You never know what a person is going through until you walk a mile in their shoes. And after 37 years maintaining a private practice in foot and ankle care at the Atwood Medical Center in Johnston, Michael A. Battey has seen his fair share of shoes.
But Battey’s now taking his experiences as a father and parent to the next step with his first of two new books, ‘The Parent Trap Columns, Vol. I: Humorous Child-Raising Advice in a Baby Boomer World.’
For nearly eight years from 2005 until 2012, Battey wrote a newspaper column called The Parent Trap, which primarily ran in the East Greenwich Pendulum, but also appeared in Kent County and the other sister weekly papers of the Southern Rhode Island Newspapers. Just released in September, his first publication contains more than 100 of Battey’s columns from that time which focus on humorous and insightful observations on contemporary teen parenting.
Battey, who was born and raised in Rhode Island and now lives in East Greenwich, received degrees from the University of Rhode Island and the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine. He’s also a faculty member at the Brown University Alpert Medical School.
Saying that he has always had a “writing bug,” Battey’s writing career first began when he wrote a letter to the editor in East Greenwich about a college consulting service that would help students with applications to certain universities. The editor then called him and asked him to write a regular column for the paper. He then decided that he could mine funny and insightful stories from raising his own three children.
His oldest daughter, Alexa, is now 30, and Battey said that she was the focus of many of his articles. His son Michael, 25, is in California now working on his master’s degree. Battey’s youngest child, Jordan, is 21 and now in her fourth year of college in Massachusetts.
“The kids came into our world a little differently. We were married for 12 years before we had kids. We married 42 years ago, I was 22 and my wife, Susan, was 20, that was the average age to get married.” said Battey. “We tried to have a child and nothing worked, we went to fertility clinics and all this stuff and nothing clicked, and we finally adopted our oldest daughter.”
Battey said that, for their second child Michael, medical science had caught up and an In Vetro attempt was successful.
“Then after 20 years of marriage we got a total surprise, a natural pregnancy with our daughter Jordan,” said Battey. “Each of them can claim their own unique birth background and experiences.”
He said these experiences helped provide him with a unique perspective on parenting which he felt could be shared with a wider audience.
“My intent with the column was not to preach, but judge maybe, because I make mistakes every hour of every day like we all do, and parenting is a lot of trial and error,” said Battey. “But I started thinking that kids nowadays, a lot of things are the same. It’s really not so much the kids that have changed, it’s the parents. Parents were byproducts of a ‘me generation.’”
He said he grew up in an era of Woodstock and the 70s, filled with promiscuity. “Not that I minded” he joked. He said that he found that the focus of that generation “became less about other people and more about you.”
“I think regard for society suffered a little bit because it was okay to do your own thing. So what lessons do we send to kids now?” said Battey. He compared previous generations as mass savers to those today that seem to focus on mass consumerism.
“For many it’s a tough choice at that moment, and you love your kids and want to give them things, so you default by just giving in and caving, and giving kids all this stuff,” he said. “That whole entitlement philosophy I think is potentially harmful because these kids get out of college and live this great lifestyle, and what they are bringing in and many have a difficult time getting a job. For many it’s an adaptation.”
Battey believes that his tongue in cheek book is appropriate for parents and grandparents based on the overwhelming feedback he’s received from his popular column.
“So many people feel that it’s something that they can relate to, it seems that the chapters and columns resonate with people,” he said. “They are quick reads, you can pick it up and read one or two, put it down and then the next day pick it up again. A lot of them are humorous and people feel entertained. I think it resonates with them as parents and they’re not being preached to and told this is a better way, but it reminds them to look in the mirror and laugh and have a sense of humor about parenting.”
Battey’s first edition is now available at local bookstores such as Barrington Books, the Brown University Bookstore, Barnes& Noble, local gift shops, and on Amazon. Softcover versions of the 324 page book sell for $20.00. He has two upcoming book signings, the first at the Fifth Annual RI Author Expo at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston on Saturday Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The second will be held at Barrington Books Retold in Garden City on Sunday Dec. 10 from noon until 1:30pm.
Free rubber duckies will be available to the first 50 book buyers at the Garden City event. More information may also be found at www.parenttrapcolumns.com.