It’s hard to imagine when my eight-year-old is reading Harry Potter in her jammies and Crocs surrounded by American Girl dolls and Webkinz that one day she will be a full-fledged teenager, asking to borrow car keys and bringing home boyfriends. This transition from a child filled with needs, hopes and dreams that only a parent can help provide to an almost-adult learning to be responsible for oneself out in the big wide world is not written about by many people. Maybe it’s too sad, or maybe it’s too hard, but most, if not all, parents experience it. And in her new book, THE GIFT OF AN ORDINARY DAY, Katrina Kenison is able to articulate quite fully the ups and downs, tears and fears, that accompany this important ritual of parent-child relationships.
With two boys, Kenison has lived a fairly hectic life. Now things are slowing down but changing rapidly: “My days of mothering young children were really and truly over, and that was hard to bear. His life as a little boy was over, too, and that was also hard. Neither of us slipped easily into this new way of being. Perhaps it is the rare mother and son who do. But for us it seemed as if all the old ways, our intimacy, the very essence of our relationship, had to shatter first and lie in pieces.” Yikes! That’s pretty hard stuff as any parent would attest to. And Kenison doesn’t shy away from the deep sadness that comes with watching these events --- which every action you’ve taken since the child was conceived has been leading you to --- unfold while you kind of wish they wouldn’t, or at least didn’t have to happen in quite this way. It’s a slippery slope, and Kenison is very honest and forthright about her difficulties in moving into this new phase of family life.
From mundane situations like having a child grow six or seven inches in the course of one year to the things that they now want to keep secret from you when full disclosure usually came so easily, Kenison mines a difficult vein with a smattering of sappiness (which worked for me) and clear, concise language that points out the rational mind behind the grieving heart. As a writer, it is clear that she observes and reacts and feels all at the same time, doling out one emotion at a time. But each reminiscence --- like the occasion of her first son’s birth at Christmastime --- bears the resonance of all these abilities at the same time. Even the consideration of herself as a selfish 17-year-old is a revelation in honesty.
Kenision finds some comfort (as do we all) in her experiences as a fledgling human during the teen years. Ultimately, it is this knowledge that sets in motion that timeless carousel of important life moments, ones that we experience ourselves as we grow up and then experience again as our very own children make those journeys themselves.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 22, 2011