Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Parenting Notes

  • My oldest son just got a new phone. By mutual agreement, it's a dumbphone. He's trying to activate it and feels obliged to read the terms and conditions before agreeing to them. Somehow he's even more of a stickler for rules than I am; I've been trying to teach him how you sometimes need to break rules, but it's tricky work without wounding his conscience. He's struggling through the obtuse legalese. It's a real coming-of-age moment.
  • My children don't watch much TV and their Internet usage is restricted, but they read a lot of books and I'm supposed to keep track of them. I try hard to get them to read books I've already read and liked, but I still end up having to read a lot of popular child-oriented fiction, much of which is trash. Why aren't more of the ultra-popular teen series better written? There are some good writers, like J.K. Rowling, but so many others just churn out formula with mediocre writing and people lap it up. Right now I'm in Michael Grant's Gone series, which has very average writing but at least combines some good ideas in interesting ways. Could be worse; there's Rick Riordan, who writes similarly but without the ideas. The same rubbish exists in adult fiction, but I don't have to read that.
  • My kids don't like movies. I struggle to get them to go and see any movie, Star Wars, whatever, or even watch them at home. I don't understand it.
  • On the flip side, they love modern board games. That's excellent because my wife and I do too. It's a bit tough trying to work during the school holidays while they're constantly playing great games like Dominion, Lords of Waterdeep, Settlers, etc.


Brendan Eich
Three eldest are nuts for Settlers of Catan, not into movies; read tons of books (none new). No phones yet. We need to take an NZ holiday!
Yes, yes you do! I have some experience giving advice on NZ holidays :-).
Steve Fink
I highly, highly recommend NZ holidays, for what it's worth. Still enjoying the afterglow of mine. (And finally getting around to organizing pictures -- sad story there, but I won't go into that.) I had to struggle to get one of my kids to watch Star Wars. It felt like I was pushing drugs or something. But all thanks to the Ewoks, he now finally has *one* Star Wars movie that he likes. I guess I have one movie kid and one board game kid, which makes it hard to agree on our evenings. Neither is much of a video game kid, thankfully, though I've no idea how they avoided that when both of their parents had the bug earlier in their lives. I have low standards for fiction, and end up reading a lot of what my son is reading. (I'm afraid I'm not doing it for such noble reasons as you. I can't keep ahead of him.) I enjoyed Rick Riordan. For about 1/3 of a book's worth. Then he kept going and going and going... it would've made a good short story, but I guess the appeal of nonstop mindless action doesn't exactly work in short story form. Eragon is where the truly cringeworthy prose is, though. My son loved the whole series. I tried valiantly, but had to give up when faced with the sheer crushing obviousness of it all, the cursorily reheated fantasy tripe. But as I said, low standards. I like all of Brandon Mull's stuff, despite the self-similarity and the cardboard characters. Maybe that's what you said, though -- he's great with ideas. Nothing wholly new, but he packs them in and makes them work together. The other Brandon, Brandon Sanderson, is someone I can enjoy without shame. I suppose his stuff is self-similar too, but he spins it differently each time, plus I just love his style. I hadn't seen Gone. I enjoyed Seraphina (as an audiobook, which sometimes matters, though I think it'll work in print.) Our household's all-time favorites are rather dissimilar. Wonder was top for last year. This year is Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians. Cosmic would probably get an honorable mention, but I suspect that one depends on how you relate to his style.
J. Peterson
When my kids were younger, I also got sick of contemporary young fiction and started looking for alternatives. Some of the Sherlock Holmes stories went over pretty well (might be a bit scary for some kids). My absolute favorite book to share with the kids was Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki. It combines real science with wild adventure, and *it's a true story*. Wonderful. (Stick to the book; the 2012 movie is pretty bad and leaves out some really entertaining sub-plots).
Don't worry too much about the quality of the book you children are reading. They like reading and that's more than you could expect. I tried to push my children to "better books" as well, but then I remembered the awful crap I liked to read when I was a kid. As a father I feel like missing an opportunity, if I didn't give them access to good literature. But if they choose to like what they like, it's ok. My taste of books changed, when I grew older.