This too shall pass, I hope

Published 12:07 pm Monday, June 12, 2017

My daughter is kind, funny, smart and polite. At least in public.

These days, it seems the moment we pull into the garage, she turns into a tiny hormonal Dr. Hyde. There is a lot of screaming and door slamming around here lately.

“Nobody understands me!” she screams. Not true, as every woman on the planet was once a hormonal teen and understands exactly.

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“I hate you and I’ll never forgive you!” No you don’t, and yes you will.

“I have nothing to wear!” This yelled as she stands atop a veritable mountain of discarded clothing items. I whisper to my husband, “Don’t say a single word. We do not negotiate with terrorists.”

“If you write about this I will just die!” The dying part is patently untrue. The writing part is absolutely true. As Anne Lamott says, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

“Aaaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhh!” This one is my favorite. She sounds so much like a tiny pissed-off pirate I can’t help but giggle.

Hours later, she is hugging me and telling me how much she loves me, snuggling on the couch and asking me to read with her. The calm arises just as quickly as the storm.

Parenting is hard y’all. How are David and I supposed to survive the next few years without going insane? There’s always wine, but that doesn’t seem like a healthy long-term coping mechanism. How do you help your children navigate the roller coaster of emotions to raise decent human beings?

I have three parenting rules.

1. Honor the Hierarchy

2. Remember the Science

3. This Too Shall Pass

Honor the Hierarchy

The marriage comes first, parenting second. After all, the marriage was first.

David and I strive to not become those parents who start orbiting their children’s lives as if they are the sun.

We raise self-centered adults when we send the message to our kids that they are the center of the universe.

Worse yet is the worrisome trend in parenting today of befriending your kids. When we attempt to be a “cool” parent, we give away our power. We cannot simultaneously be our child’s buddy, teacher and disciplinarian. I cannot adequately enforce rules if I am trying too hard to be liked by my child. A healthy adult does not require validation from her child.

In fact, it’s my job to often be blatantly disliked by my child. If I am befriending Izzie too much, I am unconsciously giving her decision-making power in the family. That’s not healthy.

Her father and I establish, and enforce, the rules. We came first, we are first.

She is entitled to an opinion (generally, that we are somehow ruining her life), but she is not authorized to make family policy.

Further, when we use our children to meet our own emotional needs for companionship and support, we tend to over share information our children are not emotionally mature enough to process.

They do not need to see all of our vulnerabilities and fears. They are already in emotional upheaval and need to see us as solid and strong.

Remember the Science

Let’s now look at the neuroscience of adolescence.

A teenage brain is only about 80 percent mature. We know the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for rational, logical thinking, isn’t fully developed until the early 20s. Adolescents simply lack the capacity for good judgment. Teenagers tend to process information with their amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotion and stress. In other words, teenagers don’t think as much as they feel. The connection between the thinking brain and the feeling brain is still developing, which is why when parents ask, “What in the hell were you thinking?!” they truly cannot explain their actions.

But it’s important to remember that, while this is an explanation for their behavior, it is not an excuse. Izzie is still responsible for her actions and the ensuing consequences.

As a parent, this knowledge should cement our goals to keep asking them questions, even when they cannot adequately answer them. They simply need to know that we are engaged in their lives.

Frances Jensen, in her stellar book, “The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults,” writes:

“The vulnerability of a teen to emotional and psychiatric issues cannot be overemphasized. The teenage years are a developmental stage whose byproducts are a hypersensitivity to stress, an inability to exercise self-analysis or insight, and membership in a peer group equally unable to interpret warning signs or to offer adequate empathy. Here is a major opportunity for the adults around teenagers: Be vigilant, exercise your own well-developed skill sets to ask questions, probe, stay connected and, most important, have a low threshold to seek medical advice or counseling for symptoms that appear to change from the ordinary.”

This Too Shall Pass

This is the granddaddy of all parenting rules and trumps all others.

It was the first thing my wise mother said to me when I brought a tiny, squalling baby Izzie home from the hospital.

“Look honey. She’s going to sleep and you’ll just watch her like the miracle she is. You will love her so much it hurts. That will pass. She’ll also scream for hours and poop on everything and you will wonder what possessed you to have a baby. You will want to shake her. That will pass too.”

Such good advice.

Buddha taught this too. Buddhism teaches that suffering is inevitable, but that suffering, like everything else in this crazy life, is impermanent. Things suck, but not forever. Buddha must have had a teenage daughter.

If you see me looking particularly ragged in the next few years, would you kindly remind me of these rules? After all, it takes a village to raise a child and I need all the help I can get.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness for Women” and the online host of a yoga and mindfulness channel for Eppic Films. She wants everyone to make friends with meditation, eat real food, move their bodies and hit the pillow a little earlier. When she’s not standing on her head, she enjoys being a wife, mother, dancer, reader, flower sniffer, guitar player and wine drinker. Send her a shout out at or play along at