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Posts Tagged ‘parenthood’

Track 17: Compilations

Compilations

Chris Baker

There’s a scene in Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby’s father wakes him from hard slumber by way of a bucket of water. The parental rouse-à-la-douse, despite the trope, is almost certainly threatened more often than it is executed. While I found the stunt humorous as a kid, I never thought to question from where a parent’s motivation would originate for this and other sadistic reveille. I often reconsidered the concept during the summer of 2013 as I sat in my oldest child’s bed for hours every night, waiting for her to fall asleep.

Growing up, my parents never threw water on us to wake us up, but my dad had a penchant for bursting into my room in the morning while singing. You could never predict what he might be singing: Christmas songs, folk music, liturgical hymns, 1960s/1970s pop. But regardless of the genre, it never failed to annoy. Perhaps, it’s childish narcissism to require intentionality of the annoyance. My experience as a parent suggests that my parents spent less time thinking about us than I assumed at the time. My dad might have just been doing what comes naturally to us morning people; namely, enjoy ourselves while unintentionally pissing off everyone around us. But early morning retaliation is what I thought about as I sat in bed with my daughter, who was tired but awake. She was too excited or anxious or who-the-hell-knows to go to sleep on her own like she had for the previous four years of her life. So, I sang. (more…)

Track 8: The Past Was Close Behind

The Past Was Close Behind

Joe Fruscione

 

We’d turned 30 just a few months apart, but I’d never given the album much thought until we were the same age. Blood on the Tracks found me in an eventful, moody, and transitional year, and Bob Dylan now mattered to me. A lot happened in 2005, including—most significantly—earning my doctorate in English and dealing with the end of a seven-year relationship. In mid-April, I was single again after a sudden but necessary breakup. Then, in early August, I was “Dr. Joseph Fruscione” and preparing for my first semester as a professor, who wasn’t also writing a dissertation.

That summer, a cousin sent me some burned CDs from artists I’d always meant to get into, among them Yo La Tengo, Wilco, and Dylan. Blood on the Tracks was the first Dylan album I’d listened to in full. I was hooked from the beginning. Earlier that year—not long after the breakup—my friend Meg told me to just keep on keepin’ on. Her dad had always said it to her, so she passed it along to help me. When I first heard Dylan sing, She had to sell everything she owned and froze up inside / And when finally the bottom fell out I became withdrawn. / The only thing I knew how to do / was to keep on keepin’ on / like a bird that flew, late in “Tangled Up in Blue,” I paused, remembered what Meg had said, and smiled. (more…)

Somewhere Else

She never felt like she belonged anywhere, except for when she was lying on her bed, pretending to be somewhere else.”–Eleanor & Park

I picked up Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park this weekend because I wanted to read a book that wasn’t about the craft of writing, zombies, hippos going beserk, higher ed, or American religions. Someone somewhere mentioned that I should check out Rowell’s novels, so I downloaded Eleanor & Park to my Kindle.

The novel, set in 1986, traces the friendship and later romance of two 16-year olds. Eleanor is the new girl with bright red curly hair and full figure. Her family is poor, white, and dysfunctional. Her stepfather abuses her mother physically and emotionally. Park comes from a loving family. His mother is Korean and his father was in the armed services, but they don’t entirely understand their oldest son. Park loves comic books and music. He meets Eleanor on the bus. Mutual antagonism turns into kindness; kindness morphs into first love.

Never has any other novel I’ve read evoked what it is like to a teenager in such a humane and profound way. Rowell renders the melodrama of our teenage years not as caricature, but as intense, inescapable reality. Everything appears pressing because everything is pressing and significant and life-ending. Bullying is a fact of life as are shallow judgments about worth based on appearance, class, and race. Teenagers come into their humanity fighting against burdens of culture that adults have already accepted as normal and expected. They rail against life being unfair; we’ve already noted that it is and moved on. They think love can conquer all. We wonder if love has the longevity and stamina to conquer the mundane wear-down of life. They think they’re the only ones with these particular problems in these particular times. We recognize the familiar struggle of youth and the pained attempts to figure out what where we belong.

Eleanor & Park transported me back to my teenager years viscerally. The novel dredged up a host of things that I keep trying to forget. (more…)

The Parenting Paradox

I’ve published my first non-academic book review over at BookTrib.  I reviewed Jennifer Senior’s All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Ecco: 2014), which I adored. I recommend to all parents, and anyone who wants to understand why parents act in the erratic ways that we do. (Hint: It has something to do with living with mini-humans whose brains function differently from our own.)

Here’s a sample:

Like all other parents, I realized (philosophically) that a child changes everything. Other adults told me this as a warning, but I didn’t know exactly what they meant until my daughter arrived. A child makes you into a different person than your childless self in the most abrupt and exhilarating fashion. Children change us in intimate and profound ways that can’t be easily predicted.

Most books about parenting, however, might warn you that life changes, but they don’t worry about you at all. These books, instead, care about your offspring and your impact, good or otherwise, on them. There’s much more concern about how we harm our poor progeny than what they do to us. In our home, it is a running gag to evaluate which of our actions might lead to therapy or a tell-all memoir. Our parenting styles include heavy doses of paranoia and anxiety as we desperately attempt to uncover whether we are doing a good job. My huband and I analyze our kids for clues about what works and what doesn’t. Our kids ignore our attempts to decipher well-being, which is the best for everyone involved. The pressure to be engaged, perfect parents is fairly high; the cultural expectations for motherhood are ridiculous. Anxiety, guilt, and doubt are constant companions for modern parents. Yes, parents affect their children, but children also affect us. What do children do to us, really? What is their influence on the lives of adults?

Read more.