A fascinating night with Ali McClain and Lisa Damour


Dr. Lisa Damour and Ali McClain

Tonight at the Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern, Lit Cleveland was lucky enough to host Dr. Lisa Damour, author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, in conversation with poet, writer and youth advocate Ali McClain. Lisa was gracious to spend time with us in the midst of her seemingly nonstop touring schedule, doing her regular jobs, and being a parent herself, and Ali was the perfect person to interview Lisa because of her work as director of youth services at West Side Community House. Ali not only did an amazing jobs of holding a dialogue with Lisa about the book, but actually engaged the girls in her Sisterhood program in the topics raised in the book and had them frame questions about it.

The event made me realize how close Katherine and I actually are to having a teenager. While Emily has only just turned seven, I can already see her rising self-consciousness and confidence in herself as an independent person. These are good things. So is adolescence, Damour reminds us — although it can be a topsy-turvy, painful time, amidst the outbursts, confusion and fights there is an incredible amount of developmental work that’s taking place. As she points out, fighting with parents can actually be incredibly productive for teens! Whodathunkit?

My friend Susan Petrone asked if there was a similar book about boys and Lisa recommended Raising Cain by Michael Thompson. Sounds like my life. Nathan has been badgering me lately because I have “too much meetings.” Sometimes I can literally see his face darken as Emily gets into her routine of practicing piano, doing homework and generally being self-assured, and Jonathan cuddles in for some daddy time, leaving Nathan to play by himself. When Nathan disrupts my time with Jonathan (who is incredibly cute, but can also kind of monopolize me sometimes), of course he gets criticized for picking on his younger brother. But is it really his fault? He’s looking for attention. So when I got to read him two stories tonight, and he cuddled against me like old times, I was hoping he wasn’t mad at me anymore and things were closer to normal.

As a family, in the last couple of months we’ve settled into a nice routine. Jonathan and Nathan are becoming friends, and after some difficult times we’re learning how to be “five” instead of four. It feels really good right now. Not sure how long that will last, but hey, we’ll take it. Reading Untangled made me realize how fast life changes and how important it is to really savor it.


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