book reviews, celebrities

A review of Things I Should Have Said, by Jamie Lynn Spears…

I don’t remember why I decided to download Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, Things I Should Have Said. I am a little too old to appreciate music by Jamie Lynn’s famous older sister, Britney Spears, whose pop music career was flourishing during Jamie Lynn’s childhood. I am definitely too old to appreciate Jamie Lynn’s turn as an actress on the Nickelodeon shows, All That and Zoey 101. Amazon.com tells me that Jamie Lynn’s book was published January 18, 2022, and I bought it two days later. It was probably because a year ago, the Internet was all abuzz about Britney Spears, as she was engaged in a legal battle to end a conservatorship that their father, Jamie Spears, had arranged after Britney had some very public mental health meltdowns in 2008. The conservatorship lasted thirteen years, during which many of Britney’s basic freedoms were severely curtailed, even as she was forced to work, and even had to pay the people who were oppressing her. I likely got caught up in the drama of all of that, even though I had long since moved on from it by the time I finally picked up and started reading Things I Should Have Said a few days ago.

Jamie Lynn Spears is the youngest child of Jamie and Lynne Spears. She writes that she was an “oops” baby. Her father had supposedly had a vasectomy, but never went for a follow up check. Obviously, the procedure didn’t take, and he got Lynne pregnant in 1990. Jamie Lynn was born in McComb, Mississippi on April 4, 1991. She claims that even though she was an “oops” baby, she was cherished by her older brother, Bryan, and big sister, Britney. But then she made statements that seemed to refute the idea that she was cherished. Father James was a notorious alcoholic, and he would “take off” when things at home got too rough. Mother Lynne was very focused on Britney’s budding career as a pop music phenomenon. Jamie Lynn’s parents divorced in 2002, but both remained involved in her life.

As Jamie Lynn grew up, she bore a striking resemblance to her older sister and demonstrated acting talent. At the age of 13, she started going to California to work for Nickelodeon, first on All That, and then on her own series, Zoey 101. When she was at home in Kentwood, Louisiana, Jamie Lynn hung out with her friends and dated Casey Aldridge (called Casper in the book). The two had a sexual relationship, and at age sixteen, Jamie Lynn was pregnant, like a lot of teenagers in Deep South states. The difference between Jamie Lynn and the other teens was, Jamie Lynn was famous and had money. Her pregnancy was all over the news, with many people speculating that it was the reason her show on Nickelodeon ended. Jamie Lynn writes that, actually, the show had already ended by the time she got pregnant with her older daughter, Maddie Briann, who was born on June 19, 2008.

Jamie Lynn tried to make a relationship with “Casper” work, but it was impossible, as according to her, he was always running around, using drugs, and having sex with other people. Jamie Lynn threw herself into being a mother, buying her first home in Liberty, Mississippi when she was still a teenager. She felt she had to threaten her parents with filing for legal emancipation, as she wanted to make decisions for herself and her daughter. As she was trying to make things work with her “baby daddy”, she met her husband, Jamie Watson, who is ten years her senior. They dated on and off, until it became apparent that they would be a couple. Meanwhile, Jamie Lynn decided to take a stab at making music. She moved to Nashville and tried to learn the ropes of songwriting, playing guitar, and singing.

Jamie Lynn Spears sings. She’s not bad, although I think her music sounds very familiar…

She released an EP, but then moved back to Louisiana, where she eventually married Jamie Watson in 2014. In 2017, Maddie was in a terrible ATV accident that almost killed her. After Maddie recovered, she asked Jamie Lynn to have another baby, a request that she and Jamie obliged. Jamie Lynn and Jamie now have a daughter named Ivey Joan, who was born in 2018. According to Jamie Lynn’s book, Jamie Watson plans to legally adopt Maddie, as they have a “special” relationship. When Jamie proposed to Jamie Lynn, he also proposed to Maddie, complete with a ring (BARF).

My thoughts

I’m not super impressed by Things I Should Have Said. I don’t think it’s particularly well written. Jamie Lynn has a habit of using big words that aren’t quite appropriate for what she’s trying to convey. The end result is a bit contrived and stilted, rather than engaging. I found myself rushing to get through the book, as I didn’t find her story that interesting. It probably could have been interesting, had she hired a ghost writer. Jamie Lynn Spears frequently reminds her readers that she’s very talented, as in she repeatedly states this in her manuscript. But I’m afraid writing with flair isn’t really one of Jamie Lynn’s gifts. The book isn’t terrible, but it’s not definitely not among the best memoirs I’ve ever read. She’s no Paulina Porizkova. 😉

Anyone looking for dishing about Britney Spears would probably do well to skip this book, as Jamie Lynn doesn’t reveal that much about her sister. She keeps her comments about Britney mostly respectful and loving, and offers a few even-keeled insights about Britney’s controversy, reminding readers that she’s in a position to see what’s going on for herself, rather than speculating about it due to media reports. One of the issues that came up regarding Jamie Lynn and Britney was about Britney’s allegedly erratic behavior that involved Britney threatening her sister with a knife. Jamie Lynn also mentions that she had to enforce boundaries with Britney during the height of the COVID pandemic. But she doesn’t offer a lot of commentary about Britney’s situation; the book really is mostly about Jamie Lynn and her career.

