Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Giveaway and Book Review: Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Because You are Not Alone

image courtesy: DRT Press

WHAT: Easy to Love But Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories, an anthology co-edited by Kay Marner and Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, Foreword by Dr. Edward Hallowell
DOES: Reading about parenting struggles can put your own life as a parent in perspective; for many, it can feed a soul
INVEST: $9 - $19
TOOLS:  Family Fix-its (for the parent especially); Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy (learning about others' lives can do that, especially if those lives are different from yours)

So today is really different: I'm reviewing a book that is an anthology of stories written by parents who are raising some very challenging children.   For those of you who are new to Toys are Tools, time to time, you'll see that we devote space to gadgets that improve family functionality and while this book doesn't use any batteries, there is a tremendous supply of energy here. 

So here is the title of the book: Easy to Love but Hard to Raise...  Have you ever felt this way?  I remember a mom that I really respect once told her child, "It's hard to be the mother in this family."  She felt bad about that but I did so much worse.  To Number 1, I once said, "Sometimes it is so hard to be your mother!!!!!"  I felt awful after I said it but the deed was done.  The feeling stays with you for awhile because you feel like you are the worst parent in the universe - no one could possibly feel as horrible as you.  But then my friend Kay Marner and her co-editor Adrienne Ehlert Bashista started collecting stories where parents talk about having felt just as horrible as I did that day.  It was released earlier this year and as I read the book, it seemed as if there was an invisible message that floated off each page and whispered quietly in my ear:

You are not alone.

There are parenting books out there, all different kinds.  Some are right for you and some are not.  While this book includes 15 informative expert explanations along with the work from 32 parent-writers, this book is not a how-to guide in anyway. Rather, this book is a collection of essays from parents who just speak the truth about how difficult things are or have been because of who they are parenting.   Few people could be more qualified than these two editors to take on this task. Kay Marner writes the blog My Picture Perfect Family at ADDitudemag.com.  Adrienne Ehlert Bashista is the owner of DRT press, the publisher of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise and the author of two children's books about adoption. Both are parents of children who are easy to love but hard to raise and dedicated their professional careers to supporting other parents through their writing.

I feel that this book is so fitting for the readers here because some of the most discerning of toy purchasers are in fact parents who do have a tough time parenting.  Some of these children may or may not be as difficult as those described in this book but the commonality is this:   I believe every reader here is a person who wants more for their child- as in - they have frequent and conscious thoughts about helping their child on something.  

But the very act of wanting more can be painful.  We can all relate to that.  But why read about pain?  Well, if you haven't left this page to go download the book on your Kindle, then first, thanks for staying! Secondly, you'll be happy to know that New York City adult psychiatrist, Dr. Kim Busi, formerly Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine had this to say about Easy to Love But Hard to Raise.

Dr. Busi agreed with me that reading/hearing about other parents and their stories not only help with coping but she added that it also did something far more essential.  "It allows you to experience, often for the first time, a sense of community in parenthood.  No one prepares you for parenting a child with differences."

Dr. Busi's own personal experiences could well fit within these pages as she also raises a child who is frequently described by the term "twice-exceptional."  That is, her child is gifted but also has special needs and the combination of the two differences can make a parent's job really tough.  "The fact that your child is not typical by definition makes you an outlier in the world of parenting."  Dr. Busi added that doing "normal" things is anything but normal for your child.

Dr. Busi founded The Quad Manhattan, an afterschool center for twice-exceptional children in New York City to create what she describes as "a constant, physical locus for community with other children and families."  Maybe she was trying to create a new "normal" or at least a place where some children and families do not have to feel "abnormal."

Kay Marner, a good mom, a good writer, and a good friend. (photo courtesy: Kay Marner)

Dr. Busi went on to say that after seeing a book like Easy to Love but Hard to Raise, some parents might actually feel validated for the very first time.  This is interesting because while the two have never spoken before, that is exactly what co-editor Kay Marner described as a frequent reaction to the book, readers tell her they realized something they really never knew before:

I am not alone.

Kay has been surrounding herself with her community and receiving support for many years now but when she hears these reactions from readers of the book, she feels the pain of all these mothers all over again.  "If your whole world is surrounded by "normal" then you don't have any community whatsoever. It's not until you find and meet other parents with kids like yours that you start to learn and find support."

A New Tool for Parents of Easy-to-Love-but-Just-Occasionally-Hard-to-Raise Kids

Support is great. Community is greater.  But I feel what would, could, or dare I say SHOULD happen with this book is so much more.  A long time ago, I was treating myself to a DVR'd recording of the Oprah Winfrey Show.  She had a parenting expert come on to basically supernanny a desperate couple with out-of-control kids.  She then referred to the occasional tantrums that she sees in a supermarket and she told the audience that when she sees that, she never thinks the child is the one with the problem.  Rather, she said that the child's behavior was the result of poor parenting. 

