Almost every day, one of Amy Julia’s children says something or asks something that prompts her to think more carefully: “What ‘lasting’ mean?” William wonders when he hears a song about God being an everlasting God. “If the children who died went to heaven, then why are we sad,” Penny asks, when she passes by a funeral for a victim of the Sandy Hook shootings. “I don’t wanna’ get ‘tized!” says Marilee about baptism. These conversations deepen her relationships with her children, but they also deepen and refine her own understanding of what she believes, why she believes it, and what she hopes to pass along to the next generation.
Small Talk is a narrative based upon these conversations. It is not a parenting guide. It does not offer prescriptive lessons about how to talk with children. Rather, it tells stories based upon the questions and statements Amy Julia’s children have made about the things that make life good (such as love, kindness, beauty, laughter, and friendship), the things that make life hard (such as death, failure, and tragedy), and what we believe (such as prayer, God, and miracles).
Amy Julia moves in rough chronological order through the basic questions her kids asked when they were very young to the more intellectual and spiritual questions of later childhood. Small Talk invites other parents into these same conversations, with their children, with God, and with themselves. Moving from humorous exchanges to profound questions to heart-wrenching moments, Amy Julia encourages parents to ask themselves—and to talk with their children about—what matters most.
As a parent, I believe we are put here to teach our children. Sometimes, however, that role is reversed and it’s my children who teach me. Everyday I am reminded how much of a blessing my children are to me. In Chapter 1, the author, Amy, was describing to Penny, her daughter, about the day she was born. After she finishes the birth story, well what we thought was the end, she admits to Penny that she was scared after her daughter was born. Why was she scared? Because Penny was born with Down Syndrome. Penny’s mother was haunted by thoughts of hopelessness because her daughter was not an average child; she was not the child parents pray for – “It doesn’t matter if my child is a boy or a girl, just as long as he/she is healthy.” She was worried and terrified of raising a child with Down Syndrome and how this disorder would negatively affect her daughter’s life. She was left with the question of how Down Syndrome would hurt Penny. However, she goes on and tells Penny that Down Syndrome didn’t hurt her. It didn’t hurt them. “We are so happy, every day, to have you in our lives.”
WOW! I want to stop there for a moment. For those who have read about our family or who have followed me for a while, you know that my oldest has Aspergers. You also know we have an alphabet soup of all the “DDs” (Development and/or Deficit Disorders) that you can imagine. My oldest is diagnosed with Aspergers, ADHD and ODD. My middle son is diagnosed with ADHD, SPD and has had his share of hearing and digestive track issues. My youngest had a stroke in utero and we spent the first weeks of his life in the hospital or driving back and forth from the hospital. While my two older sons have been a struggle at times, my youngest brought the most worry to my husband and me. We knew immediately after birth something wasn’t right, whereas my other two sons took a couple of years for the diagnosis to surface. The weeks following my youngest son’s birth was difficult, traumatic, emotionally and mentally and physically draining. Although we knew something was wrong, it took the medical staff weeks to figure out what was wrong. He was born at a poultry 9 lbs 7 oz and dropped below 7 lbs within the first 2 weeks of his life. We were so happy to have this baby boy, yet we were scared that he wouldn’t survive. If he did survive, we were scared not knowing the effects his stroke had on his life. Reading Small Talk mentally thrust me back into my emotional roller coaster, back to the beginning of all of those “diagnosis” moments, back to the time when I felt my being yanked out and not knowing the how and why. Reading this transported me back to the feelings of hopelessness as I felt the dreams of what I had envisioned for my boys being crushed because of their disorders.
In Chapter 2, Amy talks about things she has done or hasn’t done that she views as failures. For example, forgetting about a party at Penny’s school. Yet, while Penny was disappointed that her mom forgot about the party, she just brushed it off as an oversight. Penny also wanted to take tennis lessons. Although many people would think this was an unnecessary expense and ultimately a waste of money because of Penny’s limitations, Amy thought otherwise. Each tennis lesson increased her confidence and I’m not talking about Penny’s confidence, but Amy’s confidence in Penny. Instead of getting discouraged, Penny remained positive at each lesson and found something to praise God about. ” I hit the ball!” “I was a good listener!” “I did a great job!” As Amy looks back at her list of failures, she sometimes wished that she couldn’t have a bit of her daughter’s positive attitude. This reminds me of my oldest. Bookworm is much the same as Penny. Blessed with athletic abilities he was NOT. However, he has proven to me over and again to not underestimate his gumption and positive attitude. One year he wanted to play soccer. I admit I missed many sign up deadlines because I was nervous for him. I was scared to let him fail. Sigh. Then one year there was a church led soccer camp and he begged to go. How can I say no to church activities like that? He was faithful to get up each morning ready to go in his shiny new soccer cleats. He had a blast! The last day of camp there was a game. I was excited to watch him play! Each day he had come home from camp with a lesson learned and positive attitude. He absolutely loved the sport. During his game on that last day I was humbled as I watched him go back and forth across the field. His love for the game, his sheer happiness touched my soul deep down! He was pretty good at playing I found out, too. That boy who constantly tripped over his own feet with nothing around, proved to his mom that he could be like Penny – strong, competitive, and positive.
I encourage you to grab a copy of Small Talk and read it. You will be blessed by Amy’s wonderful story. I really enjoyed it! There were a couple of small parts that I feel I need to point out to my readers though. I know many of you are not okay with Santa. There is a chapter in here addressing Santa and I didn’t agree with her take on it. However, it did not affect the heart of the story. Also, there is a chapter where the author received an email from their Pastor speaking about Baptism. She then turns to her son William and asks him if he wants to be Baptized. She explained what it was and its significance to him and he agreed to get Baptized. To be honest, I struggle with this more than I do the Santa thing. My beliefs are that you must first accept Christ as your savior before baptism. Baptism is an outward sign of our inner faith in Christ. When my kids have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, we follow their acceptance with a study on Baptism. We explain its importance and what it means. After our study, my children meet with the Pastor and they must share their desire to be baptized. After all, it is their choice, not mine, their dad’s, or anyone else for that matter. It is a commitment between them and God. The book in itself is very well written. It is very heartwarming but I do feel I need to point out those things to my readers.
I give it a 4/5. If you want a copy of the book you can get it below:
I also am having a giveaway for the book! If you want to enter click below:
**** I received a copy of this book from Propeller Entertainment in exchange for an honest and fair review****