Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book club thoughts

Eight times a year my almost-13-year old and I go to a mother-daughter book club. This month’s read was the classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The girls all loved it. The moms did, too. Like the other mothers, I was struck by two things: how different the book was than I remembered, and how fiercely determined and resilient Katie, the main character’s mom, is. Katie isn’t focused on giving her kids a good life in the present – that’s not in her power -- but on giving them the skills they need to survive and thrive through all of life.

Me, I tend to want my kids to be comfortable: physically and emotionally and spiritually. And so I was thinking last night, If convenience and comfort were plucked from my life, how would we fare?
  • Are my kids scrappy enough to survive? Survive morally?
  • Is my gut-level determination strong enough to hunker down and do what needs to be done? Or would I flounder in worry and fear and anger?
  • Do we have the emotional wherewithal to stay focused on building toward something better, instead of wallowing in the losses or disappointments of the present?
  • Is there a wide enough range of adult personalities in my kids’ lives that they are drawing on the strengths (and learning from the weaknesses) of people besides me?
  • Can my children still find beauty and poetry in life when things are grim?

I’m fond of saying that a lot depends on how Mom reacts. This is true not only when a kid is scared or bleeding, but of other kinds of crises, including a mother's own struggles. I hold in my mind the image of Katie-the-mom, recently widowed, scrubbing floors in the building next door at 5am so that she can get some of her work done while her older children are home to watch the newborn before they head out to school. 

How does Mom react when she faces her own despair? Her own anger? Her own disappointment?

And what do our kids learn from that?

Good stuff.

Oh, and for anyone interested in forming a mother-daughter book club, I highly recommend the book Deconstructing Penguins

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