When I was contacted by Viking Press, offering me a free review copy of My Teenage Werewolf (disclosure, disclosure, blah, blah, blah), I responded immediately with a "Yes!" Probably because my then four year old daughter (she has since turned 12...I mean, five), had just slammed her bedroom door on me or rolled her eyes at me or told me: "You don't know STUFF, MOM!" (Four...FOUR!), I thought to myself that even though I don't have a teenage werewolf right now, I can tell one day I will.
Then, though, as I waited for my copy, I began to regret my enthusiasm. I had just finished two classes and had enough of behavior and classroom management with a twist of brain-based learning strategies. Why oh why had I set myself up for another academic read, I thought?
Then I received the book and couldn't put it down. True, author Lauren Kessler takes us along on her pre-book research ride, covering her delving into developmental stages and myelin-forming studies and theories, but really this is a memoir of the 18 months she followed her 12 year-old daughter, Lizzie. It is also, of course (how could it not be) a self-reflective piece, the author motivated by her own cold relationship with her mother that she wishes not to repeat. This roller coaster ride of emotion ends on a high(er) note, and we almost wish for a "sequel" to see how Lizzie is getting along. We are rooting for her (and mom) all along.
Because I have an older friend with whom I spent many a coffee date going over the hurt and heartbreak and small victories of mothering teenage girls, I knew that so much of what Lauren writes about is true. And there were so many small moments in the book that I have meant to internalize and that I feel I can touch upon when loving my daughter at any age.
One of these points had to do with power, and how giving your child some power, something to make them feel that they are not powerless all...day...long...is important in building their self-confidence and self-identity (these are my words, not hers, but this is what I took from the book).
Second, was something that has certainly stuck with me - an arm around the shoulder is more beneficial to a child than a finger in their face. So true.
And finally, the third point that I remember from the book is that boys usually have a rite of passage, a passing of the torch if you will, with their fathers that involves something physical. The day they beat their dad at hoops, or a race, or hit the ball farther. Girls don't have these same rites of passage, and if they do, it usually involves beauty. I intend, when the time comes, to provide a different sort of rite of passage for my daughter that involves strength and courage.
My Teenage Werewolf is a riveting read, made all the more poignant by the fact that someday, G-d willing, my daughter and I will be at this same threshold. I hope we will cross it holding hands together...