The Barnes & Noble Review
Too often, in our hurry to be "productive" and to "achieve," we end up brushing aside exactly the kind of life we intend to create for our children. Katrina Kenison's new book, MITTEN STRINGS FOR GOD, offers mothers in a hurry a center of gravity, a call to remember the essential spirit of parenting. With short chapters on subjects such as Quiet, Simplicity, Play, and Balance, she reminds us of the things we would all like to hold onto. Whether or not we agree with all of Kenison's ideas, her personal essays invite us to carve out a space to think about each one. Each chapter ends with a few lines of inspiration to center our mothering.
In "Peace," Kenison writes of a moment quietly knitting beside her son, a moment of restful, nourishing peace for both of them. Do we always need to fill our days with rushing to the moon and back? Can we not give our children and our daily work our full, undivided, loving attention? In our rush-rush, bustle-bustle culture, can we not put more trust in holding still? Kenison writes, "In stillness, we find our peace. Knowing peace at home, we bring peace to the world." And that, it seems, is her central message: Slow down, bring the spirit of peace, love, and worthiness to your homes so that these feelings will be with your children wherever they go.
While Kenison's essays are certainly simple therein lies their power and beauty their messages are far from predictable. In her chapter "Truth," for example, she calls on us to tell our children the "emotional truth." When children ask if a story is true, she writes, they maybeasking for permission to believe. And aren't there different kinds of truth, like the universal truths of good and evil that have lived through the ages in our myths and fairy tales? Yes, she tells her children, this story is as true as true can be. "When we honor our child's faith in magic," she writes, "we extend the realm of the possible."
Although her idealism shines on every page, Kenison doesn't ignore life's underbelly the hard choices, the bad days. In "Surrender," she offers for thought her decision to let her son have toy rifles and wooden swords, trusting that his peaceful nature would eventually reclaim his imaginary play. Her son revels in his new toys, and their home arsenal grows. Then, when she learns of the tragic school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, Kenison finds that she can no longer stand behind her decision, and asks her son if he will consent to cleansing the house of these beloved toy weapons, which he does, bar one. The story becomes a lesson for us in surrendering to our children, learning to grow from those surrenders, and helping our children surrender to us as well.
MITTEN STRINGS FOR GOD is a mostly rose-colored spotlight on the sweetness and joy in mothering and in our lives. Embedded in this view of mothering, however, lies a quietly radical agenda to bring our lives back into our own hands, away from those who would schedule us into "success," away from the hype of television, the bright lights of Hollywood, the consumerism that has invaded even our celebrations. Even the most cynical mother may find herself fighting back a tear as she recognizes in Kenison's elegant essays some of her strongest beliefs, along with the love and that sense of magic that we all want to pass on to our children.