Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Walking On Eggshells: Family Life as a Grown-Up

When Broadway Books offered me a review copy of Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents, I thought, "Wow, that's a long way down the road, isn't it?"

The immediate applicability became apparent when I read a summary of some situations the book discusses:
If your grown daughter still winces at your tone of voice—even though she is thirty years old, or if you can’t get your adult son to return your phone calls, if you love your parents but find it impossible to visit them for more than three days without blowing up, or if you can only stand a couple of minutes on the phone with them.
Um, yeah. I guess adult children can read this too...

And it turns out that when we do what we can to improve our adult relationships with our own parents, we're paving the way to understanding and respecting our kids when they're adults.

Author Jane Isay, a former publishing executive, writes engagingly on the overlooked subject of parent relationships after a child comes of age. A natural story-teller, she shares information gleaned from extensive interviews with parents and adult children (ranging in ages from 25 to 70). In her professional background as an editor she "was persuaded that stories are the best teachers."

For all the books there are on baby and child rearing, our society has almost no discussion of how to navigate the parent-adult child relationship. When our kids are grown, we will still be their parents, but obviously we can't treat them as do now or as we will when they're high school. At some point, we're supposed to transition from actively intervening participants in our kids' lives to a position of greater observance.

Her book offers honest discussion of the things that antagonize adult parent-child relationships (issues like money, control, respect, changes in family structure, past grievances, in-laws, step-families, and holidays).

Most encouragingly, her stories underscore a deep love on the part of both parents and children even in conflict. Much of the conflict between parents and adult children is based on frustration in achieving desired affection, respect, acceptance, and understanding. Then guilt piles up on those failures which can paralyze all parties- through frustration or fear of having actions misinterpreted.

By telling the stories of numerous families, Jane Isay presents scenarios that are familiar and thought provoking. She doesn't offer the panacea of a bullet-point plan of action for a perfect relationship, but instead makes the reader contemplate communication systems within families. The ability to observe the inner-workings of other families lets the reader contemplate their own with greater distance and perspective.

For more information on the book and Jane Isay visit the book's website.

WIN a copy of Walking on Eggshells!
Broadway Books has given us 5 paperback copies of Walking on Eggshells to give away to Baby Toolkit readers. Email babytoolkitcontests [at] with the subject Eggshells to enter. One entry per household, please. Entries will accepted through 11:59 PM CDT March 9, 2008. Winners will be randomly selected. International entries will be accepted but prizes shipped abroad may take some time to arrive as they'll most likely be shipped ground and sea.

General disclaimers regarding contests on Baby Toolkit: we'll do our best but we can't guarantee the same efforts from the postal system. If a prize item were to be lost in the lost in the mail, we would take it as a message from a higher power that the situation was simply not meant to be (no compensation or replacement will be issued). One entry per household. We will use a random integer generator at to determine winners. Jim, Adrienne, their parents, and Ranger are not eligible for this contest. We respect your privacy and will not use your personal information for any purpose beyond determining a winner and sending prizes. Prize value: $14.

*** This is the independent opinion of the geek parents at Baby Toolkit, (c) 2008. We accepted a paperback review copy of the book ($14 value) under no obligation. We regularly decline items for review. We received no compensation from and have no undisclosed relationship with Random House, Doubleday, Broadway Books, Flying Dolphin Press, Jane Isay or their affiliates. After we agreed to a review, Broadway Books arranged for 5 paperback copies for our readers which we will ship at our own expense.


penelope said...

for more on how the parents of grown children deal with other issues--particularly those pertaining to money--check out

adrienne said...


Thanks, that site looks great! Here's a clickable link to it: