I had been looking forward to reading Noah’s Children for days, but had to wait until I got on an airplane to actually open it up. You see, I had been too busy up until that point, taking care of my children.
From what I had seen on the book cover and in the table of contents, the book appeared to be an extension of the perspective of author Sara Stein’s previous book Noah’s Garden into the arena of childhood. Noah’s Garden had focused on back yard ecology, and so I expected to find ideas in Noah’s Children about how to raise children in a way that gives them appreciation for the outside world, probably with the backyard garden as a place of entry.
That’s not what I found. What I found was a collection of complaints by a grandmother who seems to believe that she knows best about how to raise children. Much of the book is taken up with the description of a large number of people she meets who just can’t connect with children in the marvelous way that the author believes she can. One of the earliest stories in the book, for example, is Stein’s discovery that her grandchildren prefer the toys she gives them to the toys provided by their set of grandparents. Most of the rest of the book is filled with observations about how lovely the author’s grandchildren are, and how they would thrive if only more people could appreciate their needs in the way that she does.
Every now and then, Stein departs from these generations-old topics of grandmotherly obsession to discuss a bit of scientific information – but just a bit – adapted and simplified in order to provide support for her personal ideas about how things ought to be. When these passages touch on subjects I’ve read about elsewhere, I find that Stein’s interpretation is missing vital insights.
There are no special insights in Noah’s Children, and nothing practical or useful for me as a father or a gardener in the book. I quickly tired of hearing Stein’s complaints about how other people get it wrong. I wanted to read some detailed ideas about how to get it right.
I listen to little people whine at me enough. Reading Sarah Stein’s whining was a waste of time for me – and it made my plane ride feel longer, not shorter.