So far, we have found that our children’s behaviours always change eventually. Sometimes things appear to get worse, sometimes better, but everything changes eventually.
3) There’s a wonderful passage where the parents never know what their child will be like each day. Each day the child’s behaviour changes. Oh, how familiar that is.
4) Suddenly the parents wake up one day and find their child has grown into ‘a young man with perfect manners’. Just what we’re all hoping for!
5) The last line of the book is ‘Isn’t life amazing?’ My favourite last line of any children’s book ever!
Life is amazing. No phases last forever. Some days you just don’t know what child you will see when you get up. But, one day, your child will be grown up (the perfect manners aren’t a promise).
Admittedly, there is no advice in this book, but it is encouraging. Whereas books of advice might be worth reading a handful of times, books of encouragement are worth reading over and over again.