Friday, March 18, 2011
I am an easy mark when it comes to interesting book titles. I am very likely to pick up books at random, if they have catchy titles. Even if I may not judge a book by its cover, I certainly give a lot of points for the title. It is very difficult to give a title to your work that embodies the spirit of what you have written and conveys its intensity. So when I heard about The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson, it certainly topped my to-read list. It took me a few years to get to it, but it reaffirmed my hypothesis of judging books! It is the most beautiful collection of essays collected in the form of a memoir. Though not strictly chronological in its narrative, it draws on a time line that is easy to follow. It is a fine line that an author has to walk when writing about one's own life. The "story" has to be interesting enough to hold the reader's attention while the subject has to be examined in detail with objectivity. In this book, Ms.Dickinson chronicles her journey from and back to her hometown, physically and figuratively in a manner that is unassuming and honest. The parts dealing with her divorce and early struggles in establishing herself while raising her daughter are candidly funny yet poignant. The narrative feels like you are sitting across the table from your friend, chatting over a (few) cup(s) of coffee. Her experiences of parenting, "dorkitude", living with aging family members and pets while making a life on her own come across as life lessons without being pretentious. The central theme of resilience and strength that comes from family ties almost feels like fiction. The descriptions of life in a small town in New York are so appealing that it makes you want to map it out and drive down for the weekend. I can't wait to read what Amy Dickinson writes next. Two-thumbs up!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
I agree that I talk a lot with my kids (I talk a lot, in general) and that to an untrained, illiterate eye, they might seem precocious . But I believe that my children are developing at a rate and extent faster and deeper than their peers because of their exposure to things that children of their age usually do not even know about.
Case in point: My 6 year old son and I were talking about the Civil War and then the Civil rights movements in the context of a project for the Black History month in his school. When we were talking about segregation, he asked “So what was the problem Indians had in those days, Mom? ( he meant Indians as in from India). I told him that the problem Indians had at that time in history was that they were ruled by the British and there was a war of independence going on. Then we discussed the colonization of the various princely states that made up India by the British rulers and how the in-fighting among the various kings made it easy for the British to “divide and rule”. After a while, I could see that his attention was wandering and that it was getting to be too much information for him and we ended the conversation. Later that day him and his sister were having an argument over the Pokemon cards and he says to her , “ You are invading my territory. You just want more and more and that is why you are fighting with me!” So, the conversation was not wasted after all!
One question that bothers parents is that in the trouble-prone pre-adolescent and adolescent years will their children come able to come to them for help if they need? Will there be proper communication between the two that the child will not feel intimidated or embarrassed in opening up or questioning something that may be bothering him? As with every other relationship, communication is the back bone of a successful parent-child partnership. But if you wait for the child to be “mature” enough to handle conversations you are too late. From the time a child is born she is processing information according to the capacity of her developing brain. It is a well established fact that the more you talk to your infant or toddler the quicker and deeper the child’s development is in areas of talking and vocabulary. Using normal language when talking to an infant is better for teaching him language than using “baby” words for “milk” and “blanket” and so on. The same premise should be carried over as the child grows. Conventional wisdom may suggest that certain topics are too complicated for a preschooler or grade school age kid to to comprehend. But whether it is slavery or global warming, evolution of humans or even death, there is a way of explaining the facts in an age-appropriate manner. Kids may not understand everything that is thrown at them but the exposure guarantees a reaction in terms of thinking about the topic which can lead to creative and analytical thinking. And when this kind of exposure happens in their daily life, with parents, the stage is set for a lifelong open channel between the parent and the child which can foster communication forever.
So, as we discuss the merits of having a Raichu Pokemon card versus a Meowth I hope that he won't hesitate about telling me of the day when he was offered a cigarette by his friend or when he got a Valentine from the cutest girl in his class.