Archive | Books! RSS feed for this section

Kids Are Worth It!-Barbara Coloroso

5 May

There’s been a lot of changes at my house lately. My husband moving out, changes with child care, growing up, my youngest in school soon-things are busier than ever and I find myself not always having the time to really sit with my kids and connect as much as I might like.

So when Penguin Canada said they had a few copies of Barbara Coloroso’s “Kids are Worth It!” to review, I jumped at the chance. I’m not so crazy to think that I know everything, especially when it comes to parenting my children. Losing my mother young, I often feel like I don’t always have all the tools I need.

Most parenting books irritate me-they speak in various voices, but mainly in two-one that assumes you’re a blithering idiot, and one that assumes you can’t possibly know what’s best for your children. For the most part, Coloroso avoids these.

Originally written in 1994, and reissued with a new introduction, Coloroso does follow the general parenting advice flow of slapping labels on parenting-namely, splitting them into 4- the Brick Wall parent , the Jelly Fish parent (A&B) or the Backbone parent. All problems and successes flow downhill from these.

Much of the advice using this mechanism is valid-I find I vacillate between a Jellyfish B and a Backbone parent. (Either I just ignore them and then yell when angry, or I actually take the time to sit down and be rational, see their view, let them do the work) and agree her take that we should all parent as a Backbone parent-i.e.-let children, where appropriate, find their own answers. Her quote, which I firmly agree with, “it’s not morally threatening, it’s not unhealthy or life threatening” rings true, and is close to my “no blood, no foul” rule in my honest.

The key it seems, according to Coloroso, is to treat your child as the adult they will become. Give them permission to their own body, their own wants. Allow them the wiggle room when younger to experiment and branch out. Obviously, don’t let them drive drunk-but pick a hill to die on. her example of her son’s crazy hair cut is a great one-it’s his head. A little autonomy goes a long way.

I have really enjoyed many of the common sense suggestions in this book-and have already started using some techniques to help with my children. I had fallen off the rails in terms of thinking through my parenting-I don’t think I was ever that far off, but it’s so much easier to turn back into the brick wall parent and just yell and demand. The message that rebellion can be embraced and managed, and is a good thing-we need to hear that!

I also appreciate the common sense that logic should be followed. If I’m late for dinner, I eat late. I may not get as much, but not giving dinner makes no sense. The message being that the power struggle is not valid or purposeful with parenting-this is not a race or a war

This isn’t a quick fix book, as it warns on the back cover. If you’re closer to a brick wall or a jellyfish, making some changes will be hard. I have to fight my own jellyfish tendencies sometimes, trying to not just go against what my own mother did. Kids Are Worth It! is extremely helpful in laying out the reasoning behind examining, and perhaps altering how you parent.

That said, I am not a huge  fan of the idea that ALL rewards and punishments are fruitless-the motivation for many people (my eldest included) is not only job well done-but the outcome of that, or the implication that a reasonable line of consequences (told you 6000 times to clean your toys-if you can’t take care of them, they disappear) ISN’T reasonable. 

Personally do not like the implication that all kids who are not parented correctly “as backbone” in book will then become promiscuous, drug users or run away. Seems like a relatively simplistic view which isn’t levied by the disclaimed early on that not ALL kids are going to end up like that, and it seems to continually come back to this point through the book.

Overall, unlike many parenting books that leave me rolling my eyes, annoyed, I find Kids Are Worth It to be just as relevant now as it was in 1994, if not more so. The stunning conceit of treating kids like human being-what a concept. This book was also great in terms of covering and applying the concepts to all age groups-something not all books are able to do.

Not only did Penguin Canada provide me with a review copy, they also gave me 2 copies to give away! To win, leave me a comment about your most difficult parenting scenario so far, and what you did to alleviate it.

I’ll take comments until midnight, Saturday May 8. 🙂

Review: Piece by Piece

24 Mar

Any of us who have been teenagers know well what it feels like to be alone in a crowd. So that would be all of us. Show me someone who has never felt the outsider, and I’ll show you a liar. We have all felt “the other” at some point, even if it was just once at the Spring Formal where everyone else was wearing a skirt and we wore pants.

Piece by Piece: Stories about Fitting into Canada, goes beyond the experience most of us have had. A compilation piece showcasing the immigrant experience in Canada, it starts with Svetlana Chmakova’s drawn story “Red Maple Leaves”, of integrating in high school, ending with Ting-Xing Ye’s “Permission to Work“, on her experiences on starting over after life in Communist China, and trying to find work. Between these two women are stories of varied experiences of arrivals from Iran to England, with the corresponding suffering, confusion and glee at finally being in Canada.

