Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What I’m Reading

I have been reading all morning, pinned to the couch, riveted by The Stardust Lounge by Deborah Digges. It's a memoir of her youngest son's horrific adolescent plunge into gangs and drugs and violence. I sought the book out after hearing a reviewer talk about the second part of the story, how Digges never gives up, how she rejects all the conventional ideas of parenting and moves heaven and earth to save her son.

I knew I had to read this book. I knew because I would do anything for my boy too. My boy, who is seven and has not one single thing in his life to be saved from. He handles his own playground tussles with an occasional bit of dinner table advice. He accepts the rules of our household with as much grace as a child his age can muster. He knows what to expect from me – declining to name the new game he's playing on the playground because he knows I'll disapprove. He finally tells me, it is "Blood Bowl" and I ask, is it fun?

I know his friends play adult video games (a six year old & Halo 3? Really?). They hunt with their fathers. (Remember, friends, I live in Texas.) Blood Bowl is really just a game of tag with some unfortunate narrative twists. I am glad, I tell him later, that you have so much fun playing with your friends at school.

I try and give him the room he needs to be a little boy, to run with the pack at school but with limits. No guns (except for neon plastic water pistols). No adult video games. The Kid has never seen a newscast or any other adult television programming with the only exceptions being some Food Network and few carefully chosen sporting events.

We live in a military town and I am determined that military service not be romanticized. We answer questions about the war. We talk about disagreeing with the president and protesting for peace. We tell The Kid that war is not the answer, violence solves nothing.

I think he's grounded and well on the way to being prepared for the proving ground of adolescence. However, if something should go wrong, if he should take a turn toward the dark side I know I will do anything, move heaven and earth to save him. I will never give up. I already knew this about myself, Deborah Digges is just reminding me.


  1. Like you, I would do whatever it took, but let's hope that we don't.

    I will put this book on my library list.

  2. She's not the kind of mother I am (and I bet, not the kind you are either) and it's hard not to place some blame but she fights so passionately - it's pretty amazing.

  3. I'm really hoping that this stuff is caused by bad parenting--and that I don't fall into the bad parent category! I just find it so hard to imagine, the possible difficulties ahead. We're still dealing with toileting "accidents" around here--gangs, drugs and violence?!

    I'm now taking a deep breath...all will be well...

  4. I think Digges would say she's a very unconventional kind of parent and her solutions are equally unconventional.

    My boy always "regressed" a little right around his birthday. It's hard to get a little older sometimes...

  5. I do try and remember what kinds of things (drug-dabbling, alcohol, unprotected sex) I experimented with as a teenager and try to pick apart why. I had lower self-esteem than any of my kids, at their present ages (21,15,14). I was much more vulnerable to peer pressure, and I was very anxious that my parents keep their good opinion of me and remain completely in the dark as to some of activities, so there were no open discussions between us.

    Remembering this stuff, I'm trying to do things a little differently in our family. I do know that when my daughter turned 17 and started asking me more about sex and birth control, and when I took her to her first gynocologist appointment, those were some discussions that I was never comfortable enough to have with my parents. Ditto drinking and drugs.

    The boys are 14 and 15. I gotta admit, the open discussions are more difficult with them, and my husband's not a big conversationalist. :/ So far, so good, though. The 14yo goes to gaming tournaments with college guys, so he is exposed to more at this age. Still, our relationship was open enough that he was able to ask me about the tournaments and tell me why he really wanted to go. And he trusted that I would listen to him, rather than give a kneejerk "No". Trust is good. :)

    I'd like to read that book. I'm interested in unconventional parenting and parents who will do what it takes to meet the needs of their kids at any age. Our culture blames so much on the kids these days. Like, they're broken, but, hey man, WE didn't break 'em. Give 'em a pill and fix 'em, doctor.

    (Sorry so long. Thanks for making me think.)

  6. Thanks, Laura. I am always happy to get a long comment. And I have to say, reading your blog gives me a lot of hope for my own kid's adolescence. I'd like to think we're doing the groundwork now and that we'll have normal separation and conflict but he won't turn into a stranger when he turns twelve.

    I think a lot of what Digges is saying is that, no one, not a psychologist or the schools, no one knows a child like his mother (or father).

    I have a lot of faith in my son and the relationship we've built together.

    Thank you for making me think too!