A rather strange interview about the book and the knife incident. She cries, but there aren’t any tears.

In some ways, I felt some compassion for Jamie Lynn. I’m the youngest in my family, and I was also an “oops” baby, with sisters who are 8, 11, and 13 years older than I am. I know how it feels to be in that position. I also had an alcoholic father, although my dad wasn’t one to “take off” at random intervals. I do feel like her stabs at entering what she calls the “family business” were kind of half-hearted, as most of the energy her parents expended toward developing their daughters’ show biz careers went to Britney.

Jamie Lynn spent three years acting on Nickelodeon, then got pregnant… then she made a stab at music, which netted an EP. It pales compared to what Britney has done, and I would imagine that causes Jamie Lynn some angst. She also writes that her parents were pretty strict and religious, yet Jamie Lynn still managed to get “knocked up” as a teenager. She writes that having Maddie at age seventeen “saved” her from becoming a dysfunctional actress, succumbing to the issues that performers deal with, like drug abuse, eating disorders, and other mental health problems. It seems to me that there are other ways to avoid such a fate, rather than becoming a teen mom. I don’t think that’s a route I would recommend, even though Jamie Lynn at least had the financial ability to take care of her daughter, even if she really wasn’t mature enough.

I’m not sure what Jamie Lynn plans for her future, but for now, she is Mrs. Jamie Watson, mother of two. I’m hoping that she keeps an eye on Maddie, because Maddie has some pretty strong genetic ties to dysfunction. Her grandfather, Jamie, and her biological father, Casey, both have drug and alcohol issues. Her Aunt Britney also has well-publicized mental health issues. Maddie will be fifteen on her next birthday, which is prime time for her to act like a teenager. I just hope she doesn’t end up in the same situation Jamie Lynn was in when she was sixteen.

I also didn’t get the best impressions of Jamie Watson… sorry to say. Obviously, I don’t know the man personally, and it doesn’t matter what my opinions of him are. I’m not the one who is his wife or the mother of his child. But I did feel moved enough to save a couple of quotes from Jamie Lynn’s book that I shared with friends…

Those who have been following my blog for awhile might remember a few years ago, when I wrote about how I don’t approve of the trend of potential stepfathers “proposing” to their stepdaughters. At the time I wrote that post, NASCAR driver Brian Scott was in the news for “marrying” his now wife, Whitney’s three year old daughter, Brielle, biological daughter of fellow NASCAR driver, Sean Caisse. I wrote about why I really don’t think those kinds of proposals are a good idea. My reason is mainly because those kinds of displays are usually more for the adults than the children, especially the ones who are very young and don’t know what’s going on, as Brielle was at the time. I also know that, unfortunately, divorce is pretty common in remarriages, particularly when stepchildren are involved. Presenting a little girl with a ring and offering to “marry” her too, seems like a sweet gesture, but it can end up being very hurtful if there is a divorce. Moreover, I just don’t think it’s appropriate, as marriage is a very different relationship than a parental relationship is. I’m much more impressed with stepfathers who simply love and care for their stepchildren, rather than trying to replace their biological parents, even if that is what later happens in the relationship.

I got a couple of nasty comments on that piece, as Sean Caisse had some trouble with the law and wound up incarcerated. One reader who cowardly called herself “BlogWastedMyTime” declared my article “crap”, and very rudely pointed out that Caisse had been arrested, accusing me of not “doing my research”. Below was the exchange, which I remember posting as I waited for a flight from Vienna to Stuttgart.

As far as I can tell, Brian and Whitney are still married. Good for them. My opinion about this hasn’t changed, though.
Another, less contentious comment from someone, who later came back and wrote “well put.”

There was another comment from a guy who had two ex wives, and felt I was being too “negative” about people who “marry” their stepchildren. I told him that I was only sharing my opinion on my blog, and I was sorry he didn’t like my opinions, as I matter of factly explained that he joins a long list of people who don’t like my opinions. Deal with it. Anyway, my thoughts on this didn’t evolve in a vacuum. I have what I think are good reasons for feeling the way I do.

