Take note, this is not a ‘how-to-book’ as much as it a commiseration book. In short, if you—the reader—have gone through the “terrible teens” with your own children you will be pleased to learn that you were not alone and that, in fact, another poor soul also had the privilege of suffering through those unforgettable years as well. A poor soul who, before it happened didn’t know it was coming, when it hit felt as if he was being washed over by a tsunami and, when it was finally over, still had a hard time believing what, indeed, had just happened. In other words, that our once sweet, respectful and obedient child had turned into a human hurricane wreaking havoc on the previously tranquil lives of two extremely bewildered parents.
For those who haven’t yet suffered through their children’s terrible teens but soon will, this book is a cautionary tale which should, at least, prepare you for what will most certainly be the most frustrating, exasperating and, at times, emotionally debilitating experience of your life. Do you remember the hell that you put your parents through during your teens? Well folks, get ready; sooner rather than later the world will turn again and it will be payback time.
The genesis of this little book was sparked when a friend with two sons offhandedly remarked that his wife wondered what it would have been like to raise daughters. I knew the answer because, as a result of my second marriage, I had inherited three. Although I don’t keep diaries I am a compulsive emailer. My emails are long, chatty and rather candid even about personal matters. Thus, over the previous five years I had written to friends and acquaintances on an almost daily basis voluminously about my terrible teen experiences with the youngest of my three step-daughters. So, as a favor to the man’s wife, I compiled most of the emails that I had written about my step-daughter Loretta, and sent them off to my friend’s wife. That should have been that.
But, as it often can happen, this little ‘off the cuff’ project took on a life of its own. A German friend to whom I had sent excerpts likened it to the “Reality TV” programs that are so popular in his country. He wrote me that nothing even remotely like this sort of thing happens in Germany. Surprised to hear this, I eventually sat down and read this collection and was pleasantly surprised. What I had complied turned out to be a first-hand record of my daughter’s maturation from childhood into womanhood. And, what’s more, by reading about it I re-experienced those years with the eye of an objective observer.
This was somewhat peculiar for me because, at the time it was happening, I felt as though my wife and I were going through a kind of personal hell to which only we and we alone had ever been subjected. Now, when reading about it, I immediately realized that, in actuality, this had been a universal experience to which many parents were, are, and will eventually be subjected. Also—and this was something quite astounding for me to understand much less accept but—during these difficult years, my daughter had been no different from many other teenagers who at that age had their own particular quirks and foibles as they struggled to find their own unique pathway into adulthood. In short, my daughter was a perfectly normal teen and not some human anomaly bent on destroying her mother’s and my sanity.
Strangely, what I enjoyed most about this little email collection was observing my often bewildered reaction to all this as well as the mistakes, sheer stupidity and, on rare occasions, wisdom that I exhibited in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. To sum up, this collection of emails is about me as much as it is about my daughter growing up and a clear indication of how difficult it was for me to tread water in a situation in which I was clearly way over my head. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I didn’t.
"It was like reading a German reality show. Nothing like this ever happens in Germany!" Bastian Lummet
"Truthfully, I am almost ashamed at how amusing I found this book because it created a schadenfreude for me [pleasure enjoying the misfortune and humiliation of others] and actually made me glad that I never had children." Kathleen Spaltro