Bookshelf

June 2005

 
 
 

These writers capture the fun, frustration of teenagers

I Wanna be Sedated: 30 Writers on Parenting Teenagers, edited by Faith Conlon and Gail Hudson, Seal Press, 2005, $15.95

The title of this book (based on the Ramones’ song) caught my eye, but the writing and stories are what held my interest and tugged at my heart strings. In fact, I Wanna be Sedated attracted attention wherever I traveled with it—causing chuckles on the train and at the dentist and raising the eyebrows of my daughters (ages 13 and 18), who both asked, “WHAT are you reading?” delivered in that tone of disdain patented by teenage girls.

Editors Faith Conlon and Gail Hudson have done a marvelous job of compiling an engaging collection of essays about life with teenagers written by some of our most talented writers. It’s comforting to know that they, too, find the teenage years as mystifying as us mortals. These heartfelt, honest essays had me laughing out loud one minute and fighting to hold back the tears the next. Kind of like living with a teen.

This is not a how-to book, and the editors are clear about that in their introduction. These are true stories by (mostly) parents about the kids they love.

“Teenage Owner’s Manual” by W. Bruce Cameron is the perfect opener. The tongue-in-cheek essay will strike a chord with parents of teen daughters everywhere. In “How to Get into College Without Really Trying,” Gail Hudson delivers a month-by-month report on the dreaded college-application process. In “Runaway,” Debra Gwartney poignantly shares the heartache of dealing with not one, but two, runaway daughters. Dave Barry checks in with “Warning: An American Teenager Is Loose in Europe,” about how our favorite know-it-alls don’t really know it all. And I sure wish I could write as eloquently to my girls as Barbara Kingsolver does to her daughter in “Letter to a Daughter at Thirteen.” The other 25 selections are just as riveting and witty.

So, when it’s too late in the evening to call someone to commiserate about your teen’s latest escapade, pick up I Wanna be Sedated. It’s just like sharing stories with your friends. Jennifer Burklow

 

Learn to see life from a toddler’s perspective

Getting Your Child from No to Yes Without Nagging, Bribing or Threatening, by Jerry Wyckoff, PhD and Barbara C. Unell, Meadowbrook, 2004, $10

The best line in this book is about “parents’ frightening realization that they don’t have any control over their child’s behavior.” That is a truly terrifying moment in every parent’s life and, according to the authors, this helpless feeling is the cause of some negative parenting techniques, namely the nagging, bribing and threatening mentioned in the book title.

Their contention is that once parents accept their children’s “no’s” as developmentally appropriate and normal behavior, they can begin to “work with their child, rather than against him.”

The advice and tips in this book are intended to get children to do what’s been asked as well as help them  develop coping and communication skills.

For every objection, there are specific responses. In essence, parents should view every “no” conflict as an opportunity to help children learn. That is a lot to ask of parents of toddlers, but the authors provide specific advice, including “self-talk” tips. For example, instead of telling yourself, “My child drives me crazy with constant fussing,” tell yourself, “Getting upset won’t help either of us.” Easier said than done, but these self-talk ideas do help put the situation into perspective and diffuse the immediate impulse to get frustrated.

The authors also encourage parents to consider situations from their child’s perspective. The rationale is this: Parents who understand a child’s feelings and abilities, can help her be more cooperative. For example, when a child doesn’t want to leave the park, her father should consider her frustration in “adjusting to a world that doesn’t meet her schedule.” To help her adjust, he can let her know in advance how long they plan to stay at the park, then give ample warning and a countdown when it’s time to leave.

The book provides tips for dealing with 65 specific “no” situations. While there is much repetition in the self-talk tips and helpful hints, there is also a lot of useful information for easing the tension between parent and child. Alena Murguia

 

Having your cake—and eating it for half the price

The Smart Mom’s Guide to Staying Home: 65 Simple Ways to Thrive, Not Deprive, on One Income, by Christine K. Walker, Trafford Publishing, 2004, $15.95

There are lots of books and magazines that will tell you how to cut back on all those things you don’t really need so you can live a simpler, less expensive life. This is the first one I’ve found that says it’s OK to still want a designer outfit, a good cup of coffee and a nice haircut and then tells you how to do it without breaking the bank.

Christine Walker, a Winnetka resident, spent more than 10 years working in politics and business-to-business marketing before she married and became a full-time mom to her two boys. After four years of learning to live on less, but not live without, she’s written a book offering the rest of us the benefit of her experience.

Certainly some of her tips are standard fare—pay your bills on time to avoid those late fees (tip No. 47), shop resale stores for nearly new designer duds (35) and don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry (6).

Others are far more creative. One I like is to look for ways to barter what you need (46). A photographer friend of mine took that approach to get her son a week at the pricey summer camp he coveted. In exchange for a free week there, she stayed an extra day when she dropped him off and shot several rolls of film that were used to create a new camp marketing brochure.

But what I like most about Walker’s book is that she doesn’t believe in going without. Rather, she preaches having what you want, but finding a way to get it cheaper. Hoping to try the new high-end restaurant in town? Find out whether there is an early bird special (21). Ask if the place offers a deal on Monday nights (19). And drink the water for free rather than paying for sodas (29).

And, once you’re there, ask which entrée offers the biggest serving. Order it, and ask the waiter to wrap half for take-home before the dish ever comes to your table. Voila—you get a meal, aren’t tempted to overeat and have tomorrow’s lunch (28).

This readable, 89-page gem is a quick, inspiring read. It could be better edited, but her points come across regardless.

If you’re looking for a way to save a buck here and there—whether as a way to quit your job and live on hubby’s salary or simply to give a little boost to the family budget—there’s certain to be something in here that will help. Cindy Richards

 
 







 
 
 
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