As regular readers might know, my husband was married to a woman who asked him to be the “daddy” to her son from her first marriage, which he was happy to do for as long as he was still in Ex’s favor. Bill went as far as giving the boy his last name– or really, Ex claimed it and Bill didn’t argue with her about it– and paying $850 a month in child support for him until he was 21 fucking years old. For that effort, the young man tried to change his name in secret as he still took Bill’s financial support– he didn’t even tell Bill about changing his name, as he continued to call him “Dad”. And when Bill confronted his former stepson about this, he was chastised… as if a “dad” shouldn’t know what his “son’s” legal last name was, even as said “son” was claiming to be Bill’s next of kin. Now, he doesn’t speak to Bill at all, although he might be talking to his bio dad, who didn’t pay any child support after Bill came into the picture. Ex got them back together as a means of being spiteful to Bill. Bill didn’t mind, by the way, as the boy never should have lost access to his real dad, or his dad’s financial support. And now he knows that Ex lied about #1, anyway.

When Bill and Ex divorced, Ex did the same thing to Bill that she did to #1, and tried to erase his presence in his daughters’ lives. She made them call #3 “Dad”, and forced them to write letters disowning Bill. Then, when younger daughter turned 18, she pressured them into getting their names legally changed to #3’s last name. Younger daughter has since told us how distressing it was for her growing up, not to be able to have a relationship with her real father, especially since it’s very clear that #3 doesn’t care about her the way Bill does, and always has. To this day, even though she and Bill are now in touch and talk regularly, Ex still tries to influence younger daughter away from having a relationship with Bill, who is younger daughter’s real dad in all senses of the word. We are grateful that she has good sense, and can think for herself about these things.

I do understand that not all situations are as extreme as Bill’s has been. From what Jamie Lynn writes, Casey Aldridge has not been a very involved father, although he did see Maddie occasionally and, when she had her near fatal ATV accident, he did visit her and pray for her. Jamie Lynn claims that Maddie wanted Jamie to adopt her, and she has tried to explain to her what that would mean. But I have my doubts that the idea was entirely Maddie’s, and given the dysfunction in the Spears family, I would be concerned about the permanence of Jamie Lynn’s marriage. That’s just my opinion, of course, and it’s based on what I’ve seen in my 50 years of life. I know every situation is different, and it’s not my business, anyway. But yeah, I’m not a fan of the whole “marrying your stepchildren” trend. I think marriage proposals are for adults, and should be left to future love interests of the children, not to their stepfathers. Besides, there’s quite a double standard at play. Imagine if stepmothers started trying to “marry” their stepsons. Yikes! Or if stepfathers started giving their stepsons “engagement rings”.

Below are a few quotes from Jamie Lynn’s book about Jamie Watson’s adoption of Maddie…

Maddie started to talk about changing her last name to Watson. Her determination bordered on demand. We explained she didn’t understand the lengthy process of adoption and that changing her name meant that she would give up the name Aldridge for the rest of her life. She insisted she did in fact understand, and it was important to her that she share our name.

Spears, Jamie Lynn. Things I Should Have Said (p. 165). Worthy. Kindle Edition.

And…

We spoke several times with Casper, who at first felt like we were pushing him out of her life. Eventually I was able to convince him I was speaking for Maddie. She wanted to share our family name and feel connected to us. It took a few weeks for Casper to relent. After Maddie’s initial interviews with mediators, Casper felt, if not good, at least satisfied Maddie would be happier this way. The process took months and coincided with the arrival of Ivey Joan. We encouraged Casper to remain in all our lives. Sadly, as months passed, he found himself in legal trouble again and again, and he disappeared once more.

Spears, Jamie Lynn. Things I Should Have Said (pp. 166-167). Worthy. Kindle Edition.

I do think that sometimes, having a stepparent adopt a child really is the right thing to do, particularly if the other bio parent really is “gone” from the child’s life. If anything, being the legal parent makes it easier to make legal and medical decisions for the child in one’s care. I just don’t think the public declarations, especially at weddings, are necessarily a good idea. It does sound like Jamie Watson has been a good father figure to Maddie, and that’s commendable. I hope it stays that way, although even with a name change, Maddie is still going to be another man’s bio daughter. There is no changing that fact.

I’ve also seen people like Ex use the “sperm donor bio dad” stereotype in their parental alienation campaigns. I know for a fact that a lot of fathers are pushed out for convenience sake, or because their exes don’t want them in their lives anymore. It has little to do with the actual welfare of the children, and is really more about being vengeful and hateful to the other parent and trying to deny past mistakes. I can’t help it… dealing with Ex has given me very strong opinions on this issue. But, no matter what, I would totally cringe if I’d had children when Bill proposed to me, and Bill had presented them with rings, too. I don’t like that practice at all. What if the girl says “no” to the proposal? Will her wishes really matter? And what little girl doesn’t get excited when someone gives them a gift? So, that whole “stepdaughter wedding ring” gesture, to me, is just kind of hokey and inappropriate, especially when it’s done very publicly. Again– just my opinion.

