Friday, August 31, 2007

Five For Friday

I am so effin' tired it is not funny. Single parents, bless 'em, have got a lot more going for them than I do. And people jokingly prod me about having other children. Are they out to get me? One kid is enough; any more and you'll be seeing me being admitted to the hospital for exhaustion.

In the months leading up to and those following Little A's birth, I devoured books and magazines about the proper care and feeding of babies. Honestly, I got a wee bit overwhelmed with knowledge to the point that I almost froze when it came to making parenting decisions. I was terrified of not doing the right thing.

After the completion of Year One of Project Alastair, I had mostly abandoned my parenting tome addiction, save for one magazine subscription and occasional illness or nutritional question that needing answering. The longer I spent with my son, the more I grew to understand his own individual traits and quirks and needs and didn't need to rely so much on someone else's opinion to help me parent. Plus, the more his vocabulary and comprehension grew, the better we were able to understand each other. Alastair has also learned to recognize Shark Eyes and come to respect the power of Shark Eyes.

There have been a few books I'd like to share that helped or enlightened or simply amused me in this quest to raise a decent human being:

1. Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson- I positively adore Shirley Jackson. She's one of the boom of great American female writers from the early half of the 20th century that included Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Connor. These two books (read as one volume) are Jackson's memoirs about being a wife and mother to four kids in a small Vermont town. Besides Jackson's dry humor and lack of sentimentality, what I really enjoyed about these books is seeing how much parenting and our attitudes towards parenting have changed. For instances, during the birth of her fourth child, someone joked that Jackson only got pregnant so that she could have a two-week vacation in the hospital from her other children. Two weeks.

2. The Surprising Power of Family Meals by Miriam Weinstein- My family made a valiant attempt to always eat dinner together. Now, by the time I was in high school, we all sat at the table reading something, but reading mostly served to lessen the possibility that my father and I would have an argument about some misguided opinion he decided to share. But I do appreciate the effort my parents made to bring us together as a family on a regular basis. Weinstein does a fine job in her book of analyzing the social, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual benefits of regular family suppers. She also addresses the harm inflicted on the family unit when parents try to cram their children's schedules so full of extra-curricular activities that the only "family time" they have is driving from one event to the next.

3. It Takes a Parent by Betsy Hart: I consider my parenting style retro-modern. No, that doesn't mean I make my kid cut his own switch or sit in the corner wearing a dunce cap. I try to be sensibly strict and provide appropriate boundaries without being a tyrant. Reading Betsy Hart's book was pretty much preaching to the choir. She posits that the popular self-esteem centered, overly permissive style of parenting does nothing but damage a child in the long run, possibly enabling them to grow up narcissistic jerks who make crappy employees and even worse spouses. Hear, hear. Don't get me started on that whole "Everyone gets a trophy" thing.; I hope I am tough enough to help shepherd Alastair through his life's disappointments and not completely shelter him from them.

4. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls- Here's your go-to book on how not to parent, plus an added pick-me-up when you feel like the World's Worst Parent. While there is no doubt Walls' parents loved their children dearly, they just couldn't get their shit together enough to do the basic things necessary to care for their family like hold down a job, pay the bills, keep food in the house; you know, the basics. Reading her memoir, I was constantly amazed at how Walls came out on the other side of her truly bizarre childhood as anything but a complete wreck.

5. The Three Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor- I cannot say enough great things about this hysterical book. It totally brings the hotness. Christie Mellor is totally my girlfriend. Seriously, everyone with kids needs to read it. She takes issue with those parents and how not to become those parents. The foundation of her parenting philosophy: I was here first. Brilliant.

Speaking of martinis, I could totally go for three tonight. Or four. Or a pitcher.

Good weekend, y'all.

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