I personally love reading stories like these. Those of us who are generations in, born to Canada tend to take for granted how blessed we are, how a simple thing like dissenting freely is truly a gift. Piece by Piece is targeted to a young adult audience, and the brevity of the essays shows that. However, it’s an interesting and sometimes insightful read, allowing a view into a perspective many of us don’t imagine. The wonder of snow after growing up somewhere warm. The unconscious breath let out once safe on Canadian soil, where no one will rape or torture you for speaking out. How something as seemingly insignificant as a different name can have such an impact on who you are, and who you are perceived to be.

As someone will a relatively obscure name, I related particularly well to Mahtab Narsimhan’s “What’s In A Name?”, her story of coming to Canada and having to “become” someone else, her name complicated for many native english speakers. We all have preconceived notions of who people are, especially when dealing with others over the phone. Her supervisor tells her to change her name to something easier “something more Canadian”

For many of us, it begs the question of what exactly Canadian IS, since we are, for the most part, a country of people “from away”.

This is a quick read-at least for those of you who, unlike me, don’t read 10 books at the same time. I’m looking forward to reading many of these stories to my daughters, and keeping this copy around for them to help illustrate how complicated our mosaic really is-the Canadian experience tends to be portrayed as all puppy dogs and peaches, when in reality, it’s a muddled, frightening mess, with the occasional glimmers of hope and happiness. The stories in Piece by Piece end well for the most part, but provide a good window into the experience of a newcomer.

Piece by Piece is published by Penguin Canada, and my copy was provided free for review.

After You-Julie Buxbaum

12 Sep

I was so excited to read this, and hated having to wait to talk about it!!!

The blurb:

The complexities of a friendship. The unexplored doubts of a marriage. And the redemptive power of literature… Julie Buxbaum, the acclaimed author of The Opposite of Love, delivers a haunting, gloriously written novel about love, family, and the secrets we hide from each other–and ourselves.
It happened on a tree-lined street in Notting Hill to a woman who seemed to have the perfect life. Ellie Lerner’s best friend, Lucy, was murdered in front of her young daughter. And, as best friends do, Ellie dropped everything–her marriage, her job, her life in the Boston suburbs–to travel to London and pick up the pieces of Lucy’s life. While Lucy’s husband, Greg, copes with his grief by retreating into himself, eight-year-old Sophie has simply stopped speaking.

Desperate to help Sophie, Ellie turns to a book that gave her comfort as a child, The Secret Garden. As the two spend hours exploring the novel’s winding passageways, its story of hurt, magic, and healing blooms around them. But so, too, do Lucy’s secrets–some big, some small–secrets Lucy kept hidden, even from her best friend. Over a summer in London, as Ellie peels back the layers of her friend’s life, she’s forced to confront her own as well: the marriage she left behind, the loss she’d hoped to escape. And suddenly Ellie’s carefully constructed existence is spinning out of control in a chain of events that will transform her life–and those around her–forever.

I really liked The Opposite of Love-anything that bridges that gap of motherloss I usually really identify with, since the feelings and experiences are rare, but yet so similar between us. After You takes a slightly different tack while playing with the same ideas-but the motherloss if shown from the experience of the child, the father and the sister (figure), showcasing how the loss can cross and like a dagger, slaughter all.

I found After You to be solidly written-if anything, the writing was more mature, sober, and yet still I found myself snorting with laughter in a few places. The writing around the family-the suffering husband, the mourning child-was nearly perfect. The raw emotion after loss-the sudden new context that brings to lives-I loved this, and identified so fully.

At first I couldn’t understand why Ellie would drop her life completely when her friend is murdered-we’d all visit, but would we stay? But then the context-her own lost baby, her starry-eyed view of Lucy-remind us that we don’t all make reasoned, understandable decisions all the time. As a mother, imagining the daughter of my friend alone, without a mother would be enough to drag me across the world.

I really enjoyed this book. Until I didn’t.

The book was 336 pages long. About 331, I stared yelling at it, scaring the cats. “WHY!!! JULIE WHY!!!!”

I’m not going to ruin it. But let’s just say that this book takes the hard road a few times, not necessarily the surprising one but the honest hard one. And then, suddenly, either she got tired, and reconsidered and wanted a happy ending.

And it did not work. Not one bit. I didn’t want it, not after how the book had developed, and frankly, I didn’t see Philip wanting it either. It didn’t make sense after everything, to suddenly tie the world up in a bow.

The majority of the book dealt with real life, and did so honestly. The ending, frankly, was almost a betrayal. And made me throw the book. I never throw books. I like books.

Julie? Sigh. I LOVED this book up until 331. Then…not so much. I had tried to commit to only reading it near the review due date, and I couldn’t and then I couldn’t stop! It was that good! And then….

I would absolutely recommend this book, but personally, very disappointed with the ending.

After You is available….well, everywhere! And is Julie Buxbaum’s second book.