Will I Know How to Raise My Teen Girl?

IMG_5859It’s an unwritten law: there will be scraped knees and hurt feelings. Hearts will break, exhaustion will set in; someone will get cancer. One of my three girls will grow up to hate me, maybe all three, hopefully not all at the same time. But then they’ll love me again, won’t they?

I’m reading this article in the Sunday New York Times magazine called The Mother of All Problems. It’s about teenage girls and how they turn on their mothers, become unreachable, utter profanities about us behind our backs to their friends. Hate, hate, hate us. My husband’s out of town, which makes it a Tuesday, which makes it a small victory that I’ve actually found a few minutes to read anything at all in the Sunday New York Times before the next Sunday rolls around. Dinner, my least favorite chore, warms in the oven; I think about the arugula salad – totally manageable – and so I take my magazine and settle myself on the daybed at the end of my dining room, where the light is right.

Outside my oldest, Ella, juggles a soccer ball while Lilah, the youngest, giggles and dribbles her own little ball across the grass. I can see them out the far window, two of my three glorious, drive-me-crazy girls. The sun sparkles in the middle of March and I finally accept the truth that we’ve had no winter here in northern California and the time for it is gone. The laughter and sunshine meld together in a fantastical way. How could anything ever go wrong?

But then there is this article. The words of this mama writer, so erudite and smarty pants, sprinkled with literary references, spooks me and I think: “It’s lies, all lies. Bald faced lies.” The thought of my sweet-faced girls as the enemy, monsters, dangerous creatures riles me up, gets my indignant panties in a bunch. No way, not mine, no how.

I know I am a Polly Anna when it comes to what the future with my girls holds. I know I have no idea what’s in front of me, that everyday brings me another day closer to when I’ll have to venture across the border into Teen Land. I see my big girl seething when she can’t find a pair of black leggings – no, not that pair! I watch anxiety skip across her face when she sees two of her friends hanging out without her thanks to a post on Instagram. I feel myself growing old in front of her, sliding surely into the realm of my own generation, a place of no significance to her even as I find more and more relevance and comfort anchoring myself there with Echo and the Bunnymen and the Cure, my Dailey Method class and my sauvignon blanc and just enough technology know-how to plug in and make use of about 40 percent of the iPhone 6. I’m getting comfortable here in my resting place, but my almost teen daughter is moving on at top speed, outpacing me, widening the gap between us, swiping furiously at her screen while I turn my notifications off.

I reach out to her in all the ways I know how – with patience and advice, by making space but also making rules I hope will make her feel safe and loved, not jailed and kept. When nothing seems to work, I just hug her for as long as she’ll let me, breathing in her teen spirit, leaving a little of my Gen X scent on her skin.

I put the article down, that piece of gloom and doom, and head outside. “Mama!” she squeals when she sees me. “Wanna pass with me?”

Of course I do. I do, I do, I do. Even in my new metallic Birks, even without my sunglasses. Even though it’s almost 6 o’clock and dinner isn’t quite ready which means people will be hungry, the little one will go to bed late. Even though I’m vaguely worried none of us is wearing sunscreen.

She kicks the ball to me hard and precise. I find my feet, trap it, set it up and kick it back.

“Nice one mom,” she says, her caramel colored ponytail swinging, catching the light. Lilah lolls in the grass, the dog licks her face. We wave to the neighbors walking by.

This is where I need to be.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s prompt is “The chore I hate doing the most is…”

This week’s hosts are Kristi from Finding Ninee and co-hosts Michelle Grewe and Jill Robbins.

14 comments on “Will I Know How to Raise My Teen Girl?

  1. I have 16 y/o and 14 y/o daughters and not one “I hate you!” has ever been uttered in this house. One of the points of our blog is that the teens years aren’t that bad.
    If your parenting norm is to let dinner simmer and go kick the ball, I have a feeling you are going to be just fine. Ellen


    • That’s so good to hear Ellen. I have to admit that I don’t always opt for the time with my kids – I wish I did it more often and without feeling the stress from letting something else go. It’s all about priorities, right?


  2. None of us are going to do this thing like someone before us; each daughter, each mom, and the dynamics within the family are distinct. I get so frustrated when people talk about what hell we have ahead of us because we have three daughters. No, not hell, it’s life and it’s gorgeous and challenging and amazing as it should be.

    Loved this post!


    • You are so right Amanda – thank you! Our experiences are wholly ours, the beautiful and the not so. We just have to be in them, present, engaged.


  3. Lisa, this is beautiful. Truly. I only have one girl, and we have our moments (and days) when I think she will hate me forever. But we have moments filled with hugs, laughs, hand holding, and I love yous. The relationships you have with your girls will survive adolescence, and my bet is that they come out the other side even better than they are now.


    • Thank you so much Dana and thanks for sharing your experiences with your girl. It just can’t be all awful — I won’t believe it! I just try to stay engaged with them as much as possible, even if it makes me dorky.


  4. These are really beautiful words. Teen girls are so beautifully complicated.


    • Thanks Jill and so true about girls being complicated. Even though we were once in the exact same place ourselves, presumably with some understanding, it’s not easy being on the other side.


  5. Kristi Campbell - findingninee

    Lisa, this is really really beautiful and I love that you took the time to pass with your daughter knowing that people would be hungry and bedtime would be late. The imagery is fabulous. I’m so so glad that you linked up with Finish the Sentence Friday. Thank you!


    • Thanks Kristi – I’ve been missing FTSF! I sort of forgot to mention “chore” in my piece, but the whole dinner thing is the chore I like least and it led me to writing this. You never know where you’ll end up…!


  6. It is wonderful that you have such a tight relationship with your girls, regardless of what age they are. BTW, there is no requirement that teenage girls have to be alienated from their Moms. I have boys, but some friends of mine with girls have been tight with them from diapers to dating to dorms. I’m wishing that for your girls and you. She shoots, she scores — goooaaaalllll! 😉


  7. Laurie Wagner


    Liked by 1 person

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