By David R. Altman

Dear Girls

I’ve just finished a book called Untamed, by Glennon Doyle. Have you heard of her?

She is a great writer, a New York Times best-selling author, and her views on life, relationships and parenting are, to put it mildly, very non-traditional. If you learn about her life, you will see why.

Doyle is a 40-something Mom with three kids who, after years of struggling with bulimia and addiction, divorced her (unfaithful) husband several years ago to marry Abby Wambach, an international soccer star.

There are a lot of things to write about after reading this book, but it’s Doyle’s absolute courage as a parent that is so impressive.

As wonderful Moms yourselves, it’s this portion of Untamed that I’m sharing with you all so that you can get a sort of different perspective on being parents.

Specifically, while we work so hard to be “good” parents that we might (inadvertently) be coddling our kids so much that they can’t be themselves.

Doyle writes that over-protecting our kids does not allow them to experience all of life (what Doyle calls the “Knowing”). That means experience the joys and the pain and the truth versus what might be called societal norms (where are kids are so often protected at all costs).

In the passage below, you will see her disdain (her cynicism) for these sorts of mothers and fathers (and, an entire society) who are always protecting their kids, which I believe is not all bad. Doyle, for many good reasons, offers a somewhat harsh (tough love?) way of child-raising, so I don’t agree with it 100%, and it’s certainly not the primary way Mom and I tried to raise you guys, although we both believe you turned out to be pretty perfect!

Still, Doyle’s profound writing on this subject gives us something we need to think about.

I hate to offer this without you having the context in which it is written. You have to read the book before you get to this chapter. I know there is often no time to read when you are chasing (or carrying) all the kids (our wonderful grandkids!) all over the place.

But, like all good books, you will need to understand the context to appreciate what Glennon Doyle went through to both keep both her sanity and her family.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the Doyle’s book. It’s from the chapter entitled “Memos”.

“Now the goal of parenting is: Never allow anything difficult to happen to your child. To that end, she must win every competition she enters. (Here are your four hundred participation trophies, distribute accordingly.) She must feel that everyone likes and loves her and wants to be with her at all times. She must be constantly entertained and amused; every one of her days on Earth must be like Disneyland, but better. (If you go to actual Disneyland, get a fast pass because she should never be forced to wait. For anything, ever.) If other kids don’t want to play with her, call those kids’ parents, find out why, and insist they fix it.”

Funny, but not real funny, right? We know Moms and Dads like this (have we all, at times, been Moms and Dads like this?).

Her advice is not just about parenting. Take a look at your own busy lives (Mom and I have been where you are now). Each of you is balancing careers with parenting. Please don’t try to be all thing to all people. Doyle is living proof that it won’t work.

“I became a good wife, mother, daughter, Christian, citizen, writer, woman. I made school lunches, wrote memoirs and rushed through airports…[but] I was afraid of what was inside me. It felt powerful enough to destroy every bit of the lovely life I’d built.”

Don’t stop doing what you guys are doing. You are all wonderful Moms. I offer this only because it offers a very different perspective on parenting. The fact that is it different makes Doyle’s message even more valuable.

After many years of struggle, Glennon Doyle’s story has become a happy one.

Doyle and her wife Abby and ex-husband Craig Melton have a constructive, strong relationship. They are all working together to successfully raise the children.

Like you girls and the gifts you bring to others, Doyle has started an on-line community called Momastery and has built a successful charity called Together Rising, an all-women-led nonprofit that supports women and families in crisis.

The gifted writer chose to do the hard thing and to follow the “Knowing”, which she describes as a “…nudge that guides me toward the next precise thing, and then, when I silently acknowledge the nudge—it fills me.”

Girls, we all have nudges. We all have instincts. Don’t ever lose them. As Moms and wives, pay attention to the things you think are important and be on guard that you aren’t tempted to take the easy path and focus on those things that are not.

We are so proud of you guys and the love you and your husbands give to the kids. You are raising bright and beautiful families—but keep Glennon Doyle’s experiences close to you.

There are lessons in Untamed that we all should pay attention to—and should ignore at our own risk.

Love & blessings,

Dad

David R. Altman and his wife Lisa have three daughters and seven grandkids. He is a member of the American Academy of Poets and the National Books Critics Circle, and lives in Hoschton. He can be reached at altmandavidr@gmail.com.

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