Bay Buchanan is opinionated and passionate about the way we ought to raise our children, believing that first and foremost, they ought to have a dad. Unfortunately, her husband left her for another woman when the youngest of her three boys was still a baby.

Bay and Her Boys reads like an advice column stretched over twenty-plus years, a single-parenting manual for women who find themselves in a similar boat. After having read the book, I can honestly say that I’d have liked to read it while my kids were growing up–and I wasn’t single.

On the written page, Bay’s boys come across as the ultimate parental challenge, each one stubbornly individual, each one on a mission to give his mom gray hair. I liked all of them, although if I’d been a neighbor, I think I’d have politely declined invitations to supper, having heard the tinkle of breaking glass once too often to suppose there was much relaxation to be had at the Buchanan house.

She admits to being overwhelmed by the challenges she faced. So how did she react? In one instance, by playfully turning the garden hose on one of her boys and his friend while they stood in a kitchen–a kitchen that I presume she had to clean up afterward. She lost me for a few pages there.

And the pets! A dog for each boy and a number of cats. One chapter reveals the age-old “BB gun in the hands of immature boy” scenario, in this case, one of the boys gunning for his brother’s dog.

Bay says she consciously decided to make her home a haven for her boys and their friends, something that I admire although I doubt I could have pulled it off with the same disregard for neatness, order and sanity. But don’t misunderstand–Bay is no fool, a fact that becomes apparent as she explains her strategy, planning her family’s successful survival as cannily as any true leader of people. She is, after all, a former Treasurer of the Unites States, and currently works as a political analyst and columnist.

Here’s an excerpt regarding her strategy to make her home a haven for her boys and their friends:

When the boys were young, I taught them that their friends were always welcomed in our home–they didn’t need to ask permission to invite them. It was their home, and they could have their buddies over anytime they liked. Basically, we had an open-door policy.

Then I gave their pals plenty of reasons to come. There were milk-shakes and homemade cookies at snack time, plenty to eat at lunch or dinner, and their own refillable bowl of popcorn at night. I asked their friends to join us for trips to the park, the pool, or the movies. If we went on a bike trip, I waited for them to get their bikes, brought water bottles for them, and treated them to McDonalds.

Sounds expensive to me, but fail-proof for making a kid like his own house better than anyone else’s. And Bay is adamant about letting your kid know how much you like him or her, and how proud you are to be their parent.

Even if you disagree with her tactics, you’ll have a belly laugh at some of the stories she tells. Her boys, now grown, successful men, pitch in and write a few pages here and there, clearly contributors who admire their Mom’s spunk and perseverance. I’d recommend the book to any parent.

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