Everybody’s experiences are different, right? Nobody had the same exact high school experience as anybody else; nobody’s Christmases, or prison terms, or piano recitals are exactly alike; And nobody’s experience of parenting is exactly 100% the same as any others. But the thing about writing is that it takes all the things that are unique and singular, and somehow makes them feel universal. There’s something about mothering, about parenting, something about loving a child so much to the exclusion of all else that, even though we know it is different for each of us, can be expressed by deft writers in such a way that the experience feels universal. And in this book, Kaui Hart Hemmings somehow manages to make single motherhood, in our completely ridiculous contemporary culture, an experience that rings true to each reader. I defy you to read the first chapter without feeling gut-punched and giddy in equal parts – there’s so much truth and honesty, humor and hurt that you will immediately want to keep reading.
I devoured this story of single mom, Mele and her “wonderful mistake” Ellie and how they make their way through their mixed up lives. I saw the term ‘mommy wars’ on the Amazon link up above there, but I h a t e that term, so I’m not going to use it: I think it’s ridiculous. That said – fitting in with other moms? SUPER HARD! Multiply making friends in middle school by like a billion, because you’re not forced to hang out with them for eight hours a day, and nobody’s moms are arranging playdates anymore, because holy crap you’re the moms!, and everybody is so JUDGEY for no reason, or at least it feels like they are, and where are you even supposed to meet other parents, because who is leaving the house with an infant? Not me, because then he’d have to get dressed, and I’d have to get dressed, and we’re not doing that without some guarantee of a good time, so … let’s stay on the couch, kid. (Ahem. I may be speaking from experience. And know a lot of moms. And, well… ANYways) So Mele spends the book being sarcastic and genuine and hilarious, as she plays Goldilocks with Mom Groups, trying to find her best fit. And when she finally does, it is so worth it –
“But finally, she has found her fit: Annie, Georgia, Barrett, and Henry. She loves the way they talk—the clip and rhythm of it. An afternoon with them can make her feel warm and invincible. She knows they aren’t that original. Like the blues, parents all over the place use the same words, same chords, but it’s so great to be able to synchronize with people postchildren. It’s a joy, a relief, and really, a key component to happiness.”
Because we all need our tribe, right folks? There’s a lot more to the story – some bits about Ellie’s dad and his stupidity, or Mele’s work as a writer and how she flounders trying to find her niche there for a while, too – but the majority of the story was about finding your tribe, and what you do once you have. How you have to work at it, just like any other relationship. How you have to give and take, and be willing to listen and/or ignore when things matter. How to open your heart back up to other people, once you’ve had to close it for repairs. And the writing is deep and profound and hilarious, and full of little wisdom nuggets about things you have to think about, once you are in charge of someone else’s life. I mean, I’m new to this co-parenting thing, but holy god did I feel this one right down in the pit of my stomach: “That’s what scares me the most—not just preschool but the choices we make that herd us toward a certain point, making the other points and places fall away. I’m scared of my choices. I’m scared of what I’m capable of doing for my child, I’m afraid I’ve already taken too many bad turns and she’ll look back at the map and say, “Why didn’t you go here? Why did you turn there?” and “Why can’t we go back?”
How overwhelming is parenthood, and every little choice that could mean so much in the life of a little person you love with all your heart? And isn’t it nice when someone else just gets that?
(My copy of HTPWAI was provided by NetGalley, in exchange for this honest review.)