Family Life is the Fodder for Great Stories
Book Spotlight: The Perfect World Inside My Minivan -- One Mom's Journey Through the Streets of Suburbia by Marybeth Hicks
by Lisa M. Hendey
Imagine being a teenage kid and having your stories spread across the front page and indeed around the world via internet by your mom. Then imagine that the stories become so popular and sought after that they’re put into book form and forever memorialized. Most kids probably might balk at the prospect, but not the Hicks kids! In fact, their mom has to be careful to include them in columns on an equal basis or they get miffed.
Spend some time reading The Perfect World Inside My Minivan -- One Mom's Journey Through the Streets of Suburbia (Faith Publishing Service, November 2006, paperback, 153 pages) by Marybeth Hicks and you’ll come to see pretty quickly why these particular teens think their mom is so cool. Since 2004, Marybeth Hicks has been looking to her family for motivation and inspiration, and her children have delivered. Now, to the delight of fans of her weekly internet and Washington Times work, Hicks has gathered her words into book format. As a long term fan of the work of this talented writer, I’m thrilled to recommend this book to families of any size or age. Marybeth Hicks writes with a freshness and universality that will make you think she’s been spying on you in your minivan or SUV! Marybeth’s columns have always been on my must-read list. This book should be a primer for any mom or dad looking to savor the parenting journey and enhance their relationship with their own children.
Marybeth Hicks slowed her minivan recently to offer the following thoughts on her writing, her family, her faith and today’s culture. I’m pleased to share the following interview and strongly recommend her book.
Q: Marybeth Hicks, congratulations on the publication of your first book, The Perfect World Inside My Minivan -- One Mom's Journey Through the Streets of Suburbia. Could you please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers?
A: Thanks, Lisa! I’m probably a lot like your readers – a wife and mom, living in a fairly typical American suburb, raising four children while holding down a part-time job (writing from home) and folding endless loads of laundry. I make it a point to plan at least four meals a week that don’t include cream of mushroom soup in the ingredients list, and I try to spend more than an hour a week alone with my husband and more than a few fleeting minutes each day in prayer. Those two goals are not easily met.
By profession I’m a writer – the only respectable job for an English major. I graduated from Michigan State University, worked in public relations for a few years, and then “mommy tracked” to be at home with our children. I launched my newspaper column in 2004, and it’s been running in The Washington Times and on several big web sites since then.
Q: The book is a collection of your wonderful columns - how did you happen to begin writing and why the column format?
A: Writing was the thing I was always best at. Math was not. In fact, as a student, I would sooner write about a math problem than do one. So it was a sure bet I would one day gravitate toward a job that included written communication. For a good 20 years, on and off (see above about “mommy tracking”), I worked in marketing communications where I never wrote in my own voice. I even got pretty good at imitating the voices of corporate execs as I wrote talking points and speeches! But the demands of a job outside my home, and my growing sense that God had given me a gift for writing that should be put to better use, drew me to begin writing what I knew – writing about my journey through motherhood.
Q: How do your kids feel about being the subject matter for your work and is anything strictly off limits?
A: This is a great question and I get it a lot. There are some folks who think my children are probably horrified to be featured in a newspaper column and now, in a book. But the opposite actually is true. If a few weeks go by and one of them isn’t the subject of a column, she’ll usually pout and tell me she’s neglected (I say “she” because my only son has never done this!). Yes, there are topics that are strictly off limits. I’m not doing this column to exploit my family; I’m doing it to share the issues and experiences that affect us and others across the country. I make it a practice to tell my children when they are the subject of an upcoming column and to read it to them before I file it. Once, when I wrote about Jimmy’s (thankfully former) propensity to lie to me, I asked him if he thought others might be having this same issue and if we could help families by sharing our struggle with this problem. He decided it was a good thing for us to do, so I wrote it. He came out pretty good in the end, so it was OK.
Q: What motivates or sparks your interest in writing about a topic? Where do you get your column ideas?
A: My motivation is my strong sense that parenting in our culture is mostly an uphill battle. We’re struggling against media that feed our children unbelievable messages with nearly uncontrollable reach and frequency. I’m motivated by the desire to instill in my children the moral, ethical and spiritual tools they need to be responsible, accountable and holy adults. I’m motivated by tacky advertising, “Happy Bunny” t-shirts, stories about third graders who use instant messaging, television shows and movies that corrupt our culture and generally, anything that gets my goat, parent-wise. I’m also motivated and inspired by my own experiences as a mother, which I’ve found are so universal.
Q: How has your Catholic faith impacted upon your parenting style and your writing career?
A: Tremendously! My Catholic faith is the foundation on which my husband and I have built our marriage and on which we now build our family. Viewing my life as a wife and mother through the framework of a vocation means I view my roles as the work I do for God, and I view my gift for writing in the same way. I think God gives us all talents that we ought to use in His service. In my case, I’m sort of a “scribe for the tribe” – I write about things we’re all experiencing in a voice that feels familiar and maybe sends an encouraging message.
Q: What words of wisdom would you offer to parents with children entering the adolescent and high school years?
A: Welcome to the big leagues! Early childhood is the time when we foster respect for our authority as parents – adolescence is the time when that authority will be tested and tried. As parents, we have to recognize that the risks our kids face are even greater than those we faced, simply because the world offers more and easier temptations (think of a teenaged boy 25 years ago having copies of a girlie magazine hidden in his room. Now imagine that same teen simply surfing the net for porn and meeting people online who produce it!). Our culture presents huge challenges to us but I believe it’s possible to keep the culture at bay while we instill the values and religious foundation that our children need to be holy and happy followers of Christ. That said, get comfortable with the word “no” and use it – frequently!
Q: Which, if any, of the columns is your favorite? What do your children have to say about their mom's work?
A: My children are immensely proud of me. As a parent it’s typical for us to express our pride at our kids’ accomplishments but most of the time our professional work isn’t something they see or are aware of. Mine are proud of the work I do and this makes it even more fun for me. Favorite columns? I have a few… “Silent night for mother and son,” my Christmas column in which I contemplate Mary sitting at the edge of Jesus’ bed just as I sit at Jimmy’s; “The saddest day of summer” about Amy’s best buddy moving away; “Nobody warned me about driver’s ed,” my first Washington Times column about Katie’s new driver permit; and “Speaking out is always cool,” about Betsy’s tendency to defend others. (Notice I picked one about each kid – I’m no dummy!).
Q: Thank you so much for your time and participation in this book spotlight. Are there any parting words you'd like to share with our readers?
A: Other than to buy my book? Just to enjoy the journey of parenthood, to be courageous and thoughtful in the decisions you must make for your children, and to remember that God has give you everything you need to lead your children to Him. And have fun!
For more information on The Perfect World Inside My Minivan -- One Mom's Journey Through the Streets of Suburbia visit
Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites, including http://www.catholicmom.com and http://www.christiancoloring.com, and an avid reader of Catholic literature. Visit her at http://www.lisahendey.com for more information.