Thank Heaven for Little Girls
In case those of you who see me on the regular wonder why I’m dying my hair more often and keeping a bottle of red wine on hand, it’s because the grays are popping up everywhere. Why? The answer is simple: life, and...
Teenage girls. Lol yes, they have the power to alter one’s physical appearance. Actually, it could be because I’m entering my later 40’s, but I like to lovingly blame my youngest and only child remaining at home- my 14-year-old daughter. I write this in love because I wouldn’t change who she is for the world. She keeps me on my toes!
Some days she is able to show me how much she loves me. Some days, we laugh, we cry, we look at each other knowing we’re thinking the same thing at the same time and we crack up laughing. Sometimes she pays me a compliment out of the blue. Some days she sits on the couch with her head in my lap and lets me play with her hair. Some days she tells me everything going on in her life. Some days she bounces around the house, singing or dancing or playing with our dogs.
Then there are the other days I feel like I’m dead from the daggers she is shooting at me with her eyes. There are days when she looks at me and says, “you cannot even possibly understand.” There are days when I stand in the doorway of her bedroom and lecture, only to have her non-expressive face looking at me like I’m an alien. There are days when she snaps at me for the smallest reasons. There are days when I have to tell her “no” when she wants to do something or go somewhere, and she spares no words when informing me that I’ve ruined her social life.
It was a long time ago that I was a teenage girl myself, but still, I do get it. I understand more than she knows. However, she is not mature enough to grasp that concept. As I struggle to raise her to be a young lady who respects herself and demands her peers respect her as well, I sometimes falter, and don’t have any answers. I realize, as much as I understand the hormone surges and the changes and the pressure, I was not growing up in the times that she is growing up in.
Back then, our “text messaging” and “snapchats” were in the form of fancily folded notes we would write to one another. Our “facetime” was simply the phone in the kitchen that was not private at all, so everything that was ever said was easily within the earshot of our parents. I was raised during a time when we were not bombarded with the “ideal” human being on Instagram, complete with filters, angles, access to fitness equipment 24/7, unrealistic body types that have had help from makeup tutorials or even plastic surgery. Her generation is the generation born into captivity of all of these things. They didn’t grow up in the generation that was introduced to this world slowly.
These days, I’m on high alert more than ever when it comes to sexual predators, negative body image, online bullying, and programming from the things I do not see her look at or listen to. She is part of a world that makes being a teenager that much harder. Sure, the basic issues I faced as a teenager are present, but I believe those are multiplied by 100% in today’s world.
On one particular day, we were having a rather rough time with her attitude, and I didn’t feel like I was getting through to her. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I told her... write me a letter. Tell me everything in this letter that you wish you could say to me, but maybe are afraid of my reaction or the trouble you think you’ll get into. I promised her I would read it with an open mind, and that I would not “yell” at her for its contents. I asked her to just say the things maybe she wouldn’t dare say to me while we are in a heated moment. I asked her to please share with me the things she wanted me to know about her, the things I may not even realize she is going through or experiencing.
And so she did.
I settled in and read her letter, and by the time I was done, I was silently crying. Big tears rolled down my face as I listened to her instead of lecturing her. The detailed contents of her letter are private, so the only things I will share are these general things that I think many teenagers feel:
She felt alone much of the time. She felt “not listened to” or “not considered” just because she was a child. She felt like I wanted to be “right” instead of not wanting to know how she felt. She felt like the pressure of perfect grades she put on herself, along with the pressures we put on her to be this way or that, were overwhelming. She felt tired. She felt like she didn’t have an outlet for her negative energy since she hasn’t been in dance, and although she knew she was going back to classes, the down time was difficult. She didn’t like certain things about herself. The letter went on to some personal things, but the gist of the letter was... she wanted to be heard, loved and accepted for who she is.
I grew up in a household that was of yesterday- “children should be seen and not heard.” Now that isn’t to diminish the parenting I had in any way, that was a generational thing; but I feel like there is a happy medium. Even as parents, we need to listen to our children, or someone else will. Someone who could steer them in a harmful direction, someone who could manipulate or use them.
It was after reading her letter that I realized that I needed to do some changing in the way her and I communicate. Don’t get me wrong- it’s not easy to make this change overnight. I’m pretty blunt and no nonsense, so this is a learning experience for me and I’m not without mistakes. However, I want to be a resource to her, I want to be the person she can come to. She cannot come to me if parenting for 25 years has “worn me down” and I don’t have the patience. She deserves every ounce of energy I have, within reason of course. I also don’t want to raise her thinking the world stops when she speaks and set unrealistic expectations. But I would like to think that when she has something to say, I stop when she speaks. I put my phone down. I pause the movie or TV show I’m watching. I invite her into the kitchen while I’m making dinner. I look her in the face and give her the me she needs.
I’m hoping this will help us through the years that are considered some of the most trying years of a person’s life. I’m hoping that being a bit more of a listener and a little less of a lecturer will help her sort through her feelings and arrive at a good decision in the things she is faced with.
