Lions, Gingerbread Bears, Ants and Eagles (or, What I’ve Been Reading)

I was sat on the floor in the dark, a duvet pulled over me, while my son struggled to settle to sleep. Both of us were out of sorts, tired and restless. By the dim light of my phone, I began to read to him. The book happened to be Prince Caspian, by CS Lewis, and the chapter happened to be the one where Lucy finds the lion, Aslan, in the forest. We were both utterly drawn in, and a huge, holy peace descended on us as we read.

Since then, I’ve been devouring children’s novels myself and also sharing some of them with him. Most of them, I’d have thought him too young for or worried they’d be “too much”. But, my goodness, the conversations we’ve had! And the anticipation we’ve shared for each new chapter! Stories are truly their own kind of magic.

It can be hard for anyone, young or old, to express or process big feelings or ideas, yet books become this wonderfully powerful yet safe space to explore them.

As we’ve read Patricia St John’s Treasures of the Snow, we’ve been enthralled by the magic of the snowy Alpine setting, the gingerbread bears at Christmas and the processions of cows, going up to the peaks in summer, with their bells ringing. But we’ve also connected with big feelings like shame, jealousy, hope and love and big ideas like forgiveness and faith.

Of course, as an adult, there are other books I need as my own safe space, too. Books like Philippa Perry’s The Book You Wish Your Parents Read (and your children will be glad that you did). Perry’s wise, straightforward parenting advice is just so helpful. She acknowledges that we all get it wrong, all feel that shame and worry, all carry a little baggage from our own past or childhoods. But what I love the most is her emphasis on building a relationship with your child, who is a person in their own right. She has helpful thoughts on everything from play to sleep and “behaviour”, all from an attachment focused perspective. I have found in this book helpful reminders about how I want to parent – things that have stayed with me all day, which I’ve been able to put into practice straight away and many times. This book has also validated some of the ideas I have held that I had lost my confidence in and encouraged me that, whilst I don’t always get it right, I’m on the right path and should believe in my instincts a little more. Perry tells a story about her daughter stopping on a walk to watch an ant. Part of her wanted to rush her on, be in control, get home and get on with the plan, but she realised her daughter needed that moment of rest. This was not about a battle of wills but about a little person with a need and a big person modelling flexibility and empathy. I had a few opportunities to put this lesson into practice this week, and each time I did it led to precious moments that I otherwise might have missed.

The other book I’ve had on the go is Singing in Babylon: Finding Purpose in Life’s Second Choices, by Jeff Lucas. This is essentially about what it means to live with faith when life isn’t what you thought it would be. It’s about the ways we grow in hard times. And it’s about the purpose of life being more than finding comfort or happiness. I’m not all that far in, but I’m confident that this is the kind of book we all need right now.

Finally, while we’re on books, my brother has written one and it’s out really soon! I was lucky enough to read a little taster a while ago and what I read just felt like a real gift to the world. He writes evocatively and with humour and insight. It’s called Regeneration and, in his words, “is about the environmental restoration of Mar Lodge Estate, the largest National Nature Reserve in the UK. In short, it’s a story of hope for the future in an age of environmental crisis and climate change. It’s got it all: thrills, spills, eagles, obscure hybrid sedge species … But it’s really about the people who have dedicated their lives to protecting and enhancing a particularly beautiful corner of Scotland.” Click the link below to find out more.

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