A comic and heartwarming memoir about childhood's second act from Real Simple journalist Catherine Newman.
Much is written about a child's infancy and toddler years, which is good since children will never remember it themselves. It is ages 4-14 that make up the second act, as Catherine Newman puts it in this delightfully candid, outlandishly funny new memoir about the years that "your children will remember as childhood." Following Newman's son and daughter as they blossom from preschoolers into teenagers, CATASTROPHIC HAPPINESS is about the bittersweet joy of raising children--and the ever-evolving landscape of issues parents traverse. In a laugh out-loud, heart-wrenching, relatable voice, Newman narrates events as momentous as grief and as quietly moving as the moonlit face of a sleeping child. From tantrums and friendship to fear and even sex, Newman's fresh take will appeal to any parent riding this same roller coaster of laughter and heartbreak.
Parents might be hoping for a guide to making childhood less messy, but Newman (Waiting for Birdy) will assuredly convince them that chaos is actually the funniest thing that could possibly happen. When the author's two-year-old throws a tantrum because she can't remove her own fingers, anticipate feeling a combination of horror and nostalgia. Newman comes across as a cool and smart mom most of the time and her kids, Ben and Birdy, as adorable. Though the metaphor is both beautiful and cloying, she neatly captures the exact kind of anxiety that many parents possess: "First kids are so often sweltering inside a kind of worried parental greenhouse where they get clipped into odd, neurotic topiary children." The main criticism that can be lodged against this book falls into the same bag as a parental judgment: it's undoubtedly valid but not very useful. Readers almost certainly didn't need another parenting memoir, but this one is laugh-out-loud funny. Newman brings tears and laughter and truth to the inexplicable like the demanding aimlessness of her children's stories pairing some very effective anecdotes with the boredom, pride, disgust, and joy of child-rearing.