Anyway… I don’t think reading Things I Should Have Said has made me more of a Jamie Lynn Spears fan. I’ve certainly read worse books, but this one could have been much better than it is. I see that it gets 3.5 stars on Amazon. I think I’d give it three stars, and recommend it to Jamie Lynn’s fans, who will likely enjoy it more than I did. Now, I’m happy to have moved on to my next book, by Andre Leon Talley… It’s definitely more my speed. 😉

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

A parody about Jamie Lynn’s teen pregnancy. This came out in 2008 or so.
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divorce, Ex, family, lessons learned, marriage

Repost: An open letter to angry adult stepchildren… 

I wrote this post on October 15, 2010. I am reposting it because I see that it got over 11,000 hits, and some people might find it useful. My personal situation has changed a lot since I wrote this piece 12 years ago, so please keep that in mind if you read this… For instance, one of Bill’s children now speaks to him. Sometimes things can turn out better given some time and perspective.

Before I start with today’s post, I want to explain that my thoughts today are not necessarily directed to my stepchildren. After all, in eight years I have only met my stepchildren once and, since then, have had absolutely no contact with them. No… today’s post is for angry stepchildren who still talk to both of their parents and, for whatever reason, hate one or both of their stepparents. 

Yesterday, I was hanging out at one of my favorite online communities when I noticed a post written by a guy who was very upset with his father. This fellow, who is very open about being a homosexual, had recently written a heartfelt letter to his dad about his homosexuality. He was asking his dad for understanding and support. His father, apparently, didn’t respond to the letter the way the writer had hoped he would. 

So my online friend was understandably devastated about this turn of events and, in the course of describing his pain, happened to refer to his father’s wife as a “heinous harpy”. He did not explain why he thought of his stepmother that way. In fact, most of his posts were about his relationship with his father. But I couldn’t help but notice that, for some reason, he seemed to hate his stepmother and felt the need to express his hatred in a post that, at least on the surface, had nothing to do with her.

Here’s what I’d like to say to that guy, along with anyone else who hates their stepparent(s), yet still loves their parent(s). You may have a very good reason for hating your mother’s or father’s spouse. Or you may not have a good reason for hating them. But have you considered the reasons why your parent married that person? Put aside your personal feelings for a moment and think about it. Just spend a few minutes looking at life through your parent’s eyes.

Divorce sucks. It sucks for almost everybody, including many stepparents. Yes, if you are a child of divorce, you absolutely have a right to be hurt, confused, angry, etc. But chances are, your parent is hurting too, and would like the chance to try to be happy with someone else. Do you really expect your parent to go through life alone, just because their first try at marriage didn’t work out? Would you actually want them to be alone as they get older and less independent? 

Like it or not, your parent made a choice to invite another person into his or her life. Your parent had his or her own reasons for doing so. Maybe you don’t agree with your parent’s reasons or taste. Maybe your stepmother or stepfather is cruel or hateful to you. Maybe you feel like he or she takes your parent’s attention away from you or tries to shut you out of your parent’s life. Perhaps your parent’s remarriage has destroyed any hopes that your parents might reconcile.  

All of these issues are valid reasons for you to feel the way you do. But I’m asking you to stop and consider your parent’s feelings. Think about why he or she made the choice to invite this new person into their life. Then, if you’re able, take an objective look at your stepparent. Is he or she really worthy of your hatred? Does your parent genuinely love his or her spouse? Have you taken a moment to see what your parent sees in their wife or husband? 

Then, think about this… Did you decide to hate your stepparent? Or did your other parent make that decision for you? Consider this. I have met my husband’s daughters just once. During our one meeting, which barely lasted 48 hours, my husband’s daughters and I seemed to get along just fine. One of them went as far as to give me a big hug and refer to me as her other mother. But not long after that meeting, my husband’s daughters mysteriously started distancing themselves from their dad until finally, in 2004, they stopped talking to him altogether and, in 2006, actually sent him letters demanding that he let their current stepfather adopt them.

Since I haven’t seen or talked to my husband’s kids since that one meeting which had seemed to go so well, I can’t help but think their mother was somehow threatened by me and told them they should hate me, as well as their dad for choosing to marry me. In other words, the girls didn’t decide to dislike me until their mother decided for them that I was a bad person. Incidentally, I have never met their mother, and she has very limited knowledge of me, so I’m not sure how she determined I was so evil. I try not to take it personally, since I have a feeling she would have hated anyone my husband had chosen to marry.  

