Friday, October 26, 2007

Between Parent and Child

When my kids were little I used to read books to guide me through the difficult times. A new mother has a million questions for which she needs answers and for me, I would call the doctor and then immediately forget what he said, and I was too embarrassed to call back so I would just cry. Seth got the worst of it because he was a first child and I really had no idea what I was doing. Anyway, I used Dr. Spock as my guide because right or wrong, he had the answers to everything. Important stuff like how long to let a baby cry. What to do when a child has a tantrum. How to figure out if the child is sick or teething and of course, toilet training. Toilet training wasn’t really an issue for Seth because when he got big enough that his poop was too adult like for pleasantries, I told him that he would either use the potty or change himself. And in those days we used a diaper service not disposables. He showed incredibly good judgment and started to use the toilet.

Jordan had the benefit of my having practiced on someone else and by the time she was born I was an older parent and had the wisdom of a sage. David just thought everything she did was funny and, actually, he felt the same way about Seth. He was always entertained by Seth’s antics, while I was still reading Haim Ginott. We’ll get back to that. When Jordan was little T. Barry Brazelton became my guru. He wrote books and had a TV show where he would cutchie coo with kids on air. Unlike Spock, he was pretty flexible and his suggestions were not necessarily written in stone. And he was a joy to watch. He said not to worry about potty training, but I didn’t have to because my mother told Jordan that if she went in the potty, she would buy her new pretty underwear. And that was the end of diapers for her.

When both kids were past infancy and into toddler and preschool experiences, I discovered Haim Ginott. He wrote a series of books called “Between Parent and Child,” “Between Parent and Teenager” and like that. He was an Israeli psychologist who operated from a good sense perspective. Things like, don’t attack personality traits, don’t talk in chapters (or lecture), deal with the situation at hand. Most of his writing was about respecting the child and getting the child to respect the parent – which are not accomplished by threats. His books were fun to read and whenever he revealed something you would say, “That makes absolute sense and it’s so simple. Why didn’t I think of that?” Unfortunately Dr Ginott died some years ago and it is almost impossible to get his books anymore.

Happily, it appears we won’t need Spock or Brazelton or Ginott anymore. Britney Spears’ mom is writing a book about how to raise two celebrity children. Thank God we will not be without real expert advice about how to deal with our children. And moreover, if we want our children to turn out like the Spears sisters, we will have the inside secrets. Now let me see, what is it I really want to know? Important things like: When will I actually be able to turn my terribly talented kid into a product for me to merchandize. When should I start to allow my child to dress like a slut and act like a whore. Is there a point at which I should say, “Honey, you dumped the kids, but that’s OK” If my child runs someone over should I offer to pay the hospital bill or just pay them off and hope they go away. Do I allow my baby girls to ignore rules of common courtesy or should I send them to Miss Manners. These are all things I feel sure every parent has on the tip of their tongues but they have never had a place to go to get educated. Do you think that we’ll get really lucky and Lindsey Lohan’s Mom and I guess now Dad is in the picture, will try to compete with a book of their own. I can hardly wait.

As a writer, am I flattering myself? Who cares. I often go into a book store –usually a chain or Costco, to see who is perusing the books. There are so many bookstores that it gives me hope that people are reading but what is selling? The NYT best selling non- fiction hard cover books are:
1. I AM AMERICA (AND SO CAN YOU), by Stephen Colbert et al
2. CLAPTON, by Eric Clapton
3. MY GRANDFATHER’S SON, by Clarence Thomas
4. THE AGE OF TURBULENCE, by Alan Greenspan
5. CELEBRITY DETOX, by Rosie O’Donnell

The top five self help—which I guess are non-fiction but sometimes I wonder

1. DECEPTIVELY DELICIOUS, by Jessica Seinfeld (I think this must be Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, why else would anyone spend a dime.
2. THE SECRET, by Rhonda Byrne
3. BE THE PACK LEADER, by Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier
4. THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS, by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden

I understand the draw of the first five, they are all about celebrity. Clarence Thomas’ book reveals how he grew up pitifully poor. He is good at ‘oh poor me’ and name calling —but he still never explains why, since he had advantages because he was Black, would he deny others the same opportunity. He merely says he doesn’t want people to think that Black people can only excel with certain privileges. What a crock. And– even Greenspan has an audience – I guess there are a great many old white guys who still care about what he thinks. And I know why people buy self-help books even though they never help. I have owned more diet books than there are diets. But why in the world would anyone care about what Brittany Spears mother has to say with regard to raising a child. And this book will inevitably be a best seller.

My editor (So You Think You Can Be President ?—in stores January ’08) tells me that in order to be in places like Costco you have to be a best seller. And you don’t get to be a best seller until you have a commitment from the publisher for lots of best selling books. And Best sellers are media driven—so if they think you’ll get lots of media, then they will distribute or buy books and best selling books will sell. Does that make any sense? Here’s the bottom line. If you are a celebrity or write about a celebrity then your book is likely to become a best seller because people and publishers are celebrity crazy. People won’t necessarily read it but they will buy it—and that’s what counts. And the only good news about that is that people will buy the wondrous Mrs. Spears advice/tell all book, but hopefully they won’t read it. We’re just sayin… Iris

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can I move to a different planet, or perhaps Costa Rico?

Si, Walt