A teenage daughter can be your worst enemy and your best friend all at once. I would like more moments where we have a best friend vibe, yet I’m still the parent and the guider. Some people like to brag, “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent!” Or sometimes they brag, “If your child is not mad at you, you’re doing parenting wrong!” Well... true. To an extent. Every household is different, as is every child. We need to find a balance that works positively, and we need to be realistic that the current plan in place may not be working out. Although it’s imminent that our children will truly believe they hate us at times, hopefully positive interaction and being a complete confidant and resource will pull us through those difficult moments.
Friends with children, let’s all take a look at our children or teenagers. Let’s remember that yes, they are children with no real-world experience, but they are still human beings. They are different from us and will do things differently because of that. We are not raising them to be US. They have their own way of seeing the world, and it’s our job to help them with sifting through it all. Sometimes that will involve a hard “no,” and sometimes it will involve asking them what THEY think and having an informative conversation about it.
I’m no expert. But I would love to know my children so much, that I am experienced in who they are, and how they think, and just as importantly, how they feel. With respect to the fact that my daughter still needs to respect me as her mother, I would like to think she also loves the relationship we have enough to value my opinions.
Happy parenting, happy discovering your children. If nothing else, I can always smile knowing that Italy, Chile, California and France are continually growing grapes to make red, red wine in order to take the edge off of parenting my spirited, spirited girl child. (I’m kidding. Kind of.)
Below is a list of things we may encounter raising a teenage girl:
1. You will long for the days you used to stumble over Barbies and doll houses in the living room.
2. You’ll learn everything you never wanted to know about pop culture from driving her to the mall with her friends.
3. You’ll feel like going all Liam Neeson on the punk kid who broke her heart and made up rumors about her.
4. You’ll pay attention to the way teenage boys behave more than you ever have in your life.
5. You’ll find yourself saying, “Those aren’t actual clothes!” or “There’s no way in hell you’re leaving my house with that on,” more times than you ever thought you would.
6. You’ll wish you could go back in time and hang out longer at the princess tea party she set up in your back yard when she was in preschool.
7. You’ll find that the mixtures of body spray, perfume, and lotion smell just as bad as your son’s body odor, it’s just a different kind of stink.
8. Speaking of time, you’ll desperately wish it would just slow down a little bit.
9. Makeup in the bathroom sink! So. much. makeup. in the sink! Your fingertips will have a permanent dark tint from cleaning up a ridiculous amount of makeup.
10. She needs an example, not another buddy.
11. She’s listening to you even when it seems that she’s not.
12. You’ll be informed that sayings like “on fleek” and “slay” are way cooler than “rad” or “far out.”
13. On car rides — even when she’s texting people and seems to be ignoring you — don’t forget to be tuned in to her.
14. You’ll be reminded every day of how utterly uncool you are. Mostly by her.
15. She’ll roll her eyes so much that you’ll swear they might get stuck in the back of her head at some point.
16. She still loves you even when you blow it royally with her.
17. Your heart will warm when you find her watching a Disney movie.
18. Tampons, underwear, makeup, and cute boys will be common lingo in your household and you’ll desperately wish you could escape any and ALL conversations like this!
19. You won’t stop seeing the brand new baby you brought home from the hospital.
20. Skin will go missing from your forehead from the numerous times you’ve had to repeat something to her.
21. When she doesn’t respond with some level of sass, you’ll immediately start searching for a thermometer to take her temperature.
22. You’ll wake up one day and the baby girl you held in your arms is 16!
23. You’ll miss her immensely, even though she hasn’t even left home yet.
24. LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS! I repeat, LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS!
25. Every time she says, “Boys are stupid,” you’ll do a happy dance.
26. Prom and homecoming will make your heart hurt.
27. She’s looking to you to tell her what to do and how to navigate this thing called life — even if she doesn’t say so.
28. Put your phone down and look at her every time she starts talking to you.
29. You will sometimes act as referee between her and her mother.
30. Rap, pop and Indie songs will be stuck in your head randomly throughout the week.
31. Give her space and don’t worry if she seems distant at times.
32. You’ll hear your own parents’ voices when you talk to her about life stuff.
33. You’ll secretly think about selling your car when she asks haunting questions like, “Can I get my driver’s permit?”
34. She’ll seem confident over things that really terrify her.
35. You’ll wish you could text back and forth with her during her school day.
36. You’ll find yourself wincing when she starts talking about going to the movies with a boy.
37. You’ll have a hard time dropping her off with friends at a hometown football game for the first time.
38. When she holds your hand in public, or calls you “Daddy” in front of her friends, you’ll want time to stop.
39. You’ll secretly think about placing brochures for hometown colleges in her room.
40. She needs her mommy and/or daddy now more than she will ever admit — but you won’t need to hear her say it to know that it’s true.