October 2, 2015
Just Finished Reading: Rock, Meet Window by Jason Good
After reading—and laughing till I cried—This Is Ridiculous, This Is Amazing, I’ll read anything Jason Good ever writes. I knew that, by definition, Rock, Meet Window: A Father-Son Story wouldn’t be as funny as This Is Ridiculous, This Is Amazing since it was written while and about the author dealing with the terminal diagnosis of his father. But I also knew that even though I’d be crying for a different reason during this one, I’d still be laughing too, and that’s a gift.
What I loved most about this book was how the author made me love his dad. He adored his grandsons and wanted to live for them. He called bullshit bullshit, even if it meant admitting the punishment he’d doled out to his teenage son was bullshit. He carried on dialogues with the TV, including talking to MSNBC as if he was one of the panelists. He took his anti-nausea medication and wryly declared, “That’s the least nauseated I’ve ever felt!” to the nurses who weren’t quite sure what to make of him. And he embraced medical marijuana with innocent hilarity. When a dealer suggests something called The Sour Monkey, he simply asks, “How much should I get? Like half a pound?” It’s no wonder his author-son, an only child, grew up to channel his struggles through humor.
The author’s mom is portrayed as sensible and bookish (regarding TV she (quite rightly) says, “all those people screaming at me,”) and you feel their balanced, close unit of three. There are also glimpses of his wife and kids, where some of his best humor remains. “I guess Dad trusts Lindsay and me to cover all the boring important stuff , like how to pet a cat softly.”
This is a bittersweet read as you know its ending is not going to be the one the author—or you—wants, but it’s an insightful, generous look into their relationship during the journey. Toward the end, the author, drained, wonders, “Wouldn’t it have been easier for all of us to skip this part and go straight to accepting that he’s gone?” It’s a question that begs to be asked by any family being gutted by cancer. Rock, Meet Window is a helluva answer.
And: How To Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott Haims
Julie Lythcott-Haims is a former dean at Stanford University who was shocked and dismayed to discover how many college freshmen were ill-equipped to deal with the responsibilities of adulthood. In How To Raise An Adult she argues that rampant, pervasive over-involvement of well-intentioned parents is doing kids a disservice in the end, and encourages parents to instead promote independence and critical thinking by backing off and allowing kids to make their own mistakes.
I liked that there was no (or very little, anecdotally) tone of blame or admonishment in this book; the author makes clear not only that she understands parents are only trying to help their kids out of love and wanting them to be successful, but that she herself is one of those parents. She discusses ways that we tend to over-parent from the time children are small (not creating opportunities for free, unstructured play or not assigning chores, for example) to when they are about to be shipped off to college at last (completing applications for them, scheduling their college and/or job interviews, doing their banking, to name just a few) and ways we can begin to facilitate the change necessary to kids’—and thus, adults’—high functioning. In fact, she offers checklists for what kids should be reasonably be expected to be able to do at various ages.
Interestingly, or maybe obviously, the author notes that the issue of over-parenting tends to be more prominent in upper middle class families, and points out that kids of parents who are caught up in trying to just maintain a job or household sometimes fare better at becoming adults who can take care of themselves. Indeed, the book does seem to speak to the upper middle class, college-bound population, understandable given the author’s background.
As for me, I was interested in this book because I know I tend to over-coddle my kids and parent from a particular place of fear because of everything I went through having them. I think some of that is OK. But I also want to maintain my awareness about what is best for them in the long run and make strides toward helping them become not just happy kids but happy, strong, capable adults. I definitely feel like this book gave me some insight as to where I can make some changes and some concrete tools with which to make them. Just today, I pulled into my husband’s office parking lot and asked my 9 year-old walk my 3 year-old upstairs to the office to pick something up for me while I waited in the car, a first. A small thing, maybe, and I could see them the whole way up to my husband receiving them, but they didn’t care, they both felt independent and proud of themselves doing it. And feeling proud of myself, I smiled up to my husband and mouthed, “Raising adults!” I’m sure I’ll still be taking baby steps, but I think and hope they’ll be getting a little bigger and moving in the right direction all the time.