Cutting Teeth, Julia Fierro
The book is about five members of a playgroup who joined each other for a weekend away at the summer home of one of their members, a member who was so disrespectful that she didn’t even ask her parents for permission to use their home. Unexpectedly, the weekend exposed the group to each other, warts and all, and the idyllic sojourn was not very idyllic. Basically, they seemed like today’s wannabes and yuppies who respected little but their own immediate needs, used texting to communicate and got most of their information from the internet on random websites that caught their interest.
Like chameleons, they adapted to each other and their surroundings, without ever truly exposing their real faces or personalities. Instead, they put on acts and airs to be accepted by each other and to gain approval and entry into certain select circles. Each of these characters was in some way jealous of the other or coveted something another one had without even understanding their own obsessions and behavioral needs. Some were emotionally unstable and some were totally neurotic in need of medical care. Even the most normal seemed broken in some way. They lied, stole, manipulated, and used each other and the world about them in order to get what they wanted. They were the most selfish group of dysfunctional human beings ever assembled in one place, I think, and the weekend did not turn out as a bonding experience, but rather the opposite.
Many of their problems were being passed down to the children as evidenced by some of their behavior toward each other. As an example, Tiffany made it her business to gather information about the people she interacted with which she then used to influence their behavior. She unnerved them with little hints and comments to get her way. At the same time, her daughter Harper was a little tattle tale, just as ruthless as her mother. Harper dominated the other children, all boys, with her demanding personality.
Another example was Rip, the stay at home dad who wanted to be the best “mommy”. This encouraged remarks by some, insinuating that he might be effeminate. He sought the praise and admiration of the other members in the group, sometimes inappropriately. His son Hank was hypersensitive and squeamish, making some wonder about his masculinity, as well.
Allie and Susannah were the lesbian couple with the twin boys Dash and Levi. They squabbled about life choices and both seemed a bit on edge and at odds with each other. Their twins exhibited the same kind of tension with each other as they played, but they were sometimes more physical in their expressions of displeasure. As Both Susannah and Allie wanted to escape their present situation, it seemed so did Dash. The discontent was contagious.
Actually, after all was said and done, thinking about all of the couples, one could use the term discontented to describe most of the members and spouses in the playgroup with the exception of the honorary member, the Tibetan nanny, Tenzin. She could bring calm to all situations with the children, and her quotes from the Dalai Llama accomplished the same results for the adults.
The author seemed to have taken pains to include an example of all types of relationships and backgrounds. There is the implication that there is an interracial couple, an interreligious couple, an unmarried couple, a couple that did not come together because the spouse could not handle this type of weekend, and, of course, the lesbian couple. There is a delegate from every walk of life, as well.
If the group wasn’t so disheartening, it might have been more humorous to me. As it was, I found it, instead, to be depressing. If this is a sample of today’s playgroups and parenting, our future is in danger. The parent’s behavior left so much to be desired. While they might not give their children anything but organic food, some thought nothing of popping pills or alcohol into their mouths to cope with their lives. Some parents fed their children anything, coffee included, to prevent a tantrum, while insisting only on organic food. They did not seem to appreciate the life they had. Some forbade TV because of its possible link to brain damage, others used it as a babysitter. They had unreal expectations of their children and demanded immediate gratification like infants, for themselves. They were self-absorbed adults, stuck with their own immature view of the world and they were passing it on to their children.
This group of young upwardly mobile adults insulted each other and often jumped to incorrect, impetuous conclusions. They were generally arrogant and self-centered, thinking of no other needs but their own. The competition among them was fierce. The language they used was certainly not high-brow and bordered often on very coarse.
Still, even though the behavior of the parents was reprehensible, it can’t be denied that the book had well developed characters. However, it was written with little vignette type chapters that did sometimes leave the reader wondering where the rest of it was. A subject was often dropped before it felt fully explained.
When I finished I hoped with all my heart that this was not a true representation of modern parenting or an example of the children who would be making up the future of the world. I couldn’t help thinking that these parents had to give more thought to the choices being made. Sometimes, allowing children to be children all the time, without enough guidance, prevents them from learning the skills to become responsible adults.
***As an aside, I was disappointed in the book because once again I was baited into reading a book about one thing only to find out that a large portion of the book was devoted to something else. The inclusion of a lesbian couple with very graphic descriptions of their sex was not something I would have chosen to read about. Alternate lifestyles do not upset me, but just as I don’t buy books with graphic heterosexual sex scenes, I do not intend to buy books that include lesbian or homosexual sex. I find that in most books, when it is sprinkled into the narrative, it doesn’t enhance it but is used, instead, to entice a certain reader. I believe that if a book is written well with a good storyline, it doesn’t need sex scenes to attract readers. Before I began to read this book, I read reviews in which there was nary a mention of lesbians, so although I had a library copy, I also ordered a print copy as well. When I became familiar with the story, I cancelled that order. I had previously made a promise to myself that I would do that from now on if I was caught unawares by reviews that deliberately left out mention of that part of the story in order to attract a more general audience.