Book Review: 2 Thought-Provoking Reads for Parents

I did not expect to enjoy, let alone agree with, Esther Wojcicki’s book, How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results. I was wrong.

If her difficult-to-pronounce last name sounds familiar, it may be because two of her daughters are well-known business leaders (Youtube and 23andMe) while the middle daughter is an anthropologist and epidemiologist. Because of her daughters’ professional prominence I expected the book to be a guide to raising career women and minimizing, perhaps even disparaging, the roles of wife and mother. I was wrong.

While I did cringe at Mrs. Wojcicki’s mistaken description of Judaism’s attitude to women based on her personal experience as the daughter of struggling immigrant parents, I found the book full of (unfortunately uncommon and counter-cultural) common sense, warmth and interesting anecdotes and ideas. Esther Wojcicki focuses on values that she used both as a teacher and as a mother and that she denotes by the acronym TRICK: Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration and Kindness. There is a great deal of thought-provoking material in this book and I do recommend reading it.

At just about the same time I read, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. Written by psychoanalyst Erica Komisar, to my surprise (since I certainly agree with the premise of the title) I found quite a bit to disagree with in this book. The tone is a bit grating and there are some strange statements as well as an annoying demand for government intervention.

However, I do think that this book is worth reading if only because the idea that a mother has unique gifts to offer her child is routinely rejected in today’s culture. This book will make uncomfortable reading for many parents whose children have already passed the ages being discussed but for those who are making decisions for the future it will raise worthwhile points to ponder. Among other nuggets, it raises fascinating questions that should be addressed by those couples planning on having a stay-at-home father and out-of-the-house working mother.

So few young couples today have a healthy grounding for raising a family. Many haven’t grown up in or near thriving families. The current educational system as well as government interference in family life sends confusing, misguided and mistaken messages. Without thinking, repeating patterns from childhood becomes the default and today’s cultural institutions do little to inject wisdom. If these books can provoke thought, discussion and  deliberation they serve a valuable function.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: 2 Thought-Provoking Reads for Parents”

  1. Dear Mrs Lapin and Rabbi, I really miss a solid ground on those issues. My generation was raised in a dysfunctional fashion and we find ourselves with empty hands, even without common sense and any kind of structure. The sources available to mitigate the problem are rare, so such sugestions and appoints are welcome. The work you both are doing is quite important, because in many parts of the world such approach was never formulated. Here, in Brazil, we live in a desert of ideias and wisdom is not even well comprehended. So, thank you again for spreading the words.

    1. Alessandro, the fact that you are taking the time to formulate ideas and think through issues suggests that you will do better than most.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      So good to hear from you Alessandro,
      I understand that things in your generation are not great and that things in Brazil generally have much room for improvement but how are things in the life of Alessandro? Family, friendships, and finance? I hope the answer is “Wonderfully!”

      1. Dear Rabbi and Mrs Lapin, indeed the answer is “wonderfully”. Once again, thank you for your time. God Bless.

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