Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West is the April 2021 pick for the Parenting Tweens and Teens Book Club. One of the main storylines of this novel parenting teenagers through social media use, impulsive decisions, and public failures. You can participate in the discussion in our PTT Book Club on Fable.co or on the @pttbookclub Instagram account post on 4/30.
Interview with Kathleen West
Me: I was intrigued by some of the parents in your novel viewing their kids’ “failures” almost as their own. What are your thoughts around parents feeling their kids’ actions are a reflection on them or their parenting, especially during their kids’ teen years? Do you think this is the way it should be?
Kathleen: I think parents should try not to take credit for their kids’ successes or responsibility for their everyday failures. I have been a teacher for more than twenty years, and too often at conferences, I can see that parents feel I’m giving THEM grades when I report how their children are doing in class. It’s natural to align closely with our kids, but I think it’s healthier to maintain separate identities.
Me: Your novel also examines the different ways parents handle breaking negative news about their close friends’ kids. How do you feel about breaking this kind of bad news to a close friend? Do you think there are situations in which you shouldn’t share it? Are there better ways to handle it?
Kathleen: Outside my role as a teacher, I don’t think I’ve ever had to “report” on any kids to their parents. Whenever I’ve heard about questionable behaviors, I’ve texted the moms to ask things like, “Have you heard of XYZ? What do you think?” I really appreciate it when other moms share their struggles with me. It makes me feel comfortable sharing the bumps in my own road and helps me clarify my beliefs about kids’ independence and responsibility.
Me: What’s been the most surprising feedback you’ve received on your book from editors, beta readers, or early readers who were parents?
Kathleen: I’ve noticed that moms of babies and toddlers tend to feel stressed out by Are We There Yet? It’s hard to imagine parenting teenagers before you get there.