Here’s something else to consider. Relationships are always a two-way street. You may hate your stepparent and that may be all very well and good. But your stepparent may also reserve the right to feel the same way about you, especially if you’re an adult. You might not care about how they feel, but if you want to have a good relationship with your parent, you might be wise to reconsider the way you treat his or her spouse. There may come a time when you’ll wish you were on better terms with them.  

Marriage is a dicey business at best. Statistics show that about half of all married couples eventually divorce. Many of those people will have children, so there are lots of people in the child-of-divorce boat. Moreover, a lot of those children-of-divorce will eventually grow up and be divorced themselves. If that ever happens to you, would you want to spend the rest of your life alone just to spare your child’s feelings? Would you want your child to have the right to choose your mate for you, especially since most kids eventually grow up and have lives of their own?  

In our society, most people reject the idea of arranged marriages decided by their parents or anyone else. Do you really think you should have the right to reject your parent’s choice for a spouse? Would you want your kids to overrule your choice of whom to marry? And would you be happy if your parent eventually divorced and remarried a third or fourth time? Remember, divorce sucks… and it’s very expensive. I think the only people who could possibly enjoy the process of divorce are those who get a paycheck from it. Chances are, if your parent divorces several times, he or she might not be as financially well-prepared to handle growing older. If he or she wants to remarry, it makes good sense to let them (hopefully) choose the right spouse, once and for all.

I know for a fact that my husband is less lonely and a lot happier with me than he ever was with his ex-wife. We are very compatible with each other. Certainly, things would have been less complicated had he and I met first. But that didn’t happen. We make each other happy and belong together. Most parents want the best for their children and hope they will be happy. I’d like to think that a loving child would want the same for their parent(s). I know my husband’s happiness has led to his being healthier and wealthier… perhaps giving his kids more time to reconsider whether or not they really do want to throw away their real dad for good.  

Life is pretty short and there may come a time when you’ll wish you had more time to spend with your mother or father. If you love your parent(s), I would expect you’d want for them what they, hopefully, want for you… health and happiness and freedom from loneliness.

It’s true that you may have all the legitimate reasons in the world to hate your stepparent(s). All I’m asking you to do is to take a minute to understand where your hatred is coming from and determine whether or not it’s truly valid. Maybe your stepmom is a harpy or your stepfather is a selfish bastard. But your parent chose them to be a part of their lives. They must have had a reason… And maybe you should try to have some respect for their reasons. I’m sure you’d wish for and expect the very same if you’re ever in their shoes.

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book reviews, celebrities

A review of Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir by Wil Wheaton…

As a card carrying member of Generation X, I grew up watching a lot of cable TV. Sometimes, I also went to the movies. In fact, I went to the movies a lot more often in those days than I do today. In any case, at some point in my adolescence, I saw the 1986 Rob Reiner film Stand By Me. Based on a spooky novella by Stephen King, Stand By Me was a coming of age film starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell. They were four 1959 era twelve year old boys from Castlerock, Oregon, who set out on a mission to see a dead body. On their way to find the body, the boys bond and have some near misses with both nature and technology.

Stand By Me also had a great soundtrack.

As most of Stephen King’s stories are, this one– originally known as “The Body”– was very poignant, compelling, and sometimes even funny. It also had four teenaged stars in it who were about my age. Most of my peers loved River Phoenix, who was an up and coming star. Tragically, he died in 1993 at just 21 years old, a victim of a drug overdose in Los Angeles. I was telling Bill last night that if River had lived beyond young adulthood, he would have been an enormous star.

I liked River fine, but Wil Wheaton’s performance in Stand By Me was the one that always stuck with me. He played the sensitive, thoughtful, aspiring writer, Gordie Lachance. I identified with Gordie, because I had my own aspirations of becoming a writer. In those days, I wrote a lot of fiction. Also, my journalism teacher in tenth grade was named Mr. LaChance, and I liked him, and that class. I probably should have stuck with journalism.

Stand By Me was probably the only vehicle of which I’ve seen much of Wil Wheaton’s acting, except for maybe guest spots on 80s era television shows. I see he was a guest on Family Ties, which was one of my favorite shows, back in the day. He was also on St. Elsewhere, although I didn’t really watch that show, because it was on past my bedtime. He was on Tales from the Crypt, which was a great HBO show I watched when I had the opportunity, and he voiced Martin in the film, The Secret of NIMH. Wheaton also famously played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Apparently, Wesley Crusher was aptly named, because based on Wheaton’s book, Still Just a Geek, it seems that he wasn’t very well received in that role. I have no opinion on that, since I never watched the original Star Trek, let alone the reincarnations. I don’t know why I never watched it. Bill is a huge fan. Star Trek just never appealed to me.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher.

