Yesterday, I sat reading from two different books. Both of which I put down. Both of which I don't intend to pick up again.
The first book was a mystery by Dorothy Sayers, a Harriet Vane mystery titled Gaudy Night. I made it through the first chapter and then was so overwhelmed by the cynical attitudes of the characters about each other that it made me want to cry. I think I have considered cynicism a modern invention of the last thirty years, but this book made me aware that cynicism has a much longer history than I had realized. This book was originally published in 1935. Harriet Vane's life mirrored Dorothy Sayers' own life in many respects, according to my husband.
As I read the first chapter, I was struck by the wonderful and varied language Ms. Sayers used in her writing. I loved that aspect of the writing. In order to read the book, I had to think and consider the impact of the vocabulary she chose.
Heaviness began to permeate my heart as I read first Harriet Vane's view of herself, but then later her view of others. She was the epitome of a true cynic. Self-deprecating insecurity filled her thoughts, while boredom and disdain for what she saw as the worthlessness and ineptitude of others followed on the heels of the critical thoughts of herself. The cynicism wasn't limited to the main character, though. Even a character who was liked by Ms. Vane, Ms. Lydgate, who Harriet said was always kind in her words to others showed her true colors as she lambasted one of the other teachers as the most boring of bores (my words) to Ms. Vane. Thus, Ms. Lydgate was nice to people's faces, but two faced behind their backs.
I set down the book, because I couldn't enjoy it. Reading about two faced people talking about two faced people is not something I want to do.
The second book I sat down with is one that I've been reading for the past few weeks--a few pages at a time. My pediatrician had recommended this book to me. Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote a book titled "How to Raise an Adult". I had enjoyed the first chapter because it traced the changes in our culture's view of how to parent over the past 30 years. Since I was a kid during the 1970s and 80s, I wasn't aware of the factors that brought about major changes in how adults parented while I was growing up. But, yesterday as I read, the message grew very redundant. The author lives in Palo Alto, with her two teenagers. She lives in a different world than I do--but it is the world that I grew up in. I remember it well. I still remember the disdain from a girl that I volunteered at the hospital during high school with when I explained that my family didn't regularly donate my money to my dad's alma mater. I remember that world well and I As I read on, I knew that I never wanted to raise my kids in the world that she lives in.
The world Ms. Lythcott lives in is similar to my world in many ways, but also different. She lives in the most expensive place in the US to live. It is an upper middle class/upper class area. I grew up on the "right side of the tracks", but as an adult have always lived "on the wrong side of the tracks" so to speak. It's interesting that at one point she says "If you are among the vast majority of us who aren't wealthy". I did look Ms. Lythcott up to make sure that I wasn't saying anything that is way off, but the houses in her neighborhood sell for almost $3m. Hmmm. That's not the world I live in. I don't think she's like the majority of people I know.
This book is written to families with two working parents who have degrees (and likely advanced degrees) who make enough money to hover and enroll their kids in private schools and lessons. There are some things that trickle down to the middle class like the tendency to do too much for their kids and not let them fall, to not teach kids life skills because there isn't time for anything besides homework, and to foster an entitlement mentality by giving kids everything they want (when financially feasible).
This is a secular book about parenting. It is all about what you can do. It's always interesting to read about how people want to instill good values and morals in their children--without God's guiding them. Sometimes it is very discouraging for me to realize the answers that our culture gives people about the best way to live--without God.
I do agree with Ms. Lythcott-Haims about these things: helicopter parenting, being involved in every activity, not letting your children fall, not teaching your children life skills, structuring all of their time--these things are not good for children. These things result in children who can become adults who are thoughtless of others, think they are entitled to a certain living, look down on others with less education, and who inadvertantly communicate the idea that they are blessing their parents with their presence when they choose to be around.
I don't want these things for my children. I want to raise grateful children who love others well, who think of others, who use the gifts that God has given them, who value the work God has given them to do, and who value the gift of fellowship. Rather than reading Ms. Lythcott-Haim's book, I'd recommend Growing Grateful Kids by Susie Larson instead to Christians.
So as not to get even more bogged down than I feel this morning, I am putting down these two books.