Will and Zoe Tyler have worked hard to provide for their daughters, Leah and Justine. In particular, Will, who dropped out of college, sacrificing a valuable scholarship, is determined to see that high school junior Leah, a talented soccer player, secures a scholarship from an Ivy League college such as Harvard, while Justine, a well-behaved, quiet twelve-year-old dreams of becoming a doctor. The Tyler family appears stable, their futures secure — until Leah begins rebelling, that is. She begins hanging out with Tood, an older high school drop-out with a criminal record who introduces her to drugs, sex, and irresponsibility. Her grades plummet and she begins missing soccer practices and games. As her life unravels, so does the entire fabric of the Tylers’ life as a family.
Today I welcome author Terri Giuliano Long to Colloquium. She was inspired to pen In Leah’s Wake after writing a series of articles about families coping with drug and alcohol-addicted teenagers. She says that those heartbreaking stories remained in consciousness as she parented her own children. Told from the perspectives of all four members of the Tyler family, In Leah’s Wake explores how Will and Zoe try to understand why such a bright, talented girl like Leah feels the need to squander the opportunities afforded her. Leah, lost and confused, attempts to balance her desire for independence and excitement against her commitment to her family and desire for a secure future. According to Long, In Leah’s Wake is about the “rationalization we make for others’ behavior as well as our own; it is about our responsibility toward those we love and about our interconnectedness with the world around us. Ultimately, this is a novel about family, duty, and growing up (even if you thought you had done that long ago).”
5 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Rid of Your Daughter’s Dreadful Boyfriend
In Leah’s Wake tells the story of a family in collapse. Sixteen-year-old Leah, a star soccer player, has led a perfect life. When she meets a sexy older guy and is attracted to his independence, she begins to spread her wings. Drinking, ignoring curfew, dabbling in drugs — all this feels like freedom to her. Her terrified parents, afraid they’re losing their daughter, pull the reins tighter, pushing when they ought to be pulling, and communication breaks down. Soon there’s no turning back. Twelve-year-old Justine, caught between the parents she loves and the big sister she adores, finds herself in the fight of her life, trying desperately to pull her family together.
Your daughter is nothing like Leah, of course. A lovely young woman, she respects you -– and herself -– far too much to ever date a bad guy, never mind a boy you detest. Here, on the off chance that she does, are five things, inspired by Zoe and Will, Leah’s parents, that you can do to ensure that your beloved daughter does not follow in Leah’s wake.
1) The first time you lay eyes on the awful boyfriend, be rude and dismissive. He’s a jerk. You can tell by the way he dresses; you see it in his eyes; you’ve heard rumors. You have great instincts. So go with your gut. Let him –- and your daughter -– know that nothing he does or says will ever change the way you feel. You can’t stand him. Period. If your daughter argues or cries, even though it breaks your heart, try to ignore her. She’s a teenager, a slave to her hormones, incapable of making a decent decision. Once they realize you’re serious, they’ll end the relationship. And she’ll find a guy who deserves her.
2) If, God forbid, he sticks around, criticize him at every possible turn. Make pointed remarks about his family, his friends, his clothes, the way he walks or talks or combs his hair. Be relentless. The goal is to get under his skin. If he resents you enough, sooner or later he’ll resent your daughter too. Sure, it will hurt when he dumps her, but you’ll be there to pick her up, comfort her. It’s in those dark times, when we’re down, that we appreciate the people who love us, the importance of family. When it’s over and she’s dating again, she’ll see the light, realize what a horrible boyfriend he was, and she’ll thank you.
3) Make her feel guilty. If you’re Italian or hail from some other guilt-inducing culture, you can stop reading. You’re a master at guilt-tripping already. The rest of you: let your daughter know how hurt and disappointed you are. Cry, whine, pray aloud, lie in bed with your shades drawn. It’s not only you she’s disappointed, either. Your entire clan, dead or alive, is disappointed in her. Dear God. A grandparent or favorite aunt or uncle must be rolling over in his or her grave. In fact, the entire town is talking about her. Everyone thought she was better, smarter, kinder, or more mature than she’s proven to be. If, in a guilt-induced depression, she hurts herself -– you meant well, anyway.
4) You’ve tried. You’ve truly tried. Now drag out the big guns: with a look of pure disgust, let your daughter know, in no uncertain terms, she’s chosen a loser. Translation: she’s a loser. Compare her to the “good daughter,” a sister or cousin, the child of a friend, any girl who dates (in your humble opinion) a half-decent guy. Make these comparisons often — daily if necessary — until they sink in. Stop at nothing. Resort to cruelty, if you must, insults or name-calling. However tempted you are to loosen up, hang tough. She’s your daughter. You love her. You’re doing this for her good. It hurts you more than it could ever hurt her. Under your disapproving eye, her resolve will evaporate. She’ll do anything to return to your good graces -– even if it means cutting loose the detestable boyfriend. If she falls into a depression, see number 3. You tried.
5) Sorry, friend, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands. Grit your teeth: time for drastic measures. Give your daughter an ultimatum. This is your house. As long as she’s living under your roof, she will obey your rules. Cut the kid loose or get out. Those are her choices. If she cries or makes excuses or threatens to leave, ignore her. Do not, under any circumstances, deviate from the plan. You must go through with this. It’s your last hope. If threats don’t work, nothing will. Dig deep. Make a list of boyfriend’s character flaws and refer to it often. Remind yourself: you are the parent. You are in charge. Repeat if you have to. Make it a mantra. I am the parent. I am in charge.
Be warned: while these strategies work with some teens, they backfire with others. You may find that, rather than pushing boyfriend out of your life, you push your daughter away. For an idea of how that can play out, read In Leah’s Wake.
In Leah’s Wake is Terri Giuliano Long’s debut novel. Her life outside of books is devoted to her family, with whom she resides on the East Coast. No matter where her stories journey, they always tie back to family and the ways we love, but too often hurt one another — the grief, the sorrow, the revelation, and the joy. Terri’s goal as a writer is to “offer lasting hope and deep emotional connection in a compact and entertaining package.”
Terri lectures at Boston College, and in her free time enjoys walking, traveling, and listening to music. True to her Italian-American heritage, she’s an enthusiastic cook. In an alternate reality, she might be an international food writer.
Terri is working on her second novel, Nowhere to Run, a psychological thriller with a historical twist.