November 4, 2009
Growing Girls: The Mother of All Adventures by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Nonfiction - Memoir/Essays
2006 Bantam Books
Finished on 10/24/09
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
Award-winning author Jeanne Marie Laskas has charmed and delighted readers with her heartwarming and hilarious tales of life on Sweetwater Farm. Now she offers her most personal and most deeply felt memoir yet as she embarks on her greatest, most terrifying, most rewarding endeavor of all….
A good mother, writes Jeanne Marie Laskas in her latest report from Sweetwater Farm, would have bought a house in the suburbs with a cul-de-sac for her kids to ride bikes around instead of a ramshackle house in the middle of nowhere with a rooster. With the wryly observed self-doubt all mothers and mothers-to-be will instantly recognize, Laskas offers a poignant and laugh-out-loud-funny meditation on that greatest–and most impossible–of all life’s journeys: motherhood.
What is it, she muses, that’s so exhausting about being a mom? You’d think raising two little girls would be a breeze compared to dealing with the barely controlled anarchy of “attack” roosters, feuding neighbors, and a scheme to turn sheep into lawn mowers on the fifty-acre farm she runs with her bemused husband Alex. But, as any mother knows, you’d be wrong.
From struggling with the issues of race and identity as she raises two children adopted from China to taking her daughters to the mall for their first manicures, Jeanne Marie captures those magic moments that make motherhood the most important and rewarding job in the world–even if it’s never been done right. For, as she concludes in one of her three a.m. worry sessions, feeling like a bad mother is the only way to know you’re doing your job.
Whether confronting Sasha’s language delay, reflecting on Anna’s devotion to a creepy backwards-running chicken, feeling outclassed by the fabulous homeroom moms, or describing the rich, secret language each family shares, these candid observations from the front lines of parenthood are filled with love and laughter–and radiant with the tough, tender, and timeless wisdom only raising kids can teach us.
It's been three and a half years since I read Jeanne Laskas' The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family and even longer since I read Fifty Acres and a Poodle. I've lost track of how many times I've hand-sold copies of these memoirs, but they've definitely been an easy recommendation for those who enjoy a good laugh about farm life and animal antics.
Growing Girls has been in my stacks for quite some time and I decided to give it a try during the recent blogger Read-A-Thon. Fifty Acres and A Poodle and The Exact Same Moon are marvelous memoirs. I rated each a perfect 5/5 and both made my Top Ten lists the year I read them. Unfortunately, Growing Girls just wasn't quite as entertaining as Laskas' earlier works. I enjoyed the latter half of the book (which deals with life on the farm) much better than the opening chapters, (which focus on the adoption of her second daughter), but the tone of this book was uneven and I felt a little uncomfortable with the author's negative remarks about China and her daughters' birth mothers.
On parental exhaustion:
No, the no-sleep issue is not the meat of the problem, I don't think. Exhaustion as it pertains to motherhood is more specifically related to the fact that that it's so damn constant. As mother, you are the sergeant of an army and most of the time your soldiers don't do what you tell them to, and not only that but they fight, pick at each other, a flick of a pea, a stolen potato chip, and then they want more juice, even though you said no more juice they want more juice, so you offer milk because their teeth are going to fall out from all that juice, and then they cry and the negotiations continue and you dig your heels in because your job is to build character, and the only way to build character is to set boundaries, and enforce them. Then one of them has to go potty, and the other one has you looking under the sofa for a lost teapot that goes with the little mouse tea party set you knew had too many parts, and so you put your hand under the couch and you find a half-eaten Pop-Tart, which enrages you far more than it should. And so you yell and they cry and you would cry, too, if you stopped to think about how the only hope you have for sanity is a Barney video. You put the Barney video in and they ask for more juice.
Anybody can survive a day of this, of course; anyone can survive a week. But the thing about child rearing is, those children who grow up so fast don't really, not when you break it down hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute. They don't stop being children, not even for a day, not even for a weekend, while they are busily growing up so fast, and sooner or later you ask yourself: How is it that I've turned into such a cranky foam-at-the-mouth bitch when I was always the fun one, the fun aunt, the lady who would visit my nieces and nephews and be welcomed like a reprieve from the monster my sister somehow turned into? "You're funny! I wish you were my mom!"
You can find my review for The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family here. Fifty Acres and a Poodle was reviewed prior to my entry into the blogging world, so you'll just have to trust me when I say it's not one to miss.