Joanne Fedler's latest offering Love in the Time of Contempt is part pep-talk, part personal memoir and an open invitation to consider yourself a part of the club devoted to the 'Raising of Teenagers'.
The book can be enjoyed from many points of view; that of the parent in the midst of raising teens, that of the parent who is done with that particular challenge, and that of the parent (or non-parent) remembering their own teenaged years. The stories in this book can't help but jog your memory about your own behaviour during those tumultuous years, and your feelings about your parents at the time. If by chance you had not already thought back to those times and, if you've parented teenagers yourself, felt a touch of empathy for your parents and what you put them through, then you certainly will after reading Fedler's book.
This is not a how-to manual on parenting 13-19 year-olds. There is no magical handbook to follow that will make you an expert at getting yourself and your children through this challenging stage of their development. Teenagers are a social grouping not a collective noun. They are as individual as snowflakes or fingerprints. Ironically, many would protest against this individualism, preferring instead to belong to a group, to fit, to follow the crowd. Funnily enough, being like everyone else often becomes the basis of the teenager's identity.
What you will learn within these pages is that 'this too shall pass'. There is no avoiding this challenge. The good news is that most who go through it do so without any lasting damage. It is important to separate ego from parenting. It is not a competitive sport. You don't need to outshine your children. Be fair. Say sorry. Admit when you are wrong. Show your vulnerability. Give them respect and expect it in return. Compromise. Relax.
Love in the Time of Contempt reminds us that we are not alone. The writer is sharing her own experiences with us in a way that says, "Look. I'm doing this too, and guess what, none of us are perfect". I have always felt that this is an important lesson to share with your children no matter what their age or stage of development: 'Yes, I'm an adult, but I am also a person. I make mistakes. If I treat you unfairly I will apologise to you. I'm not perfect, so I don't expect you to be.'
When your children become adults your relationship changes. Yes, they will always be your babies, but the relationship between you matures; you become equals in a way, and it might surprise you that you may eventually need them far more than they need you. Thankfully, if you have raised them with more love than anger, with fairness and respect, when that time comes they will be there for you.
Fedler's writing is honest, humorous, and insightful. She shares her experiences generously, without being didactic. With warmth and a touch of irony she gives the reader that sense of solidarity and support that, during what is often one of the most difficult stages of parenting, we are not alone. In the end we are all in this together. As parents, we just have to do the best we know how to do, learning on-the-job, while staying open and available to our teenagers.
I highly recommend Love in the Time of Contempt.
Find out more about Joanne here.