06/02/2014 02:50 pm ET Updated Aug 02, 2014


... of a Parenting Yogi is the title Brian Leaf gives to his new book, whose subtitle is "Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting." Together, the title and subtitle pretty much say it all. It's a humorous look at the sometimes sage, sometimes just plain wacky, post-hippie, post-New Age, 21st century mindfulness approach to bringing up baby. It's also a follow-up book to Leaf's Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, whose subtitle, regular readers might remember from my October, 2012 review, was "My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness."

Just so you know: Leaf is a self-confessed Woody Allen type, a cheerful neurotic who happily indulges his least symptom of anxiety or distress -- and now those of his two young sons, Noah and Benji. Obsessed with getting everything just right, the author and his Canadian wife, Gwen, leave no leaf (excuse the pun!) unturned in their search for the optimal method of birth for both mother and arriving baby (and for father), and we are regaled to a sometimes hilarious menu of the current options available to the consciousness-oriented parent. Thus, too, with infancy and the growth from toddler years to early childhood, with all the attendant challenges and potential pitfalls.

It's actually my daughter who should be writing about this book (I ordered her a copy), rather than myself. She's the mother of a two-and-a-half year old who has more energy than a nuclear reactor, and is dealing with all those things I had to deal with 40 (and 50!) years ago. Back then, all I knew how to do was muddle through, with the help of the amiable Dr. Spock. I tend to be of the rather cynical philosophical opinion that the parent's principal job is to make a dreadful mess of things so that the child has to sort out the inevitable sufferings of life for him- or herself. No matter how wonderful the "parenting," there will be difficulties to overcome and suffering to experience...

Still, I did have fun with Leaf. His self-deprecating and, yes, insistently neurotic humor keeps the pace going. It's often laugh-out-loud funny, even though (Woody Allen phobes be warned) it can rapidly descend into the tiresomely cute. But the parenting approaches he and his wife work with -- and sometimes embrace -- are eminently sound and practicable, and often as entertaining for the parent as for the fortunate child -- fortunate, that is, to have so much conscious, caring attention fostered upon him. There's a lot of wisdom here, though I may add that it's of the kind that may be harder to practice than it is to preach. In my own experience, every bit of wonderful child-rearing theory has a tendency to fly out the real-world window when push comes to shove. The first half of the book -- and the less interesting half to myself, as the grandfather of a toddler -- is devoted to pre-birth and infancy. I found myself more engaged by the second half, devoted largely to the post-infancy periods of the toddler and the very young child.

All in all, I'd say, an excellent gift for the kind of young mother who is open to the mindful approach to life, and won't be too annoyed by receiving good advice on how to care for her young.