Living Snoqualmie Regional Reads: The Spies Next Door Christina & Ryan Hillsberg

“LICENSE TO PARENT: How My Career as a Spy Helped Me Raise Resourceful, Self-Sufficient Kids”

We all like to shop & eat locally to support Valley businesses, so shouldn’t we be reading local too? Introducing a new column, Regional Reads, where Living Snoqualmie will spotlight local authors and the books they’ve written.

I first met my neighbor Christina online when, unfortunately, her family had issues with a car prowler late one night. Over the course of several months, we chatted several times over neighborhood road happenings, the wildlife we had seen, an abandoned car and replacing a frequently broken into community mailbox. I also found out my young dark-haired stay-at-home mom neighbor was a former CIA intelligence officer.

Well, that’s not what I pictured.

So, when I found out that Christina, along with her husband Ryan, also formerly with the CIA, had written a parenting book. I had to read it.

From the publisher:

Parents today have never had more reason to be concerned for the safety and security of their children. Former spy turned stay-at-home mom Christina Hillsberg provides a possible antidote for anxious parents in LICENSE TO PARENT, a groundbreaking guide to raising resilient, self-sufficient children based on Christina’s experience as a CIA analyst.

Part memoir, part manual, this unparalleled look at child-rearing provides both an inside look into one of the world’s most clandestine organizations and a practical guide for how to utilize key spy tactics to teach kids important life skills—from self-defense to effective communication to conflict resolution. It’s the most unique approach to parenting you’ll ever read—think “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” but with kids—and has already been optioned for TV by Imagine Entertainment.

Christina Hillsberg never dreamed that a college Swahili course would lead her to a career in the CIA—or that she’d meet her husband Ryan, a fellow spy and hotshot field operative, during her time there. But as fate would have it, they fell in love, married, and soon were raising three children from his first marriage, and later, two more of their own.

Christina knew right away that there was something special about the way Ryan was parenting his kids, even if initially their obsession with surviving end-of-world scenarios and their ability to do everything from archery to motorcycle riding gave her pause. More than that, Ryan’s kids were much more security savvy than most adults she knew.

 It wasn’t long after they married that she realized the secret to Ryan’s parenting success: he was using his CIA training and field experience in his day-to-day child-rearing. And why shouldn’t he? The CIA trains its employees to be equipped to deal with just about anything. Shouldn’t parents strive to do the same for their kids?

As Christina grew into her new role as a stepmom and later gave birth to their two children, she got on board with Ryan’s unique parenting style—and even helped shape it using her own experiences at the CIA. Told through honest and relatable parenting anecdotes, Christina shares their distinctive approach to parenting and gives practical takeaways rooted in CIA tradecraft along the way.

LICENSE TO PARENT aims to provide parents with the tools necessary to raise savvier, well-rounded kids who have the skills necessary to navigate through life.

Full disclosure, my kids are of the furry kind, and I thought most of my neighbor’s book would be lost on me. However, after spending the 4th of July weekend with License to Parent, I think there is much to be learned by everyone when reading this book.

With the occasional sidebars from Ryan, Christina shares practical life advice on a variety of topics such as survival, self-defense, and making friends. These recommendations are shared with a sprinkling of insights into how these lessons were learned during their CIA service.

Spoiler alert: being a spy is not at all like the movie Mission Impossible. My imagination made my neighbor’s former job WAY more badass than the book revealed. As Christina explained, espionage should take place in the shadows. If someone is chasing you or you’re being chased, you’ve done something terribly wrong.

Still, even though I have no human children, I could see how the book’s advice would be valuable in a modern age. Present-day pitfalls are addressed, and solutions are given for issues with social media and cell phones in a calm, pragmatic way.

I read this parenting book in two days, even though I have no children myself. It read more like a story than a “how-to” book about parenting, and I found it fascinating. I highly recommend it to the people of the valley and give it a definite thumbs up!

[Do you know a local author? Are you a local author? Have you already read a book written by a local author and would like to submit a review? Email to submit pieces or with questions/information.]

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