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Great Parenting Lessons in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ By Celeste Ng

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

If you haven’t already read (or listened to) Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, stop and do so right now. It’s a beautiful story about different families and how their dynamics evolve due to both internal and external factors.

It’s simple, yet complex thanks to the realistic, multi-dimensional characters — and it will make you question the way you live. The main focus of the novel is four mothers: Elena Richardson, Mia Warren, Bebe Chow, and Linda McCullough. Celeste Ng does a beautiful job of showing each of their dark and light sides and their impacts on their children.

Personally, I related most with Izzy: Mrs. Richardson’s youngest child. Mrs. Richardson is someone who lived a very comfortable life until Izzy’s complicated birth — and afterward, she projected all of her worries and insecurities onto the poor girl. As a result, Izzy lashed out often and was quickly labeled as rebellious and often ridiculed and rejected. I understood Mrs. Richardson’s worries and where they came from, but it was extremely unfair for a young girl to be expected to deal with such a heavy load of insecurities. As someone who has lived in Izzy’s shoes, I want to advise all parents out there to constantly check themselves.

Where is that feeling of panic and anger coming from? Is it well-grounded? Does your child understand why you are behaving the way you are? What steps have you taken to try and understand where your child is coming from? Your child is their own person. Have a proper conversation with them just like you would with anyone else.

In another family, Mia (the mother) and Pearl (the daughter) only have each other, so it is natural for them to be so close. As Pearl starts to spread her wings and branch out to other people, Mia checks her jealousy as a mom and allows Pearl to freely spend time with others. I commend Mia so much for this! She also notices the pain that her daughter is causing and spots the problems before they take place, but she doesn’t say anything and lets Pearl make her own mistakes. Although I think that parents should offer some form of gentle warning or gently steer their kids in the right direction with sound advice, I also think it’s extremely important for parents to step back and let their kids make mistakes and figure things out for themselves. Like Mia, parents should continue offering a safe place for both their child and their friends so that you can be there for any necessary damage control instead of driving them away to seek help from strangers — or worse, keeping them from seeking any help at all.

Linda McCullough and her husband wanting to adopt is extremely noble — and something I hope to do in the future as well. They were doing all the right things, as any parenting book can confirm. However, in some ways, they lacked the adequate attention to the cultural background of the child they were going to adopt. Taking a Chinese child to a Chinese restaurant every week is not enough to help them understand their culture or connect with their heritage. The McCullogh’s are attempting to embrace their child and their cultural identity — but they could still do so much more. We are all different and if you plan to adopt someone from a different country, race, culture, or religion, it is vital for you to acknowledge, understand, and celebrate those differences.

Overall, Celeste Ng does a wonderful job of painting exactly how chaotic and complex parenting can be — but how it is so important to remember these points of acceptance and patience and take them seriously.

To all parents or parents-to-be (and even to children): Do yourself a favor and read Little Fires Everywhere because of all of the life lessons it teaches.

Cover Image Courtesy of WildHearted

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