I’d like to think that I know something about raising girls — I’m the mother of two daughters, and I grew up in a matriarchal family.

When I was a kid, I imagined my life as an adult: I knew I wanted to be a writer. I knew I wanted to get married. I knew I wanted to be a mom with a household of girls — three or four, I imagined. There would be smocked dresses and bows, a house with a red door and a white picket fence.

And while I’m perfectly happy that I didn’t give birth to my own miniature sorority house and that we stopped at three kids, having a boy was one of the great surprises of my life. It’s pretty safe to say, when it comes to raising our son, we are winging it.

And so, when an opportunity recently came up to participate in a church-based book group that focused on raising boys, I jumped at the opportunity. I figured I needed as much help as I could get.

The book we are reading: “Bringing Up Boys” by James Dobson. Full disclosure, I knew Dobson is a conservative author. And, well, if you read this column regularly, you know that I’m — not. But what blindsided me was how conservative Dobson’s book is.

If you believe women belong in the home, if you advocate homeschooling over traditional schools, if you believe that white men in America are unfairly losing their place because of women and minorities or if you have a particular distaste for gays, lesbians and/or “feminists,” then this book is for you.

But don’t waste your money if you’re a single parent, if you were raised by a single parent, if you’re a woman with a career, if you’re an educator in the public schools or if you’re someone who believes that girls should have every opportunity that boys have.

As an optimist, I decided early on that I was going to finish the book, go to the book discussions and try to glean some nuggets of information that might prove useful. And there were a few.

But they were hard to find between the anti-feminist, anti-gay, anti-woman rhetoric. It was hard to pay attention to any good tips because I kept having to resist the urge to throw the book in the trash. My patience ran thin as I’m fairly sure my blood pressure was getting a little high and I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes.

What it did do is make me thankful that I have a progressive husband who believes much the way I do. He does not stick to traditional gender roles in the house, but instead plays an active role in raising our kids, and he does just as much, if not more, of the household chores as I do. It also made me thankful for my working mother, who provided a positive role model for me. Sometimes I think society is a lot more supportive of working mothers now than maybe in the 1980s when my mom was raising us — then again, we still have a long way to go.

What I did find useful was discussing the book with others and finding out that I’m not alone — that there are plenty of other parents out there who are “winging” it when it comes to raising their kids, and that there are plenty of others who found the book extreme, to say the least.

My take: Everyone has different parenting styles. Everyone has different beliefs. And while it may be useful to learn what “experts” have to say on how to raise kids, do your own research. Take recommendations with a grain of salt.

And when it comes to raising your kids, listen to your heart. It’s worth more than a stack of Dobson’s parenting books any day.

— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.