Some time ago, someone turned me on to Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. I started following it, and decided I kind of liked Wil. He seems like a basically normal, decent man who happens to work in the entertainment industry. He’s also a writer and award winning narrator. And, as a fellow child of 1972, I relate to a lot of what he posts on social media. We’re from the same era.

I was following Wil’s page when he started promoting his book, Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir. I ended up downloading it around the time it was released last spring, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I read Jennette McCurdy’s book, I’m Glad My Mom Died. I figured Wheaton’s book would be a good follow up to McCurdy’s book about her “crazy” mother and chaotic upbringing in show business, against her will. Wil Wheaton has openly said that he went “no contact” with his parents, and had never actually wanted to be a child actor. Wheaton has maintained that it was his mother who had wanted to be an actress, and she pressured her children to go into the business. Wil happened to have talent, just as Jennette McCurdy did, and in the mid 80s, he was a household name. But what he really wanted to do was be a kid. He’s also found that writing is his true passion, just as Jennette has.

So anyway, it was Jennette McCurdy who prompted me to read Wil’s book, Still Just a Geek. Still Just a Geek is based on Wil’s first book, Just a Geek, which came out in 2004 and apparently didn’t sell well. He includes the original book in this book, along with annotations– explanations, contextual notes, and sometimes revised opinions of his that have changed since 2004. After the first book, Wheaton continues with chapters about his life today. A lot has changed since 2004, which it’s bound to do. In 2004, he was a young man, married to his wife Anne, and stepfather to her young sons from another relationship. In 2022, he’s still married to Anne, and has legally adopted Anne’s now adult sons, Nolan and Ryan. They changed their last names and everything. Wil has also stopped drinking alcohol– circa 2016– so some of what he wrote in 2004 doesn’t apply to his lifestyle today.

To be honest, I’m left with some mixed feelings about this book. I thought it was mostly very well written. I appreciated how candid Wheaton is, although there were times when I wish he’d shared more of the original stories that prompted some of his conclusions. For example, in the original book, it’s clear that Wil sees himself as his sons’ stepfather. He refers to himself in that way, although he also mentions that their bio father was a real jerk. He vaguely mentions that their bio father kept taking Anne to court for custody, and implies that he’s a shithead for doing that. Now… I don’t know much at all about Anne, other than seeing her in some photos with Wil, and reading his gushing comments about her. And, God knows, I totally understand about being the second spouse of someone who has a narcissistic or abusive former spouse.

Because I’m a second wife, I am not so quick to automatically accept what people say or write about their exes (and just to be clear, I get that not everyone believes me when I rail about Ex in my blog). In my case, I wasn’t allowed to be a stepmother to my husband’s daughters, and he wasn’t allowed to be his kids’ “everyday dad”. And he was painted as a horrible, abusive monster to his daughters, which just plain isn’t true at all. Wil never explains much about Anne’s ex, other than to write that he’s a bad person. And, for all I know, he really is a shitty person, and Nolan and Ryan were totally right to ask Wil to be their legal dad.

On the other hand, Wil is himself estranged from his own father, claiming that his dad has always been abusive and negligent toward him. He doesn’t write a lot about that, either, at least not in this book. However, Wil did write a few passages that indicated to me that his father wasn’t all bad. Like, for instance, he wrote about his father’s touching reaction to Wil’s grandfather’s death, and how Wil realized that one day, he would be mourning his own father’s passing. That was in 2004, though, before he had ceased contact with his dad. So, I guess I just wish he’d provided more context to both of those stories, and the one involving his stepsons who are now his sons. Maybe it’s not my business– but if it’s not my business, it probably shouldn’t have been included in this book. I can, by the way, also relate to Wil’s having a rocky relationship with his dad. I had a rocky relationship with my dad, too, although we were never really estranged. I understand that going “no contact” is sometimes necessary for one’s sanity, but I also think it’s something that should be done as a last resort.

The footnotes were a bit distracting for me, although reading on Kindle gives readers the choice to read them or not. I enjoyed Wil’s notes, especially when they were funny or provided context. Sometimes, though, I found some of Wheaton’s comments a little annoying and self- indulgent. It stands to reason that people try to present themselves in the best possible light, even when they admit to not being their best. Wheaton provides quite a few examples of when he sometimes acted like a jerk, as we all do sometimes. However, there were a few times when I wanted him to just state, “I was a jerk,” and not make any excuses for being a jerk. He apologizes a lot for acting the way most of us did in less enlightened times. It gets tiresome after awhile, and doesn’t always ring as sincere. Sometimes, it felt like he was trying too hard to be sensitive and “woke”, and it came across as a little fake to me. I sense this on his Facebook page, too, especially when he posts about certain issues– like the pandemic, and how we should all be handling it. Some of his comments come across to me as more like what he believes he “should” be thinking instead of what he actually thinks, if that makes sense.

