My friend, C, has a theory about dating. When I was single, she used to tell me that I had to find someone whose handicap complimented my own. She would say that if a person was the emotional equivalent of a paraplegic, he shouldn’t be dating another person who couldn’t walk but instead should seek out the human version of a wheelchair. Two people who can’t walk will go nowhere together. It’s not a bad theory really.
Likewise, a person cannot be expected to win a war armed with the wrong weapons. A bow and arrow rarely work against a gun. Combat training is no preparation for nuclear war. Through time, the rules of engagement have changed and conflict grown more complex, more sophisticated. I realized this as I was thinking this morning how ill equipped I am to battle the demons that haunt Child One.
My own teenage years were fraught with operatic mood swings and dramatic battles. Thus I felt fully prepared to take on whatever teenage drama might come. I expected meltdowns. It’s just that I expected them to be about things like bedtime and curfew and permission slips (real or figurative). My own teenage battles, however internal the underpinnings, were manifest in power struggles with my mother. I'm sure my father would have gotten roped in had he lived long enough, but unfortunately mom was left to fight alone and the will of a hormonal angry teen can triumph over a single parent nine times out of ten.
But Child One’s meltdowns bear no resemblance to those I staged almost 30 years ago. It is a far more sophisticated battlefield on which she plays out the drama of adolescence. And perhaps we've done her a great disservice by providing no external enemy. Her demons’ rule from within and usually only come out, like monsters under the bed, late at night and when no one else can see them. I don’t know how to battle what I can’t see. I don’t know how to battle something this unfamiliar.
Of course, by the light of day, Child One’s disposition returns to its sunny state. She awoke, refreshed by a good night’s sleep and unscarred by the tears of the night before. This, I suppose, is the beauty of youth. The young can fall apart so grandly one moment and bounce back the next. I’m sure there is more drama to come, and I’m sure Sig Other and I will face each new battle ill equipped as we were for the last. Knowing that we don’t have the right weapons doesn’t make going into battle any easier but it does help to know that she'll bounce back and, in the words of the great Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”