Sil Reynolds teamed up with her daughter, Eliza, to write Mothering and Daughtering: Keeping the Bond Strong Through the Teen Years. I am clinging to this book like it’s the last floating log after a shipwreck. I have only recently developed an interest in adolescence. Before that, I was just trying to forget it ever happened to me. I am not alone in thinking back on those years of hormone-poisoned drama with regret and bewilderment. Just the word “puberty” makes people shudder. Try broaching the topic in a group of adults and there will be eye rolling and a collective sense of “What was that anyway?”
Since I have a daughter on the cusp of her teen years, I decided that I have to reframe my middle and high school years to come up with a better story to tell her about the long walk that lies ahead. Culturally, could we offer young women and their haggard mothers a more meaningful message than, “Hunker down for six years of Hell?” The hope that this book holds out for mothers is that we will not be so paralyzed and fearful that we’ll accept our daughters’ teen years as an endless series of battles. Through her work as a nurse, a student of Jungian psychology, and a mother, Reynolds claims a cooperative, loving relationship is possible during this tumultuous time. This is a nifty flip book with Sil as the lead author on the mothering side and Eliza taking the lead on the daughtering half, which is geared toward teens.
The other day, at a loss for something to say to my daughter, I stammered, “Puberty is a great time to write poetry!” This is true, it isn’t poetry that anyone would want to read, but that’s hardly the point. It’s the feelings that matter; experiencing them rather than denying them, and then using them in ways that aren’t destructive. Our brains don’t fully develop until we are 25. If ever there is a time in our lives to learn something (basketball, physics, a front flip – just to scratch the surface of my unfulfilled dreams) as quickly as possible, the teen brain is a marvel of plasticity. It’s a challenge to love a teenager the way they need to be loved. They keep switching the rules from “hold me close,” to “let me go” and back again. Another person is an abiding mystery, and perhaps never more than in her stormy and tender adolescence.