Thursday, June 30, 2016

Books That Stay With You by Diane Burton

I’m a fast reader. Usually I zip through books, skimming the “boring” parts (aka descriptions), lingering on dialogue, soaking up the plot. I finish one book then on to the next. Rinse and repeat.

I didn’t used to be so cavalier about books. My grandmother would send us books for birthdays and Christmas. I didn’t always appreciate the stories, but I did appreciate her thoughtfulness. I still have those books, which she always signed with the date and her full name. Because books were difficult to come by—money was tight with seven kids—I hoarded hardbacks, used babysitting money for paperbacks that I read over and over until they were tattered. And because of that, once I could afford  books I never let them go.

Our last move to a new house convinced me to divest myself of many books. Unlike in the past where the company paid moving expenses, this one was on our dime. Books are heavy, and we paid by the pound. Our local library became the recipient of free books from several conferences, books I hadn’t gotten around to reading and knew I never would. Except for several all-time and forever favorites plus several for research, my books reside on my Kindle. Easy to carry with me wherever I go. Finish one book at the doctor’s office, go on to the next while waiting.

Consequently, stories don’t stick with me like they used to. For one thing, on my Paperwhite, I don’t see the cover each time I pick up the book. I open the Kindle, and I’m right where I left off in the story. Without the cover reminding me of the title and author, I don’t remember books like I used to.

Every once in a while, a story will stick with me. Case in point, Night Road by Kristin Hannah. I’d chosen the book for our monthly book group. It’s the story of a “helicopter” mom of high school twins. In our discussion, one of the women (close to my age) said things are different from when we raised our children. While I agree—we never had lockdowns at school—I still believe parents have to find a balance between protecting their children while helping them make their own decisions when they are young. Expanding the decision making from little things, like what to wear, to using their own judgement on what to read and, eventually, whether to drink in high school. And letting go.

In Night Road, the main character was so obsessed with protecting her kids that she made all their decisions. (Or so she thought.) But how could they make rational decisions when Mom would disagree and probably ground them?

I wasn’t the best mother nor was I the worst. Like most mothers, I made my share of mistakes. I trusted my children when I probably shouldn’t have. I badgered them about where they were going and who they would be with but didn’t follow through by checking up on them. Was that the right thing to do? To paraphrase a school psychologist at a PTO meeting (way back when), I did the best I could given what I knew at the time.

That’s all we really can do, isn’t it? Fortunately, my children lived through their high school and college years. I survived, too. But a single mistake, a case of bad judgement, changed everyone’s life in Night Road. That could have been one or both of my kids. Scary. Actually, in retrospect, it’s terrifying. I know I can’t live in the past or play the “what if” game with real lives. All we can do is pray that we make the best decisions and live with the consequences.

Diane Burton writes romantic suspense, mysteries, and science fiction romance. She blogs here on the 30th of the month, on Paranormal Romantics on the 13th, and on her own blog on Mondays.


18 comments:

Leah St. James said...

Parenting is terrifying at times. Thankfully it's balanced by the joys. I was one of those moms who used to peek in on my babies while they slept. I'd place my hand on their backs--just a feather touch--to make sure they were breathing. (I think I've documented pretty well in these pages how neurotic I am.) It didn't get easier as they grew, because their troubles grew in significance. I don't think there's anything more difficult for a parent than sitting back and watching our kids make their own mistakes (or suffer from physical pain/injury, etc.) Parenting is not for the faint-hearted. Great post. I'll have to put that book in my TBR pile.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Spot on, Diane. I always tell my kids, you raise your children to let them go. And it's one of the hardest things you'll ever do. It's right too we do the best with what we know at the time and pray it's right.

Jannine Gallant said...

I'm not a helicopter parent. (Except when they're cooking and not doing it my way! LOL) You raise them to have common sense and then let them use it. Maybe I just got lucky (or they inherited my boring genes instead of their dad's far more wild ones), but I never worry when I hand over the car keys on a Friday night so they can go hang out with friends that either of my girls will do something stupid.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I like that you said you weren't the best but not the worst. I feel the same. I know I tried awfully hard and only had one to learn my lessons on. I would've been perfect (LOL) if allowed to do it a second time around, but life had other plans for me. We had some rough spells a couple of times, but I'm so very proud of who he turned out to be. A few of those spells could've had scary endings but we made it through. Now he has his own to raise and I get a kick out of him doing what he made me believe he never would! He's a good daddy and I like to think I have a little bit to do with that.

