Book review: ‘Fledge’

Apr 9, 2018 by

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When my children were very young, there was all manner of reading material at my fingertips, ready to tell me exactly how I might raise perfect kids. I could read books on attachment and potty training, blogs on how to make nutritious and delicious meals, magazines devoted to tracing children’s development from infancy to kindergarten. Feeling pretty confident about my parenting game when my kids were toddlers, I even contemplated writing my own book to share my wisdom.

"Fledge"

“Fledge”

And then, suddenly, my sons were teenagers. My hubris as a mother dissipated, but so too did the wealth of material promising to help parents navigate difficult times. Some days, I long for a user’s guide to tell me how to best love my teens. Some days, I laugh at my naive younger self for believing she understood this parenting gig. Most days, I wonder if others face the same struggles and if others are likewise panicking at the recognition that these incomprehensible beings in our homes will soon be independent adults.

For all these reasons and more, I was grateful for Brenda L. Yoder’s Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind. Using her experience as a mother of four and a licensed mental health teacher, Yoder provides a guidebook to parenting teens into adulthood. She reminds us that we are not alone in our journeys with raising children and that others — and God — can provide strength and support to launch our kids from the proverbial nest.

Yoder acknowledges the complex feelings that accompany our attempts to guide kids through the space between the teen years and adulthood. She describes the grief parents may feel, knowing the stage of parenting a young family is behind them. This sense of loss might come as a surprise to those who have waited impatiently for their kids to grow up and become independent. When that moment finally arrives, “you’re letting go with one hand while trying to hold on with the other,” Yoder writes. “The more you hold on, the more it feels like your child is being ripped away. While she walks away, part of you goes with her. And it hurts.”

While that pain cannot be avoided, Fledge explores the ways parents can prepare for the inevitable transitions. Early chapters consider strategies to create a solid foundation from which children can launch into adulthood. Teens need to feel a secure sense of home if they are to thrive as young adults. Creating strong family bonds, developing a discipline of prayer together and communicating about shifting relationships are important in establishing a home base to which sons and daughters can safely return.

As the book progresses, Yoder shifts from considering what life might look like with children still in our homes to how parents contend with an empty nest once children have launched. Later chapters address some of the emotional challenges that can accompany our kids’ transition to adulthood and independence. These include parental struggles with identity and midlife crises; the discovery that our social circles have been built around our kids’ lives, and thus the challenges of finding new friendships; and the unique stressors facing marriages once children have left home.

Yoder’s authenticity and vulnerability are strengths, and her willingness to admit to parenting struggles — and failures — make her advice accessible. She is less mental health guru than fallible parent, creating an intimacy between narrator and reader, assuring us that parents do not walk into hard places alone. When she describes how one or another of her children was particularly challenging, she manages to separate her own story from theirs, allowing her children the privacy — and thus the personhood — they need.

I appreciated Yoder’s consideration of the specific challenges teenagers face today: social media use, the kinds of music they listen to, the ways mental health diagnoses impact a family’s attempts to raise grounded, independent adults. The perfect family we see on social media is an illusion. Every family will encounter rocky moments when even a parent’s best efforts fall flat.

We need to acknowledge the times when our families struggle, Yoder says, because the painful moments bear witness to the presence of Christ in a hurting world and to our willingness to sustain faith during adversity.

Each chapter is accompanied by questions for reflection and suggestions for action. This interactive conclusion to each chapter also includes a prayer, so that readers can use Fledge as both a guide and a devotional.

This discipline of prayer and of surrendering one’s family to God is a theme throughout Fledge. So too is the idea that raising teens into adulthood requires an abundance of grace: grace for each other, grace for our children, grace for ourselves. More than anything else, it is this reminder of the power grace affords that makes Fledge a book I will return to often — or at least until my kids have left the nest to be the people God created them to be.

Melanie Springer Mock is professor of English at George Fox University in Newberg, Ore.


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