Today I am so pleased to welcome Amy Lane to Joyfully Jay. Amy has come to talk to us about her latest release, Summer Lessons. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!

Problem Children

When my youngest was a baby, I once started dinner and settled down to nurse her, confident that her toddler-brother was riding his big wheel in a locked back yard. She had no sooner latched on when there was a knock at the door.

Outside, stood three mothers, one of whom knocked, one of whom held my son’s big wheel, and the other of whom held my son by the hand.

He was naked.

For the record, this was also the kid we almost reported for an amber alert because he decided to hide under the coffee table without telling anyone in the house that hide and seek was a GO, and he was gonna win this game, bitches, oh yes he was!

And after all of this, he made his trip to the emergency room because his sister dropped him on his head and he bust his forehead open on the corner of a dresser.

He’s very proud of these stories, by the way.

And my point here is this—

When parents talk about their “problem child”, people without kids often assume that they are passing some sort of judgment. “This kid is not like the others, and is therefore a problem.”

What parents are usually doing is speaking out of a place of supreme worry. “For some reason this kid seems to attract trouble like a magnet and his hijinks are aging me worse than cigarettes and heroin—how do I keep him safe?”

Mason Hayes and his brother, Dane, are good kids.

They are not cruel, they work hard, and they love their parents very much.

But both of them have problems—Mason can’t seem to keep his mouth shut about stuff that seems common sense to him, and his school years are an absolute joy for his parents. Dane has bipolar disorder, and when it manifests itself, his entire family aches with his pain.

So yes—Mason and Dane give Mom and Dad some rough moments—but Janette and Roger both adore their sons, and I hope that shows.

That love gives both the men unexpected strength.

So when Mason meets Terry—who was not on the receiving end of unconditional love and support, he’s a little baffled. What is Terry doing? Why can’t he focus long enough for a relationship? Jesus, the guy is twenty-five years old, does he know this isn’t normal?

Short answer—no.

What seems common sense to Mason and Dane—who both have problems but unconditional love—is terrifying and unscalable to someone like Terry, who has never had a parent set an example for how to sustain a relationship and adult in the purest verb-sense of the word.

Mason—who is mostly a big kid at heart—realizes that if he’s going to demonstrate “adulting”, he’s going to have to grow up a little himself.

And that’s something I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older.

That the children—the ones that scare us the most, the ones that give us the heart attacks and age us worse than cigarettes and heroin—very often end up learning more than we think as we try to negotiate the scary waters with them.

They watch us deal with problems and when it’s their turn to deal with something similar, why, we’ve given them a road map to do that.

Sometimes you don’t see it right away. And as a parent I know I’ll always worry. I have grown children—22 and 24—and I worry about them as much as I worry about the middle-schoolers.

But I’ve learned to have some faith. As human beings we can only do our best—but for most parents, as they do their best with both their “problem kids” and their “easy kids”—their best truly comes from a place of love and hope. We hope the problem kids learn from their mistakes. We hope the easy kids learn how to problem solve even if they haven’t had those problems. We hope that sometime in their adulthood they find a companion to help them with the stuff they haven’t mastered yet, and that this person brings something meaningful and joyous to our children’s lives.

So when I wrote Mason, trying very hard to show Terry what he could do with his life while not dominating him or telling him what to do or think, I was hoping we could see that his mother’s lessons at the beginning of the book—the ones given with exasperation, humor, and joy—had been well learned.

And we’d see that eventually, the problem child became the problem solver that his mother showed him how to be.


SummerLessonsMason Hayes’s love life has a long history of losers who don’t see that Mason’s heart is as deep and tender as his mouth is awkward. He wants kindness, he wants love—and he wants someone who thinks sex is as fantastic as he does. When Terry Jefferson first asks him out, Mason thinks it’s a fluke: Mason is too old, too boring, and too blurty to interest someone as young and hot as his friend’s soccer teammate.

The truth is much more painful: Mason and Terry are perfectly compatible, and they totally get each other. But Terry is still living with his toxic, suffocating parent and Mason doesn’t want to be a sugar daddy. Watching Terry struggle to find himself is a long lesson in patience, but Mason needs to trust that the end result will be worth it, because finally, he’s found a man worth sharing his heart with.