How far would you go to protect your child? Would you lie for them or cover up their mistakes? To what end? These questions and many more are still bouncing around in my head days after finishing this book. As if the “what-ifs” & the “my-child-would-nevers” that are already on a constant loop in my head aren’t enough, All We Ever Wanted ramps up the mom fears big time, but also tells a heartbreaking and eye opening story of the lengths parents will go to protect their children.
Since her acceptance into Nashville’s prestigious Windsor Academy, middle class Lyla, raised by her single father, has struggled to fit in with her far more affluent classmates. Just when she feels like she’s starting to find her place, a photo of her in a drunken and vulnerable state is snapped and shared with the entire community. Nina would never in a million years believe that her reserved and mild-mannered son who was just accepted to Princeton would be the one behind the photo. As Nina comes to terms with the fact that her son is not the boy she though he was, but a man following in his misogynistic father’s footsteps, she has ask herself some tough questions about the way she and her husband are raising their son and take responsibility for her complacency.
There is no way to read this book as a mother and not put yourself in Nina’s shoes. How in the hell would I handle a situation like this? I pray I never have to, but the fact is, I am raising a son in a country where toxic masculinity starts at the very top with the man who holds the highest office in the land. It is always our responsibility as parents of boys to teach them not only with words, but by example how to treat women. But what does it say when men of power in this country are not held to a higher standard and get away with treating women so terribly? I am so thankful that my son gets to see his father treat his mother with respect on a daily basis. But it goes further than that. Even at only 5, my son knows right from wrong. He sees when people are sad and hurting and he understands that his words and actions can harm others. But we have to be comfortable with having tough conversations and making it a point to let him know that he will not get away with being an entitled little shit.
I honestly can’t imagine knowing that your child did something as abhorrent as taking a photo of a half naked girl and attaching a racial caption. But what I can’t even begin to fathom is being so blatantly flippant as to use the nauseating phrase “boys will be boys” or even just turning a blind eye.
I could go on and on about this book. It was so well written and thoughtfully constructed. I cried with Lyla and Nina, cursed Finch and his dumbass father, and wanted to help coach Tom through trying to parent and love his child through such a horrific experience. I highly recommend this one, but take a deep breath before reading and know that even though the future seems bleak at times, there are good parents out there who are doing their best just like you are, and hopefully together we can raise men who respect women and women who won’t take their shit if and when they don’t.