Books Are Pretty

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Good Kids, Bad Habits.

Before I write these reviews, I usually check out the author's website, if she has one, and other reviews and articles on the book, just to see what else is out there and if there's any overall vibe that should be addressed, or to get a different perspective that can better formulate what I'm thinking about.

That being said, I came across this review of Jennifer Trachtenberg's Good Kids, Bad Habits at Jenn's Journal and totally cracked up:

I liked it. The end.

Yes! That's it, exactly!

Truth is, I can't think of too much to add to that review. Good Kids, Bad Habits
is a comprehensive overview of the wide-ranging topics of childcare that is geared to help parents put their kids on the right track to a healthy adulthood. Good habits, when begun young, are more likely to be upheld when the children are adults, is the thinking here.

This is fairly true. My own mother didn't keep sweets, chips, or soda in the house, although she didn't forbid us from eating it. Now that I'm an adult, I don't keep junk food in my own house. (My husband did bring home a kit to make homemade popsicles out of fruit juice, because he said it was either that or file a restraining order against the ice cream truck. The kids seem to be somewhat wise to it, and aren't as greedy for popsicles as they used to be.) But as with any wisdom you try to impart to other people, some stuff they'll listen to, and some they won't. Trachtenberg hopes, I assume, that if good habits are instilled everywhere, in all things, at all times, enough good stuff will stick long enough to ensure a healthy adulthood. This is fine, in theory, but in actuality it's a little overwhelming.

It reminds me a little of the "Best Odds Diet" from What to Expect When You're Expecting, the diet which you can't possibly follow, even if you're Shamu, because nobody's stomach is big enough to eat all that food. It turns out, the authors of the book knew it was too much, and deliberately tried to get pregnant women to follow it, because they figured some of the diet was better than nothing. However, all it did was frustrate pregnant women (read: me) and cause them to give up, feel like a failure, and complain strenuously to their OB/GYNs, who told them to ignore that part of the book and take a prenatal vitamin.

Trachtenberg's advice, which covers hygiene to homework to exercise to self esteem is fine, but as with all of these comprehensive books, I wish they would do what Marilu Henner does in Total Health Makeover, and include a chart on how to introduce changes gradually. It helps to have a guide that can ease you into new habits and to stress not to try to do them all at once.

As a parent, I of course have read roughly three thousand books like this one, and Trachtenberg isn't really covering too much new ground, so I found it difficult to get too jazzed up about any particular part of it.

I liked it. The end.

There was, however, one part of the book, toward the end, that I thought was really weird, and seemed to have no connection with anything else, not even with the point of the book's conclusion. She relates this anecdote about going to a birthday party for the baby of a childhood friend.

Audrey was a childhood friend of my sister's, and this was her first baby's first birthday. I had known Audrey for years - she practically lived at our house growing up - and pretty much the whole family didn't think she'd ever choose to have kids. But here she was, the proud mom of a healthy 1-year-old boy.

My boys (my two sons and hubby) planned a guys-only day of hiking and bird spotting at the park; I brought my daughter, Emily, with the for the drive out to the country.

I gave my two sisters a sisters-only "look" when we arrived. Audrey was transformed. The quiet and serious girl I always remembered now had a circle of kids around her giggling uncontrollably as she and Tookie the Clown make crazy balloon animals - motherhood had brought out her silly side.

Then she goes on to talk about how she got into a conversation with the other mothers and had the epiphany that there are many ways to raise healthy children and that mothers know more than they think they do. I can't argue with that, but what was the point of the Audrey anecdote? Why was it necessary? And what's with the "pretty much the whole family didn't think she'd ever choose to have kids?" Why do we need to know this? Is it because she was "quiet and serious?" Do "quiet and serious" women generally eschew parenthood? And why do I get the feeling that there's a bit of negative judgment at the thought that a woman might want to remain childfree? And I wonder if Audrey read this part about herself and was okay with it, or did she give Trachtenberg the bird later on? Thanks, Trachtenbergs! Nice to know you all have been gossiping about my fitness as a mother behind my back! For years, apparently! No more party invitations for you!

Anyway, I only dwell on that bit of weirdness because there isn't much else to dwell on here.

I liked it. The end.

Good Kids, Bad Habits
by Jennifer Trachtenberg
2007, by HarperCollins
paperback, 299 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-06-112775-5

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