Are you familiar with Letters of Note? It’s a gorgeous coffee table book based on a blog of the same name by British writer Shaun Usher, who has a knack for finding weird, lovely, moving, important, and funny letters written throughout history by famous people and not-famous people. And now there’s a companion volume, Lists of Note, from Chronicle Books, also based on an Usher blog, which features lists compiled by everyone from a 9th-century Tibetan monk, to Albert Einstein, Julia Child, Tina Fey, and Roald Dahl. It too is a delight. You should get it.
One of the lists in the book particularly resonated with me during this High Holiday season. Rosh Hashanah arrived on the heels of entirely too much familial togetherness. The summer has finally limped to a close and all our beloved children are (BARUCH HASHEM) back in school… but now suddenly they’re back out and underfoot again and my patience—not overly ample to begin with —has deserted me.
Here are her “Rules of Parenting”, written in her journal in September 1959, when her son David Rieff was seven. Perhaps she too was suffering from seasonal maternal intimacy, needing to jot down a little reminder to herself about how to be a civilized, disciplined, kind, loving, encouraging parent with boundaries:
1. Be consistent.
2. Don’t speak about him to others (e.g., tell funny things) in his presence. (Don’t make him self-conscious.)
3. Don’t praise him for something I wouldn’t always accept as good.
4. Don’t reprimand him harshly for something he’s been allowed to do.
5. Daily routine: eating, homework, bath, teeth, room, story, bed.
6. Don’t allow him to monopolize me when I am with other people.
7. Always speak well of his pop. (No faces, sighs, impatience, etc.)
8. Do not discourage childish fantasies.
9. Make him aware that there is a grown-up world that’s none of his business.
10. Don’t assume that what I don’t like to do (bath, hairwash) he won’t like either.