It's We Recommend, in which we do our very best to solve book-related quandaries, needs, and other miscellany, and then turn them over to you, the readers, who really solve them. Need help finding the right book? E-mail us with some information about your reader, likes and dislikes, and anything else, and we'll do our best. Now, on to our challenge!
Wow, folks. Here is one that I think calls out for our help, and at the same time makes me feel puny and powerless. Check it out.
Here's the thing: I barely like my ten-year-old anymore. She's driving me nuts. We clash ferociously several times a week, and the emotional fallout drifting down on us afterwards lasts long enough to taint even the times when we aren't fighting. A lot of times I hate her and she hates me.So that's. . . hard on us both, as you can imagine. We are seeing a therapist who I think is going to help us a lot, and I'm really earnest about exploring what my role is in these clashes. (It's not all her, obviously. Even though it can feel like that to me.)In the meantime, I'd love to be able to casually leave some books around that address fighting between children and parents and how, even though it's a scary, horrible period to go through, it doesn't threaten the underlying, permafrost layer of love and care and commitment that will never go away. I want to let her know that I'm still here for her and I'm trying so hard, even in those times when we're both vibrating with fury.
Being a parent (or really anyone involved in a loving relationship with another person) is one of the most difficult things in the world. My extremely smart husband once pointed out to me that your own children are the only people you get as angry at as you get at yourself, and I have found that to be true. The immense frustration of watching them do the same dumbass things you do can drive a person crazy, and all you want is for them to be endlessly happy and not make all the stupid mistakes you make plus any others! Is that so much to ask? The only thing I have found in any reliable way to help me in my quest to be a parent who is not screaming every single second of the day is to tell myself, "You get what you get and you don't get upset." And what you "get" in this is your children, difficult, wonderful, impossible inexplicable human beings that they are. But don't get upset!
Now enough about me and my not quite homespun wisdom and on to the matter at hand: what book should be left out for this strained 10-year-old to read? Weirdly enough, I first though of Little Women, a book I hated as a kid but appreciate as a grown-up. Jo's struggle with her temper really speaks to me, and might to this kid, but it's an awfully big mouthful to take, especially when things seem to feel so acute.
I know there are probably all sorts of American Girl type books that might be just perfect here (surely they publish "How Can My Mom and I Stop Fighting?!?!" and if they don't they should and give me some credit), but I don't know of any in specific. Besides, it's tricky to know exactly what sorts of books will tempt this reader, as we only know of her situation and not so much what she likes. So we think somre more.
And so we come to Rissa Bartholomew's Declaraion of Independence. Its focus is on its author's sense of betrayal by her friends in middle school, as they disappear into the maelstrom of lip gloss etc, but the person who is stubborn and doesn't understand is her own mother, and it talks in a very approaching-honest way about both sides, and how that feels, and how they are eventually able to communicate with one another.
I figure that maybe showing her that other people go through it and come out the other side might help. It can be scary to be so angry, and it's nice to see someone (even in a book) fall apart and then live through that.
But surely, surely you, my readers, have other options to suggest. Put them in the comments, please, and we wish our recommendee much peace and happiness.
12 thoughts on “We Recommend: Heal the Strife Edition”
well from my own childhood I remember feeling inspired to get along better with my brother and people in general after reading Scott O’dells’ Island of the Blue Dolphins. As far as I remember the book wasn’t about getting along at all; it moved me and that somehow liberated my heart… had the same feeling with Madeline L’engles’ Wrinkle in time series. Plenty of family dynamics in those books. Maybe thats a direction? Also books about alienated girls, like Mandy, cheered me up.
I’m trying to think of others, but right now the first thing that comes to mind is Nobody’s Family is Going to Change, by Louise Fitzhugh (of Harriet the Spy fame). I remember loving it as a child, and it is specifically about clashes between kids and parents, from the kid’s perspective. I think the main protagonist, a girl, is about 10 years old. Maybe that would be useful?
I don’t have any recommendations, but I did want to tell the mom that I feel her pain, as my 8 yr old and I have been going through a lot of this lately. We’re going to counselling, too, so I hope that helps you guys. That anger thing–it’s crazy, isn’t it? I’m not an angry person, but she is the one person who can make me see red. Good luck to you guys.
Maybe From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? About a runaway 11 year old and her brother…and the end up back at home with their always loving parents. It was one of my favorites. Good luck to the mom who wrote the post. This too shall pass.
“Dear Mom, You’re Ruining My Life” by Jean Van Leeuwen. This is more about a girl being embarrassed by her mom, but they do have misunderstandings that get worked out in the end.
Oh! Also “Hangin’ Out With Cici,” by Francine Pascal. (Yes, of Sweet Valley High fame, but this isn’t that kind of book.) It’s about a girl who doesn’t get along with her mom at all until she goes back in time and meets her mom as a peer.
Or maybe something by Paula Danziger?
How about Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass. It alternates between three narrators, two of whom are girls who are really battling their parents because their families are moving. It’s about finding an identity and family. And, it’s a great great read. Wendy Mass writes a lot about kids who are a bit out of sorts, but this one feels the better fit.
This is a little more out there, but perhaps the Secret Garden? Mary has no parents, but it takes her a long time to get over her anger, and Colin ends up being loved by his father…
I don’t have a reco, just want to second the wish for peace and happiness for the mom and daughter. My mom used to drive me crazy and it wasn’t until I was 17 and living abroad with another family for a few months that I realized how much she did for me. I actually wrote her a letter of apology, I was so humbled!
And, Diamond, I re-read this line several times, I loved it so much: “as they disappear into the maelstrom of lip gloss etc”
No advice myself–my kids are much younger. But somehow the Wrinkle in Time series seems like a potential good one. It’s not really so much about friction between the mother and daughter, but it’s a very gentle and understanding book about awkward and painful times for a young girl uncomfortable in her own skin, prickly and at odds with everyone, trying to find her place in the world. I somehow think that books too directly about the the matter might be off-putting, and an oblique approach could work better.
You have all my sympathy too, and I hope you two come to a better place with one another soon.
I thought of Madeleine L’Engle too (as I nearly always do), but I thought of Meet the Austins (and the others from that series). Vicky is older than 10 in M the A, but not by a lot, and she does go through both rational and irrational anger/conflict-but-still-love with her family. Also, I just find those books incredibly comforting, so both the mom and the daughter might appreciate them. I know the request was for books that could be left lying around, but maybe reading something reassuring aloud together could help bridge the divide?
Good luck, mother-daughter conflict is so hard, and anger is so scary.
Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn and The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder both feature realistic family conflict and happy endings.
Perhaps Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers?
Going through something similar with my eldest I just keep telling myself “It’s not about me.” And I keep telling her (quoting Olivia’s mother) “I love you anyway.”