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Leslie Leyland Fields

Beyond the Law

The best love of the child.

I am reading a book on the plane. The man whose arm threatens to touch mine is reading a book as well. I sneak sideways glances at his title page and realize we are both reading books about children. I am reading my book because I'm a parent of six children and I'll take any wisdom and succor I can find, though I'm not sure I have the appetite for yet another treatise on parenting. The man next to me, I discover mid-flight, is a doctor, his wife is a critical care nurse, and they are reading theirs because they're about to become foster parents. She leans over and tells me why: "I've seen too many beaten and dying children in the emergency room. We have to do something. I'm tired of seeing dead kids."

I had no words to say after this exchange. But my initial hesitation about the book evaporated. I returned to its pages, which then burned in my hands with the fire of her words and her face, a book that suddenly became more than diversion, more than entertainment, more than information.

Despite my heightened attention, there is no desperate, pleading tone in these pages. The 13 essays from various contributors, all scholars in their respective fields, are calm, reasoned, thoroughly researched and quietly enlightening. But The Best Love of the Child: Being Loved and Being Taught to Love as the First Human Right is groundbreaking all the same, responding to the most essential questions for all of us concerned about the well-being of children—our own, and all others. It asks not what is in the "best interests" of the child, the phrase and the sensibility that have directed much of the children's rights movement of the last few decades, most notably the UN Conventions on the Rights of Children (1989), and a phrase that has guided the legal system in its attempts to administer justice for children. Instead, it asks how can we best love the child? This simple substitution of "love" for "interest" moves the discussion about children's well-being two giant steps forward. ...

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