But that early career helped launch his current career… if he hadn’t been a child star, where would he be today?

I did enjoy reading about Wheaton’s experiences making Stand By Me, which I still think is a fabulous film. I couldn’t relate to his comments about Wesley Crusher, although I do know who William Shatner is. Reading about his encounter with Shatner made me cringe a bit for Wheaton… Shatner was allegedly quite the asshole to Wil. Reading about his encounter with Shatner made me glad I was never a Star Trek fan. I also liked reading about Wil’s experiences being a computer geek in the 80s. I wasn’t a computer geek then, but I did have a friend who was one. And some of what he writes about his experiences with BASIC and other computer languages remind me of the time when I still counted my former friend as my best friend. Those were fun times, before reality set in, and I realized she wasn’t actually a good friend, after all.

At the end of the book, Wheaton includes some interviews and speeches he’s given, along with a couple of “Ask Me Anything” posts he did. To be honest, I kind of skimmed through most of that stuff, because speeches are meant to be heard, and aren’t that much fun to read. I did notice that the fresh content of this book comprises only about thirty percent of the book. The rest of it is old stuff cobbled together into this volume. That was okay for me, since I never read the first book, and I’ve not followed his career closely. Super fans who pay a lot of attention to what Wil’s been doing his whole life might be disappointed by Still Just a Geek. I see some Amazon reviewers have given Wil low ratings and claimed he’s not a good writer. I disagree with that. I think Wil’s writing is fine. I just wish he’d written something fresh, and included fewer footnotes, which can be very distracting. And I wish he’d just write his story and explain why he has so much animosity toward his parents and his wife’s ex. I get that they’re personal stories, and maybe he’s already explained elsewhere. But in Still Just a Geek, he makes many references to those people without really explaining his feelings behind the negative comments. I was left a little confused and wanting more information.

And finally, I admire Wil for reinventing his career, doing what he wants to do, making healthy choices, and loving his wife and sons so much. I’d give this book 3.5 stars out of 5 and would recommend it to those who haven’t read Still a Geek and are interested in Wil Wheaton’s story. I think it will particularly appeal to those who care about Star Trek, which I don’t. But I was sincerely interested in the parts about Stand By Me, and enjoyed reading those sections.

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music, musings

“A Mother for My Children”…

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I got a Homepod for Christmas. Yesterday, we spent the day listening to it. For the most part, it’s a pretty cool device, although I’m definitely going to have to figure out why the AirPlay drops out all of a sudden, even when I’ve changed screensaver settings and anything else that would encourage my computer to “time out”.

Anyway, as I was putting together the latest jigsaw puzzle– over a month in progress– a song by The Whispers came on. I’m not that familiar with The Whispers’ music. I must have downloaded a greatest hits compilation by them recently, because I heard a couple of their songs yesterday. One of them was a surprisingly upbeat number called “A Mother for My Children”. Edited to add: I see why I downloaded it now… it was for the 80s era song, “Rock Steady”. I like that one!

I think I know why the mother of his children left…

Here are the lyrics to this song:

I can’t stand to live alone
With two children and a home
When Mother’s Day comes along
They ask me where their mama’s gone

Left me here scrubbin’ floors

Never washed two dishes before
How can I tell two little boys

Your mama ain’t comin’ home no more

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
Don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children

We couldn’t see eye to eye
Packed her bag, said goodbye
Didn’t care if we lived or died
The kids they always ask me why

Left us on a rainy day
Begged her but she would not stay
Said she had to go away
Gotta find someone to take her place

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother
I’ve gotta find a mother for my children

I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I’ve gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no sister, don’t need no brother
I’ve gotta find, yeah, yeah, yeah, mother for my children

I got to and I got to, I got to find a mother for my children
Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children
I don’t need no brother
Gotta find a mother for my children

Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children, yeah
Find a, gotta find a, gotta find a mother for my children

At first, I wasn’t really paying attention to the song. It was unfamiliar to me. But then I caught some of the words. They’re about a man whose significant other– wife or girlfriend, I don’t know– has just taken off for parts unknown. And now, this man who apparently knows nothing about child raising, cooking, cleaning, or any of the other “wifely” or “motherly” duties expected of women in the early 1970s, feels compelled to find a “replacement” for the mother of his children.

I shared the song on Facebook as a joke, mainly because it just sounded crazy to me. I don’t hear the man lamenting that his woman left him sad or lonely. I don’t hear him missing her. I don’t hear him wondering what he can do to get her back, at least into their children’s lives. Instead, I hear a danceable song about how this man has to find a “replacement” for his children’s mother. I thought it was funny, so I posted “Why doesn’t he hire a nanny?”

