Books — Dojo Wisdom for Mothers


by Lisa Parsons

Mercy exists in Dojo, A really good book of advice for moms and dads 

Dojo Wisdom for Mothers, by Jennifer Lawler, Penguin Compass, 2005, 226 pages.

The book is called Dojo Wisdom for Mothers but they could’ve called it Dojo Wisdom for Parents. A dojo, by the way, is a martial arts training hall.

Anyway, remember Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid? He’s good-humored and graceful and not to be messed with even though he’s only five feet tall and skinny? Nothing fazes him and everyone (at least the person who matters) does what he says? Dojo Wisdom aims to help you become that kind of parent.

Of course, books don’t change lives, only people change lives, but Dojo Wisdom makes a nice instruction manual. Strike that; suggestion manual. “Take what you can use and discard the rest,” writes the author. The book is a thin paperback written in the form of 100 short rules; this is good, because to survive parenting you must break things into manageable pieces.

So here are 100 pieces of advice, many of which are variations on “be flexible.” Like don’t sweat the small stuff, and pick your battles, and don’t worry about what other people think, and turn a negative into a positive, and be strong without being obnoxious.

Dojo Wisdom works very nicely as a set of meditations, a book you could leave in your car or your bathroom or your purse and read a page of whenever you have a moment. Particularly when you are about to pick up your child from school. Or when you have locked yourself in the bathroom for a time-out while the screaming continues on the other side of the door. Because it’s all about stopping, taking a breath and centering yourself before going back into the fray as unfrayed as possible. And it helps to hear it from someone who’s been there, (Lawler is a parent and a martial artist) and it helps to hear permission to step back and get a grip, even in the midst of the whirlwind. Even while people are looking at you. Even while your kid is yelling.

It helps to be reminded that you are not supposed to know everything, that you don’t need to be a tank to succeed in battle, and that – all together now – you can do it. Not like “I think I can I think I can,” but more like “the force is with you.”

One of my favorites is #24, the admonishment to “Parent in public as you do in private.” It’s damn good advice and it’s damn hard to do (as Lawler acknowledges) – so next time you are feeling self-conscious about it, just hand ‘em a copy of Dojo Wisdom for Mothers and carry on with your Mr. Miyagi momitude.

Because when sensei talks, people listen.

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH