For better or for worse, Dr. Benjamin Spock seems unlikely to be equaled in our lifetimes. No single "expert" has yet come along who can match Spock's encyclopedic manual for baby and child care.
And now, as though to underscore this truth, comes another fragmented health guide for concerned parents. The Roiphes, one a psychoanalyst and the other a novelist, offer us "Your Child's Mind" -- the "complete" guide to infant and child emotional well-being.
Needless to say, if your child is depressed because he has the chicken pox, you will need two books to get through the crisis. One might be "Your Child's Mind," and the other would probably be Dr. Spock's (or a similar comprehensive medical-mental handbook).
Despite the limitations implicit in the title, the Roiphes have tried hard to deliver a useful parental primer.
In three sections (divided by age group), the Roiphes cover the waterfront on mental and emotional issues likely to be of concern for parents of children up to age 10. (If your child is older than 10, we must wait for another volume to get information.)
The Roiphes' style is rambling narrative. The authors clearly are of the impression that rhetorical questions (such as, "What part of my life still belongs to me and what to the baby?") are cleverly designed to lead into helpful discussion and illumination.
And, to some extent, their laid-back approach is successful. The book is sure to maintain interest -- just as the "Silver Palate Cookbook" keeps one reading past the recipes. But, much like its culinary cousin, this guidebook is luxury reading.
It is difficult to believe that parents today are willing to read highly specialized medical self-help books. And, generally speaking, most parents would argue that children have problems that are multi-faceted in their cause as in their symptoms.
"Your Child's Mind" is probably a better book for grandparents than for parents. After all, grandparents, presumably, could learn from this text how they mismanaged their own children -- and from this vantage point how to help prevent another generation from going astray as parents.