3 out of 4 stars
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"Are they yours?"
"Why doesn't she live with her real parents?"
"I could never give them back."
"Don't you worry about how this will affect your other kids?"
These are several of the questions related to her experiences fostering children in her home that author Patty Ihm has been asked by curious strangers and addresses in her memoir Isn't That Enough?! Musings of Motherhood and the Meaning of Life.
Written as a collection of dated entries that are often complemented with personal photographs, the book features the author's reflections on the beauty as well as the challenges that can be found in everyday life as it relates to her family which includes foster children. "I have a journey to share; one of motherhood, blessings, trials, passion, and the gifts of each given day. Isn't that enough?" As a fan who listens to games on the radio, she jokingly likens her nine children to a baseball team. She introduces us one-by-one to her children which include those she has birthed, adopted, and currently fosters with her husband, Dan. The memoir delicately balances anecdotes of daily life in their farmhouse caring for her brood of children and chickens with the more serious issues that accompany life as a foster parent. The author addresses topics such as advocating for our children, autism, reactive attachment disorder, inpatient psychiatric care and having to turn away needy children when their home is at full capacity. She also candidly shares her bittersweet acceptance that sometimes love is not enough to heal, but that simply being there does make a difference.
When it comes to writing about her large family, the author is articulate and even poetic as she expresses her love, concerns, and devotion for them. Readers who are parents--especially those who have adopted or fostered children--will relate to her heartfelt concerns and desires for the well-being and emotional healing for those in her care. I was truly moved by her commitment and giving spirit to the children who have lived in her home for various reasons. I could relate to the soothing affect daily tasks such as gardening or little victories with the children seemed to bring when challenges became overwhelming, as well as her memories and reflections on her relationships with her grown children.
However, there were sections of the book I found hard to follow. The timeline of the dated journal-like entries is erratic, constantly jumping back and forth between 2014 to 2016. While the author often refers back to earlier seasons in her marriage, friendships, and parenting; that in itself isn't the issue. It's the constant volleying between the recent years which I found confusing. For example, the first entry is titled Beginnings and dated February 7, 2014. With the book's final entry dated January 24, 2016, the reader might expect a chronological progression. However, after the first several entries journal through the end of March 2014, the next entry suddenly jumps to January 6, 2016, continues in the same year for several entries and then suddenly reverts to 2015. This sporadic pattern persists throughout the book. Many of the entries dealt with specific issues or treatment related to the care of the foster children, and since the timing of the events was chronicled so haphazardly, I found it increasingly difficult to keep up with their progress which was frustrating. I can understand the desire to date the entries for personal reference. However, for a public audience, the book would flow more cohesively if the entries were better organized or included by topic alone, which would eliminate some of the confusion.
The book was professionally edited, and as I found the thought-provoking and eloquent reflections surpassed the problematic timeline, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to readers who are interested in foster parenting and those who enjoy memoirs related to parenting. However, while the content is not explicit in nature, those who may be triggered by subjects related to abused or mentally ill children may prefer to pass on this one.
Isn’t That Enough?
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