I’m still getting up with Maddie at night (don’t ask) and, while I enjoy reading while I nurse her, I have found my sleep-deprived brain still too foggy to handle any of the Booker Prize winners waiting for me on my bookshelf. I still need something more bite-sized. So I pulled Temperament Toolsout last week, a book I remembered liking a few years back. This book claims to give you the ability to “work with your child’s inborn traits.” After having reread it, all I can say is, buy this book. It’s magically delicious.
“Children really are different from birth,” the introduction states. “Moreover, they remain different no matter how they are parented.” Any parent of more than one child can tell you that. Isn’t it nice, however, to read an expert’s opinion saying that none of the screwy things your child does are necessarily your fault, or under your power to control?
My mother-in-law calls these little weird preferences children have “scumenicas.” At least I think that’s how it’s spelled, since it is a word she made up. I think it’s a sort of pidgin Italian word. Since she’s Italian. Anyway, if your child needs three stories before bed, and two blankies, and four sips of water, those are his “scumenicas.” Or “scumeens,” if you’re feeling particularly Sopranos-ish, and want to leave off the ends of your made-up Italian words. It’s a great word, isn’t it? You’re welcome.
Anyhow, this book breaks children down into turtles, bluebirds, tigers, and other animal types, and then explains why their various scumenicas are merely part of their inborn temperament. And I have never read a more accurate description of either of my boys. By God, these authors (Helen Neville and Diane Clark Johnson) nail BOTH of them. Cooper is a “Fenler Fawn”: sensitive, intense, and cautious. Fergus is a “Walocka Whale”: high in activity, low in adaptability. I was impressed enough by these descriptions. By the time they were explaining to me why Cooper needs the tags cut out of his shirts, and why Fergus isn’t hungry for breakfast until 10 am, I was like, I live on the 12th floor of an apartment building. How the hell are you looking in my windows?
This book is spooky spot-on. My three-year-old is a whale: constantly moving, but only at his own pace. Now, it seems that these authors did not recently visit SeaWorld, as I did, where the many Shamus are both speedy and eager to please. But maybe they mean a whale in the wild. Anyhow, understanding that my little whale just is how he is, and is not trying to make my life difficult, has already made for more peaceful parenting on my part. So buy this book. As of this typing, it is available used on amazon.com for $1.32.
I was so taken by this whale analogy that I just yesterday downloaded the audio version of What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage, a new non-fiction book that claims to unlock the secrets of Shamu’s trainers, and explain how their same techniques can be applied to incalcitrant children and husbands. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? I’ll let you know how it turns out.