A year or so ago, I started having a frequently recurring dream that I was living with something dangerous, usually a big cat, a tiger or a lion. In the dreams, I would try to go about my business while being conscious that the dangerous creature could lunge at any moment. It took me a while, but I realized finally that the dreams were about my teenage daughter. I knew long ago that my oldest, who I will call Thing One, would be a difficult teenager, and I tried to ready myself, but I was not ready. So I dived into the world of parenting books at the library until I found Laura Scribner Kastner's Getting to Calm. I find that I need to keep it around and go back to it again and again in order to keep my head in the right place and keep my cool when Thing One is behaving like the little girl in The Exorcist.
Getting to Calm doesn’t just throw theories at you; it actually walks you through conversations between teens and their parents, showing not only the content, but also the process, analyzing each participant's responses. It points out mistakes that parents make and explains what parents should avoid, and shows how to be more successful talking with teenagers. With the help of this book, I stopped seeing my daughter's resistance to rules and instruction as a personal rejection, but as something she simply has to do, part of the process. Mind you, I have to remind myself of this again and again, because sometimes my gut response is that I’m living with a demon.
I've accepted that there’s not an answer that will magically make everything go smoothly. It feels kind of like my idea of Buddhism. Being a parent is something you practice from day to day, as mindfully as you can. And keeping this book close will help me do the best I can, along with deep breathing, counting to ten, conversations with other parents who have already lived through this, and occasionally, a glass or two of wine. I might make it through Thing One’s adolescence. By then, Thing Two, a little over three years younger, should be in the thick of his own teen years.