Tag Archives: Parenting

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Ron’s #38: Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

 Beautiful Boy is subtitled “A Father’s journey through his son’s addiction.”  I first saw this book for sale in a Starbucks several years ago, and it sounded compelling. I saw it in Entertainment Weekly magazine, and I read about it in a few other places. Our school library had it in a featured section, and I took another look at it last month. The topic hit me more than before now that I have two sons. What if one of them became a drug addict? How would I react? Just reading the jacket blurb made me feel that ache in my heart over losing one of my two boys to a destructive habit, so I decided that it was time to read it.
I’m glad that I did. Sheff is a master at this format, taking the reader through many aspects of addiction, especially in addiction to methamphetamines. He writes the account in present tense, an odd decision as most stories are commonly told in past tense. Shaff’s present tense makes us going along the journal with him. This technique helps the narrative feel more important and uncertain.

The strongest aspect of this story is a father’s love for his son. Shaff’s commitment to helping Nic at great cost to himself is (mostly) admirable. I felt his pain at seeing his son after a binge of meth, I sensed his fear with waiting for a call saying that Nic was dead, and I connected with his hope that this relapse would be the last relapse, even though we know it won’t be. This made me look at my sons differently. What if I’m going to remember this time right now 20 years from now when I wait to hear the doctor tell me whether he’ll survive the overdose. Will I reminisce about this Christmas in 20 years after I attend yet another parent support group for drug addicts? This book helped me to appreciate my boys more than ever before.

Another aspect that I liked about this book is the information on methamphetamines, and the danger they pose. There is no drug as unstable and the results so uncertain as meth, and Shaff offers much in the current treatment for this an other drugs. I’ve not read many or even any books on drug abuse, so this was useful. Along with this point, I see that our culture often makes too many jokes about meth addicts and tweakers. There certainly is nothing funny about this terrible drug, regardless of what Breaking Bad portrays.

I hesitate to criticize the book, as it is an account of a family’s pain, so I’ll only make a few comments about what I sensed as problematic. The first glaring one is the family’s disdain for God in this. God “appeared” in many different ways through the story, and I hoped that Nic or David would reach out and trust his guidance. Rather, there was hostility towards him on Nic’s part, and indifference on David’s. the other area that I saw was Nic’s compete freedom as a child.  As a father, Shaff seemed to have no limitations on David in regard to what he watched or friends he spent time with. Later, Nic acknowledged that some of his problems stemmed from being treated as an adult and never being a child. That’s an interesting statement. I was shocked to hear that as a young boy, fifth grade or so, Nic could recite the opening line to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, a movie certainly not intended for boys. Nic needed a father, but Nic got a cool dad who liked cool music and cool movies.

Of course, he didn’t do drugs because he watched a rated R movie, but there is something to be said about exposing our children to the influences of the world, especially too early. And, we would do so much better as parents if we set standards rather than trying to be our children’s buddies. That does not good. At one time in the narrative after Nic has had problems with drugs, he asks David to smoke pot with him, and David agrees. While I appreciate the truthful addition, it should that there is something askew in this relationship.

Tis was a minor annoyance in my enjoyment of the book. I thought it was excellent in many regards, no I’m so glad that I read it. Anne Lamont has a quotation on the cover that sums up my thoughts on it: “This book with save a lot of lives and heal a lot of hearts.” I can see how both aspects of that cold be true.

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Ron’s #29: The Tempest by William Shakespeare

This one is not new to me, but I seemed to enjoy it more for some reason. I liked the protective relationship that Prospero has with his daughter Miranda, and the focus on possible criticism on New World colonization that Shakespeare could be proposing. While the plot is overly complicated and some parts unnecessary (the wedding Masque is dull, dull, dull), it’s an easy entry point into Shakespeare’s plays.

I’ll take this play any day over Romeo and Juliet.

 

Here’s my previous review

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Ron’s #28: Tinkers by Paul Harding

I usually don’t take book recommendations from people. It’s not that I am arrogant about my book choices (OK, maybe I am a little!); rather, it’s because I always have too many books that I’ve already have picked out vying for my attention. Adding in book suggestions just get in the way. And, if I held to this, I would have missed out on one of my favorite books of the year, Tinkers by Paul Harding.

Over dinner at The Harbor, my friend Melissa told me about this book, and her brief overview of the plot sounded interesting: quiet prose, generational storyline, clock maker. Something about that hooked me, and I bought it the next day. I read it while being trapped inside for the weekend that Typhoon Jelawat visiting Okinawa, and this book was the perfect antithesis to the stormy, angry wind outside.