I was crushed.  I totally love Oprah but she just didn't get it that not all children are that way because their parents need a good Supernannying.  Sometimes my kid is having a hard day and I just plain cannot contain it fast enough to avoid polluting everyone's peace.  But if my child has a tantrum somewhere, I feel those judging eyes looking at me.  I've even gotten my share of compliments too and so even with that, I know people are judging all the time.  But judging is unfair, especially when you don't know what you are looking at.

I like to call this a "PSA for the Home."  I hung up this sign at the scene of the crime where my Italian leather sectional was murdered by two pairs of small but heavy feet and excessive spilling of water, juice, and milk. 

I am hoping that whoever reads this book, will maybe stop and think about those kids they see in the restaurants or the supermarket or the playground.  Maybe one person might read this book and see that the tantrum is all that it is: one big fat freakin' bad day due to I-may-never-know-what and not automatically representative of poor parenting.  If they see the same kid again and that kid is still having yet another crisis then hopefully they may remember what they read in this anthology and try to empathize even just for a moment how the parent may be feeling.  Better yet, they can teach their children to empathize how that child might be feeling.  Maybe this has happened to you already.  I hope you might just go ahead, and talk with your child about what happened on your way back home from the park.  Ask your child why she thinks that boy blew up into a raging fit when that girl mistook his scooter for hers and rode it for ten minutes before realizing the mix-up.  Your child may not know and you can use that chance to help her fill in the blanks.

Dr. Busi talked about a growing awareness of easy-to-love-but-hard-to-raise-kids in the media, namely the show Parenthood on NBC. There are more of these exceptional children on television shows and in movie theatres.  These characters are being followed by veteran entertainment editor-turned-blogger Beth Arky at the Child Mind Institute's blog: Brainstorm.  After reading Beth's most recent post, I was once again reminded of just how important a book like Easy to Love but Hard to Raise really is.  Right after the season finale, a website called Television Without Pity harshly put down the characters of a family of an intellectually gifted boy who is challenged by Asperger's.  Their offensive remarks were just plain ugly and it just goes to show that there are plenty of people out there who just don't get it and say hurtful things.

This sign is what I call a "speed bump."  If we tend to act before thinking then speed bumps like this are great!  When tricks like this work, it makes them less hard to raise and even more easier to love!!!

Here is a book that could affect changes not just within this community but hopefully to those outside of it as well.   Not only are the stories riveting for just about anyone but for parents who are like my readers are frequently seeking more for their child, I can say only this:  I firmly believe that leadership starts with empathy and listening.  When we model real empathetic listening, the kids will hopefully follow suit.  It's probably one of the greatest skills we can teach our children.  I am still working on this skill myself.

If you do choose to get the book, be forewarned, you may need some tissue.  I even cried while interviewing Kay on the phone.  I'm not the only one who cried! Dr. Busi cried way in the beginning of the book when she read the Foreword by Dr. Edward Hallowell, a globally-recognized expert in helping kids who are easy to love but hard to raise.  I'll post an excerpt of that in my facebook page but don't go there yet!  See below for a giveaway of this amazing anthology.

Lastly, this post is dedicated to someone who really "gets it."  I like to call her Barbjay because that is part of her email address and I see it all the time.  Barbjay owns and/or co-moderates three support yahoogroups with members totaling in the thousands. Through these groups she has been helping tons of parents from all over with their easy-to-love-but-hard-to-raise kids.   Her child is a certified grown-up now but she still takes time out in her yahoogroups to answer questions from worried parents of young children.  Barbjay told Toys are Tools, "I consider it such a privilege AND responsibility to help where and when I can.  That's what helped ME along the way!"  We love you Barbjay. 

Here is a way to win your very own copy of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise in this giveaway contest sponsored by yours truly.    Giveaway ends on 3/20/12 at 12:01 AM.  Canada-friendly... AGAIN! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Disclosure statement: Toys are Tools has not been compensated in any fashion by the publisher or retailer of any of the mentioned products for the publication of this post.  In fact, the review copy and giveaway prize were both purchased by Toys are Tools.  DRT Press and Kay Marner gave Toys are Tools permission to use these photos.

Buy your own copy or download on Kindle now:


  1. I think that knowing you are not alone is half the battle! the other half is having a community of support to reach out to.

    Thanks for running another great giveaway!

  2. Awesome, awesome post, Jenn. Thanks for including my "Parenthood" coverage. It, along with all the bloggers like you, have made me feel much less alone, which is a very good thing since parenting in a void stinks. I'll be sharing.

  3. I have a child with sensory issues, and have become immersed in SPD circles/study. So, lo and behold, I was surprised when he was dx'd officially with ADHD and am now trying to immerse myself more in the ADHD community (which, of course, overlaps with the SPD and ASD ones!) This book sounds fabulous for offering me insight from that community, and to tell the truth, the title alone has me interested. Why? B/c my son has always been easy to love, but challenging to train up!