Vonnie Davis said...

All parents make little mistakes. We're human. Some make huge mistakes. A lack of judgement. Sadly, some don't care. They are the ones that get my goat. We do the best we can with what we've got and hope our kids don't make the same mistakes, as parents, that we did. Great post.

Rolynn Anderson said...

I'm with Vonnie on this. I worry about parents who have kids for the wrong reasons, who don't read up on child-raising (including healthiness) and who don't model and teach sterling principles to their kids. Stunning is the statistic that the mother's education is the single-most important factor affecting her children's level of education. My hat's off to parents who have raised citizens of the world...it's the most important career of all.

Lucy Kubash said...

Good post, Diane. There are some books that will always stay with me, and my wish is that I could write a book that powerful it would remain with someone years after they read it.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

I think we all feel that way about our parenting skills....
Great post!
Thanks for sharing.
Good luck and God's blessings
PamT

Elizabeth Alsobrooks said...

Great post, Diane. We certainly do the best we can at the time. I agree. Very scary to think about how lucky we are. My son wonders why decades later he told me about something he did as a teenager and I was upset with him? LOL! I had to explain that it was the idea of what might have happened and I would never have known until it was too late...

Maureen said...

I interview a lot and always note the people who answer my question, "what was your hardest job", with "being a mom/parent." There is no guidebook, and you can only do the best you can and hope for the best. With 14 year old twin girls, I tell myself this a lot, lol. Great post!

MJ Schiller said...

I am an overprotective parent. There. I've said it. I'd like to think it is because all for of my children were very premature (and in neonatal care for over a month each).

I err in trying to do too much for my kids, to make things easier for them. I felt like self-sacrifice was love. What I realize now is that it is important, as you said, to let them manage their difficulties themselves. I deprived them of those opportunities. But, like you pointed out, there is no handbook and we simply do the best we can.

I like to joke about the kids straying outside the nest or outside the bubble. (Mostly because they've said, "You can't keep us in a bubble.) In fact, recently my daughter asked why I was asking after her girlfriend and I said, "Because she's in the bubble now. She's one of mine." I guess some habits are hard to change.

Alicia Dean said...

Great post. I love those books that stay with me. Or maybe I should say love/hate because oftentimes they are the ones where something awful happens and I can't get it out of my mind. Mystic River was that kind of book. I totally get it about the parenting. I did my best and I loved my children, but I most definitely made mistakes. Thank God none had tragic consequences.

Nightingale said...

Very interesting.

Diane Garner said...

You make a great point about how not seeing the book covers on our Kindles may affect our remembering the stories. Never thought of that. I just figured my memory was getting worse.

As for parenting, I love this adage: The greatest gifts a parent can give a child are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it sounds.

Great post.

Diane Burton said...

I never know when a post will touch a cord with readers. This one certainly did. I guess because many of us have been there, worrying about our kids, wondering if we did the right things. I'm so glad I'm not raising children right now. Too many terrifying things can happen to them. But then those of us who grew up in the 50s & 60s remember the world on the brink of nuclear war. Thanks so much for all your comments.

Andrea Downing said...

Great oost Diane. I think my predecessors here have about covered my feelings on both parenting and books that stay with you, so I'll leave it at that with my thanks. You ha ve, indeed, touched a cord with us all.

Susan Coryell said...

I learned to speed read as an English teacher with way too many students. It has been a life-skill I still utilize as a writer/editor/reviewer.
THE ROAD by Cormack McCarthy haunts me since my reading it for a book club 5 or 6 years ago. Relinquishment (a la Faulkner) comes to mind--also what is really important in life--for literal survival. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

Jessica Jefferson said...

I blame my Kindle for not remembering books like I used to. I know I read them, I enjoyed them, but can't remember details like I used to. Great post!