Tinkers begins with George Washington Crosby on his deathbed with this compelling sentence: “George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.” These hallucinations take us through his life in herky-jerky starts and stops, and we as readers must piece together the fragments of snapshots that we see. The narrative crisscrosses between George as an old man, and George as a small boy, focusing on George and then on his father, Howard, a peddler-tinker trying to scrap together a living for his family. Howard is unable to stay due to medical issues. George tells us “he leaked out of the world slowly.”

The story is a sweet portrait of family hardships, of leaving and staying together, of love and work, and of fathers and sons. Simple and slow (but not in the dull meaning of the word), Tinkers gives us a tender picture of the Crosby family. But the best part of the novel is not the story; it is the way the story is told. Harding is a gifted writer who captures the family with his tender constructions. The fragmented timeline is propped up by the beautifully crafted sentences. This inner working of the prose adds to the motif of George’s career as a watchmaker. All this works together to create this memorable book. Melissa was right about the quiet prose.

Tinkers end with one of the most aching scenes I’ve read in a novel: it was a meeting between a young George and his new family and his estranged father. I won’t give anything away here, but we are told that this scene was “the last thing George Washington Crosby remembered as he died.” After I finished it, I thought of my own father and two sons. I put down the book, listened to the wind howling outside, and waited for the boys to wake from their naps. I had something that I really wanted to tell them.

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Ron’s #3: Raising a Modern-Day Knight by Robert Lewis

This is the second book I’ve read about how fathers can raise boys into godly men. After watching Courageous, I had a new resolve to be a father who loves, guides, and leads my son into manhood. This book helped me think about how this looks.

Too often, fathers are the buffoons of the family. At best, indifferent; at worst, abusive. Our culture seems to broadcast the message that men are not important, and that manliness is synonymous with arrogance, homophobia, and chauvinism.  We are afraid to say these five little, reveling words: Men and women are different. Children need both parents to develop fully to their potential. More specifically for this book review, boys need a father to have a healthy concept of manhood.

A real man is one who: • rejects passivity • accepts responsibility • leads courageously • expects the greater reward … God’s reward.

Sadly, many of our youth know little or nothing about any cause other than themselves. Parents have failed—and are failing—to impart a vision that is truly heroic, timeless, and supremely meaningful. The consequences of this omission cannot be understated.

Dad, if you are going to raise a Modern-Day Knight, there is no substitute for your personal character and integrity! By it your son becomes advantaged, empowered, and inspired.

I want to raise our son to be a strong, godly man, and I know that how I model that will influence him in his growth. This does not mean he can only play with trucks and play rugged sports. It does mean that he is a man who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, and leads courageously. I want my boy to grow into a man who embraces this for the glory of God.

I’m not sure what this looks like in all situations, but books like Raising a Modern-Day Knight help me to think more about the issues. The book is not perfect; in fact, I found much of the story annoying. I do not want to have coats of arms or swords or manhood ceremonies (they seems to have one for each minor event). However, I do like that we must train our boys to be men, and that does not merely occur with puberty or high school graduation. I see many young men in the halls of high school who display their fathers indifference in raising them. They are not young men; they are boys in men’s bodies.

May God grant me the conviction and confidence to raise my son differently than the world tells me to. May I be a better model for manhood than our culture is.

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Ron’s #43: Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson

Wanting to read a book that explicitly discusses the need for raising boys, I first thought of this volume. I know that raising a boy has specific challenges than raising girls because—gasp!—boys and girls are different. Contrary to what society has to say on the matter, there are differences in gender. Along with these differences come the different needs for these children. James Dobson addresses some of them well.

The part of the book I enjoyed the most is the need for boys to have a father. On many television shows and movies, the father is the dork or imbecile compared to the wise, all-knowing mother. This picture damages what the role of a man is in boys’ eyes. Dobson points out that a boy needs a father in order to grow up as a healthy man in society. With the many fatherless families in America, this results in a problem for all of society, but especially for that boy.

This book reminded me not only what my son needs, but also of what I need to give. He watches me and will become the man that I am. He will treat his wife the way I treat mine, he will talk the way I talk, and he will lead his family spiritually the way I lead mine, and he will trust Christ and pray the way I do. This is a tall order, one that I need grace for daily.

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