3 Books. Common theme….children

Hi readers. Hope you are all well and having a good week. I am struggling to find the energy to get out of bed this morning. My mum is here for a couple of days as she wants to spend some time with my eldest before she starts school this week. God 4 years have gone crazy fast.

Anyway onto the books….

Oh God this book frustrated me sooooo much. I believe life is too short to finish books that do not give you pleasure. Reading is my treat. It’s something I look forward to doing every day. I dreaded picking this book up and reading it made me really irritable. Therefore I am giving up and leaving it on the tube so hopefully it can be matched with a reader who will appreciate it.

I picked up this book because I wanted to learn more about the Mormon Church. Although I come from a family who believe in God, this belief hasn’t shaped our upbringing. I now go to church on a Sunday because I want to. I have found my faith myself and it’s not something I have been indoctrinated in. As a mother I want my children to make their own decisions about God. Therefore I am really interested in Orthodox families whose faith has shaped their whole lives.

My problem with this book is that I don’t think I am any the wiser about Mormon life. I have read a few reviews of the book on Goodreads, and a lot of Mormons have reviewed the book and LOVED it. In fact, I read one review that actually said that this book would be better understood by Mormons. I really believe this to be the case. To me, it felt like each chapter resembled a short story with an ‘in joke’ that a Mormon would understand but I was not ‘in’ on the joke. Maybe I just picked up the wrong book but I feel that I found out nothing apart from caffeinated drinks are not allowed and Mormon women have to be married to get into heaven.

I think because this book is a memoir, I was expecting to find out how Joanna Brooks felt about her religion. It all seems so peripheral and slightly detached. I wanted to know how aspects of Mormon doctrine made her feel? Views on women, homosexuality?? When Brooks goes to university, she becomes a feminist and chooses a self imposed exile from the church. She lists mentors and lecturers who were excommunicated by the church for their beliefs but it is never more than a list. Yes, these excommunications and sackings fuelled her decision for self imposed exile from the church but I really wanted to know how she felt about the elders of her church making these choices. How did it make her view her faith. The faith she and her family lived and breathed until now without question.  The book seems like a selection of statements and stories but nothing deeper. The most baffling moment is when she hints at some kind of sexual abuse

It was only after my mind had caught hold of all the corners of all the dim memories: when I was six, the face of the neighbour girl’s father looming high above me; when I was thirteen, the neighbour boy catching me on the street in broad daylight on my walk home from cheerleading practice and forcing his grubby hands down my pants; what it was I had not been feeling in the back seat.

She doesn’t go into anymore detail and it is not mentioned again. Whaaaaaaat????? Joanna, how did this affect you? How did this make you feel? I want to know!! It’s like reading poetry which you pretend to understand but you blatantly don’t.  I wanted to be on her side, I wanted to pity her, be angry for her, be happy for her when she succeeded. All it made me feel was pissed off with her. I felt she was keeping something from me…like I wasn’t allowed to be part of her gang. ANNOYING.

Moving on…..

Hands down this is my favourite book of the year so far. Kevin Wilson is fab! This is the second Wilson book I have read. If you are into books about dysfunctional, kooky families he is your guy.  The Family Fang and Perfect Little World, centre around really cool ideas. Fang is about 2 children who’s parents are performance artists. The kids are reluctant  accomplices in their parents art concepts and the book is about how this has affected them throughout their lives.

Perfect Little World involves an equally cool subject. How would you feel as a new parent if your partner, yourself and your new baby joined another nine couples and their babies in a specially designed compound and all raised your kids as one extended family. The thinking behind this is in the past it would take a community to raise a child. Parents would live closer to extended family, friends etc and everyone would play a part in the raising of a child. It takes a village to raise a child.

Dr Grind is the leader of this project. He and his colleagues pick the families to enter the astro-turfed, all expenses paid, snazzy apartment. The experiment is funded by a lady  who was raised in an orphanage and had a very positive experience, being raised by numerous care givers. Interestingly, Doctor Grind’s childhood was also an experiment. His psychologist parents raised him using The Constant Friction Method. This concept involved occasionally tripping up the toddler, attaching weights to the crawling baby, buying Preston a dog which was taken away after a couple of days. All ideas used to create a child which is more resilient to stress. The combination of Grind’s flawed parenting and also the death of his wife and child in a car accident make Grind a really interesting character.

This brings us to Izzy, the protagonist of the novel. It has been a while since I have loved a character as much as Izzy. She is one cool girl. Izzy is the youngest member of the project, having become pregnant by her art teacher who subsequently commits suicide. Izzy is the only person who enters the project as a single parent. She herself comes from a pretty dysfunctional family. She lost her mother at a young age. Her father never really recovers and essentially drowns in his own grief.

What I love about Izzy is she is doesn’t moan and she seems to be no bullshit. She is also really witty with a dry sense of humour which I really admired. When explaining to her art teacher about her pregnancy:

Five pregnancy tests, all stolen from the drugstore because they were more expensive than anything that depressing should ever be. Let the people who wanted a baby pay for them.

I felt she was a really inspiring, strong woman and I was really rooting for her happy ending. If you are interested in parenting and family dynamics please read this book.  It is a total pleasure.

And finally…….

My 4 year old told me the other day that she didn’t think she was pretty unless she wore at least 8 hairbands at a time and bright pink lipstick. She is 4! 4!!! This prompted my to read  Raising Girls by acclaimed Australian child psychologist, Steve Biddulph.

I am not someone who reads a lot of self help books and I often find parenting manuals are talking basic common sense. However I think if you even take one thing away from a self help book that changes something for the better then that can only be a totally positive thing. After having written Raising Boys, Biddulph decided society was crying out for the equivalent manual for girls. As a mother of two daughters, the focus of his book is utterly relevant and something I am concerned about. Bringing up children in today’s society where mobile phones, iPads, TV are devices that children are used to and are frequently proficient with, means that as parents we have to be prepared for these devices to have a considerable impact on our children’s lives. My daughter’s obsession with how she looks without a doubt comes from TV. Even at such a young age, girls are influenced by the adverts in between Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly. Beautiful girls advertising Lelli Kelly shoes, adverts for kids lip gloss, all play a part in influencing children.

A lot of the book would apply to parents of boys as well as girls. Biddulph encourages parents to find a child’s ‘spark.’ Something that ignites a child’s imagination. I think this is where it went wrong for me as a child. My ‘spark’ was Music. I went to a very academic, girl’s school where although Music was taught, there was no emphasis on performance. There was no choir, orchestra and Music was just theory. I completely lost my way and after missing a chunk of my Lower Sixth due to glandular fever, I was told that I needed to re-sit my year. The thought of doing this tipped me over the edge. Re-sitting a year in a school full of cliquey girls would have finished me off. I left the academic all-girls school and I achieved a Music Scholarship at a mixed sex school. I started to perform and the teachers found my ‘spark.’ I am now an professional opera singer in a chorus at a London opera company. I hate to think what my life would have been like if that ‘spark’ hadn’t been discovered.

Like the majority of people, I am busy. I am a mother to two girls, I have a full time job with often very anti-social hours, I also struggle with depression and I am very guilty of giving myself a hard time for not doing everything perfectly. This book made me slow down and stop. Spend time in the moment with my daughters. Dance in the kitchen, find the joy in being a mum. This isn’t time I am going to get back. Put my phone down, turn the TV off. Stop trying to multi task playing with the kids whilst simultaneously tidying the sitting room. Take some time and at least I will know I am giving the mothering all I’ve got.

Thanks so much for reading. I am now off for a bath to start a new book.

Next 3 books are…….

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