The Well-Versed Parent
by Jane E. Hunter, MD
Have a child in your life? Are you a new parent, a new grandparent? If you are about to embark on the challenging journey of parenthood, get this book.
Jane Hunter is a pediatrician who weaves her skill as a physician with her love of poetry in a deeply humanistic way. Using equal doses of poetry and prose, the flow of the book follows the course of human development from birth to middle adolescence when the child “graduates” from pediatrics to adult medicine. Chapter headings reflect these stages: Emergence, Transformation, Discovery, Education, Independence.
Throughout the text and the poetry there is a balance between the joy of seeing a new life move from stage to stage, and the realization that as each new chapter begins, the last one ends. We forever lose the toddler as our child eagerly starts kindergarten.
I give them over to imperfect strangers
No less unwise than I, to be molded
Into a someone neither I
Nor teacher can quite call our own
Jane’s broad expertise and passion make her one part: child psychologist, one part family therapist, one part pediatrician, and one part Kahlil Gibran.
Jane concludes by describing the bittersweet parting at the final family meeting that must happen as our children grow up and move away from us:
“My smile trembles and my eyes fill as I congratulate her and tell her how rewarding it has been for me to be involved with her and her family…I acknowledge with her parents their fine and beautiful accomplishment – as well as the soft strain of impending separation and the diminished role that they will now play in their child’s life. Our affection for each other, forged from crises and joys over many years, hovers between us as we take one long, last look at each other, then say goodbye.”
This book combines the heart of parenting with the developmental stages of a growing child. It also illuminates parental changes along the way. As Jane notes in the video interview, as the child moves into late adolescence and early adulthood, his / her need for the family lessens and the pediatrician gives way to adult medicine. All may feel a lump in their throats at this final goodbye…all except the young person who is eagerly looking forward. As Jane notes, at that point, “I am in the rear-view mirror.” This is as it should be.
Midway through the book, Jane quotes teacher Elizabeth Stone who observed that “Becoming a parent is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” That seems, indeed, to be the essence of this remarkable book.
See the video interview of Jane Hunter: