Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Baby in the Mirror

I have a whole new book to read. It makes me feel quite giddy with the excitement of discovery. Also it was a freebie from my sis-in-law. Given my ability to fritter my money away on presents for Ellie and other small people this comes as a relief. Sometimes (err always?) it feels like cash is just flowing away from me.

The book is The Baby in the Mirror, by Charles Fernyhough.

I know. A book about babies written by a man. Already my cynicism, scepticism and negative stereotypes are firing up and I'm getting ready to take a few cheap pot shots at any naive, glib or pompous assumptions. But that would be my female chauvinism at work, wouldn't it?

I'm going to try and get a grip on these less attractive lines of thought and give it my best shot. My mind is open and I'm going to see what there is to discover.

It should be interesting - it's all about a child's development and growing sense of self awareness between the ages of birth to three years old. Since this covers the terrible twos, I'm hopeful that I'll gain some useful insight into what Ellie might be thinking and feeling and therefore have a clue about what I might do in response.

I've only read the first chapter and I think it bodes quite well. He's a lecturer and researcher in developmental psychology, so I'm expecting him to be quite thoughtful in his approach. He's written the book following the birth and first three years of his own daughter. So he does have some recent, first-hand experience. This isn't all clinical research.

Already it feels like stepping into an alternative world. The first chapter sets the scene of his research and the birth of his daughter. He has a rather intense (on his part) and amusing (her part) conversation with his daughter where he asks her what she remembers of her life as a baby. This serves to illustrate how children only start to see the world subjectively from about the age of two and a half. He does confirm that his life did alter when she came into his world. However, he doesn't once talk about caring for her, being responsible for her, loving her.

I'm not saying he doesn't feel any of these things. I just find it odd to read a book about children, by someone who has had a child for the first time, to not acknowledge the impact this new person has had on their lives.

Is it a fatherhood thing? He says having her was like bringing his work home with him - albeit in a very positive, fascinating way. I get the feeling his life and focus shifted - whereas most women writing a semi-academic/non-fiction book like this would describe their life and focus to have changed (in both positive and negative ways).

In writing the book, he seems to have the ability to hold the experience of fatherhood at a short remove from the task of research and observation.

It's a curiously male perspective. I'm definitely going to read this book. It might tell me useful things about Ellie, but I'm hopeful it might tell me more about fatherhood and men's ability to compartmentalise their life and work.

If I'm very lucky, I might even see some of my own prejudices overturned. And if I do, I'll share them with you. 


Working mum said...

Sound like this man doesn't know if he's writing about his daughter or research. Talk about losing focus! Also, he can't make assumptions on one child, we all know they are SO different.

Let us know how you find the book. I'm going back to 'Slummy mummy'!

Reluctant Housewife said...

Was he writing for parents or for students or for other psychologists? If the book is intended for parents, I agree with you - I think it would be a bit odd to not address his feelings as a father. Often, I think, psychologists are trained to not acknowledge their feelings towards their subjects, so that might be coming into play as well. If he's writing for other academics, or for students, he might worry that they wouldn't take him seriously if there was a lot of emotion tied up in his research.

Anyway, sounds like an interesting read. I love the cover illustration (but I've heard you can't tell a book by it's cover) ;).

jakelliesmom said...

All I could think about was that this book would no longer apply to my baby, my tiny girl who will be 3 1/2 tomorrow.

I can't wait to hear how the book affects you. Do review it for us.

Amanda said...

Yes, I am interested in hearing about it as well. Maybe I can save Emma Mae, I'm afraid it's too late for the other 3.

SaraLynn said...

I agree, I look forward to review.

CC said...

Huh, well the premise does sound interesting.