A friend of mine is a man who is raising his daughter alone. His wife died a few years ago of lung cancer. Their child was days away from her first birthday when she lost her mother forever. My friend has understandably been sad about losing his wife and his child’s mother. I know it’s been hard for him. He posted, “Not the same thing.”

Of course, I know that. My point is that it’s very difficult to “replace” one’s biological parent, although some people do a great job of trying. And while I know there are situations in which it makes sense to find a surrogate parent for a child who has been abandoned by death or divorce, it’s still a very serious and difficult task. So I was confused as to why the song was so upbeat and energetic. You could dance to it… sing along, even. And I figured the flippant way in which this song was conceived gave a big clue as to why his woman “had to leave”, especially since his focus isn’t on finding a partner, but a “mother” for his children. The mood of the song comes off as insensitive, like the mother of the children was really more like a nanny/cook/maid who happened to share a biological bond with the kids. If he simply needs a replacement, why not simply hire a nanny? At least she’d be getting paid for that thankless job, and when the child raising was done, she could move on to the next people.

It’s not easy parenting another person’s children. It’s not even very natural. A lot of people expect stepparents to love their stepchildren as if they had created them. I never really had the ability to bond with my stepdaughters, but I would have tried to build a good relationship with them if I’d had the chance. I might have even grown to love them as if they were my own. However, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect a new partner to love their stepchildren as much as they might love their own kids. In many ways, love is a decision and a choice, but in the most fundamental ways, true love comes from the heart. And something that comes from the heart isn’t necessarily built on choices, reasoning, or necessity. Choices and reasoning are products of the mind. Expecting love to automatically blossom between stepparents and stepchildren is very unrealistic, even if it is the desired outcome. I think that a lot of things can get in the way of that relationship, even if everyone wants it to happen. In my view, it’s more realistic to hope for peaceful co-existence among steps than a parent/child relationship.

I think anyone who goes looking for a partner simply to be a mother or father to his or her existing children is dooming their relationship to failure. Yes, it’s important that a potential stepparent have the capacity to bond to existing children. At the very least, the relationship should be civilized and respectful. In time, when the relationship blooms, maybe real love will follow. I’ve seen it many times among my friends who are stepparents. But I’ve also seen stepchildren cast aside when the stepparent has their own biological child. I’ve seen natural parents do their best to sabotage relationships between children and their ex’s new partners. I’ve seen children resist their stepparents’ attempts to bond with them, especially when they are caught in loyalty binds.

Even though “A Mother for My Children” has a good beat and somewhat decent lyrics, I think the premise behind this song is ridiculous. You have lonely children who are upset because their mother left them. Did she really leave them for good? Is there a chance Mom might be back to claim her children? Is it wise to search for a “replacement” mom if the real mother isn’t yet dead? And if you’re focused simply on finding a “mother” instead of a “partner”, do you really expect the relationship to succeed? What will you do when the boys are no longer in such dire need of a mom? Will you then kick her to the curb because though she’s a good mom, she’s not a suitable partner?

Now, in my friend’s case, I can see why he’d want to find a “mother” for his daughter. His daughter’s mom is tragically never coming back again. She’s just turned seven years old, and it won’t be long before she’s in puberty. My friend will have to find some way to teach her about the things women have to know as they get older. I know he’s uncomfortable and totally clueless about it. I also think he’s lonely and would love to have a companion. I hope he’s considering his daughter’s feelings as he looks for a new significant other, but ultimately, he needs to find someone who is suitable to be his partner first. And given his attitude lately, I think that might be a tall order.

I have another friend whose wife– mother of their four children– died of cancer. He’s recently gotten remarried, and his wife now refers to herself as the “mother” to his children. They’re all apparently okay with it, although the children are old enough to remember the woman who gave birth to them. Personally, if I were in that situation, I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself the children’s mom, particularly if I hadn’t been married to their dad for very long. But it seems to work for them, and that’s great. Every case is different.

I just think it’s interesting that the songwriters of “A Mother for My Children” seem to think that this would be an attractive position for a woman to fill. When it comes down to it, being a mother to someone else’s children is a proposition that will likely fail as time passes. Real mom will probably come back at some point. Replacement mom will be pushed aside. And if she’s with the guy simply to be a “mother” to his children, the relationship will probably end very badly. Seems hardly the type of situation that would call for a catchy chorus and danceable beat. I do think this is a real situation that comes up and it’s good song material. I just think the mood for this particular song is very strange and if I were approached by this man on the hunt for a mother for his children, I would run the other way!

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