Open and honest communication is the ideal, but there is apt to be more than one communication breakdown in the lives of teenagers and parents. I wanted to share a way that one of my daughters and I expressed ourselves during both the difficult and (relatively) not-so-difficult times when she was a teenager and I was a mom.

When my eldest daughter was a junior in high school, she and I went through our darkest time together so far. The word “together” is a misnomer as we were emotionally as far away from one another possible. We were barely speaking and she had moved her things to her dad’s house, a couple blocks away. Away…

After a brief cool down period, I wrote a letter to her and mailed it to her a block down the road. A week later I got a letter back, written on the back of the letter I sent to her. In my heart and mind it felt to me that we were standing back to back, angry and hurt, but trying to stay connected. I decided that I would buy a notebook to write my response and that way she could write her response and so on. I am telling you, this falling out WAS HUGE! It took another week of WRITING to negotiate the terms of the notebook. We came up with: 1) using actual feelings and “I”-statements as much as possible, 2) using minimal curse words and 3) taking no longer than a week to return the notebook. It took another 4 days of messengering to each other to sign the contract.

The first month of doing the notebook, it felt formal and forced. But we were talking. My heart was broken and I knew hers was too. As we moved into the second month, I would meet her after to school to personally give her the notebook and she would be sitting in the kitchen when I got home to return it to me. We were in each other’s space! The tense written words of the first months started to turn to poetry, recipes, prose, doodles, collages, drawings. Sometimes it was still just words, but one time there was a stick figure drawing of a mommy with two little girls. Just like the old days. Before…

Soon, she started to bring the notebook and stay overnight. Soon, I started to expect her to. Soon, things were back to normal except they would never be normal again. We had changed. But the notebook helped to give us the gift of uninterrupted expression. It created the time to not respond immediately and to think before saying things that are not revokable. It let each of us into the mind of the other.

I am still shamed by the time of the notebook. I see at as one of my worst parenting moments. My grown daughter remembers the notebook but, “cannot, for the life of her, remember over what we had fallen out”. Now that she is the mother of a sweet baby non-teenager, I am lovingly having the notebook copied and having it sent right over to her house. For then…