Happy Heart Book Review: The Hair-Raising Joys of Raising Boys

Well, I’m a bit inspired to talk about books today, because last night I had an inaugural book club meeting. I’ve been in a book club before and really loved it, but it kind of dissolved when some of us decided to have babies and get busy with baby related pursuits.

So, it was exciting last night to be involved in another book club, and I must say I’m very excited. We’ve got a great book list to take us through to September and there are lots of very avid book lovers (in fact, I felt a bit out of my depth some of the time, I am most certainly not as widely read as many of them!) so I know we are going to have some totally scintillating conversations!

I had decided to write some book reports this year when I finished a book, because books are most definitely something that make my heart happy! My first book of the year, was not a top 20 or on a popular read list, but rather reflective of my stage of life.

My sister gave me two books on parenting boys for my birthday in November. I was eager to glean all types of advice from them, because as mentioned, like most parents; let’s make that like ALL parents; I have many parenting moments when I’m just not sure what to do next. I started to read this with great enthusiasm, ready to glean as much wisdom as I could from another parent who would no doubtedly have all the answers on how to cope with living with two young males.

I must say Dave Meurer did not live up to my expectations at all. He was remarkably unhelpful most of the time. I should have realised this when he started the book by berating me for reading the Prologue. I always read prologues, I often get nice bits of insight into the book or the author from them. But not this book. No the author instantly declares that prologues are useless, and then I got ‘in trouble’ for reading it. Strange. I kept reading, and I was completely baffled during the first chapters. Where was the sage advice? Where was the nuggets of wisdom? Where was the training manual?

Instead, Meurer described in great detail how infant males produce ungodly stenches and messes in their nappies. (Very true, but the point in devoting chapter 1 to this natural/unnatural occurrence?) Chapter 2 was telling me that my parenting was doomed due to having boys. Chapter 3 gave a spectacular example outlining why I would not be able to outsmart my young charges.

Somewhere during Chapter 4, (I’m obviously a bit slow, but I was so anxious to receive some earth shattering new parenting methods that would transform our family life), I cottoned on that this wasn’t your typical Christian parenting manual. I worked out that this book was a joke. Literally. I had to get out of the ‘self help’ mindset and realise the author was just trying to make me laugh! And laugh I did. If I could write a blog that is as funny as Dave Meurer’s writing, I’d be very proud of myself!

I found myself giggling during his reflections on his own teenage years when he’s parents detested his music choice and made him listen to a guy playing the accordian. Meurer determined that he would be a generous parent and let his kids listen to the Monkees all they liked, and now expresses disappointment that his kids do not want to listen to the Monkees.

There were smiles, and the occassional nod of agreement when I read the chapter titled, “Camping with Boys – OR – If God Had Intended Us To Live in the Forest He Wouldn’t Have Given Us Mortgage Bankers.” It was especially fitting because I did read it during our camping trip.

I should give Meurer some extra credit points though. He does have some nuggets of wisdom hidden throughout the book. I think I first noticed there were some tips I could use when I read about “The Ice Cubes of Happiness”, an ingenius way to very quickly get your lethargic child out of bed in the morning. Given that J Boy already has a tendency to sleep in, I instantly recognised that this may be something to experiment with if he’s dragging the chain once he starts school. He also made an excellent point (of course with the funniest of illustrations) that failure to understand is not necessarily disobedience, because sometimes males ‘just don’t get it’. (I’ve found that husbands can also be included in this principal sometimes.) I appreciated his advice that it is invaluable to insist your child come with the family to church. You can’t force them to make a decision for Christ, but you can teach them the invaluable discipline of attending church/youth regularly and you can give them the information necessary to make a decision.

I also loved his chapter describing the year he taught Sunday School to a difficult bunch of year 5’s. Of course being a teacher probably increased my amusement of this chapter, and I did have a snort or two of laughter when he declared that he had been so relieved that he didn’t need to teach year 5 again the next year, but got promoted to teach year 6. But what I really appreciated was his quest to not just give the answers, but to think deeply about spiritual matters and be able to defend your faith. It’s one of my hot topics, and certainly a goal of mine with my own boys.

There were moments of impending dread when I read. My boys are little, his are big. So he may have given me a glimpse at my future. This glimpse may have removed a false sense of security that I had. I had presumed that having boys I had avoided all the bathroom dilemmas that I myself had experience during teenage years, growing up with two sisters. Oh no, Meurer describes in great detail his wife and his intense (to the point of considering bank loans for extensions) bathroom frustation during their boys teenage years. Uh oh!

If you have boys and you want to avoid the typical parenting author style, “I have all the answers, read a drink from my fountain of wisdom”, this is the book for you. It will amuse you and make you smile, and sometimes that’s all you need during this journey, because most of us need the confidence to acknowledge that we are doing a pretty good job. Sometimes a little chuckle is all we need to gird our loins before the next battle. Or, if you are lucky enough to be having a non-battle day, this book reminds us to enjoy the moments of parenting – all of them and to not be too proud to laugh at ourselves, (and occassionally laugh at our kids too!)

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