I used to be one of those moms who dreaded the teenage years. I’d joke that when my daughters hit adolescence I’d willingly hand over all parenting duties to my husband. As a former camp counselor and 7th grade religious school teacher, I figured he had the chops to handle it. I, on the other hand, was scared of screwing up. I had no credentials other than having once been a teenage girl myself. Disparaging comments like “If you think she’s a handful now, just wait until she’s a teenager!” from older parents who saw me toting around two little girls and then three, didn’t help. I was convinced that parenting teen girls would be a fraught, confusing experience that would drain my confidence, try my patience and basically freak me out.
And it is – but that’s not all it is.
As a mom to an almost 14-year-old girl and another very mature 11-year-old girl (to say nothing of the almost 5-year-old who’s just trying to keep up), I often feel as though I’m in the most challenging phase of parenting. Raising my tween and teen girls is so much more nuanced, thought-provoking and emotionally exacting than simply throwing my hands in the air and declaring them impossible. That would be the easy route. The truth is my girls amaze me with their kindness, depth, intellect and gratitude just as much as they frustrate me with their snark, visceral need to be apart from me and a deliberate often startling rejection of childhood.
The daily ping-ponging between sweet and sour, snuggly and prickly, giggly and eye-rolling can be dizzying. Reacting on the spot to unexpected, and sometimes hurtful, behavior often distracts me from the bigger issues at play: why is my girl acting in these ways and what does she need from me to be her finest, fullest self? While parenting teens is hard, being a teen is just as difficult (lots of tears over here people). I’m watching my girls experience a slew of changes all at once in a world that demands more of them than ever. Academic, social (both virtual and in real life), developmental and extracurricular pressures all add to the already huge job of growing up. Throw in the fact that your average parent isn’t that exactly versed in the psychology and science of adolescence (that would be me) and you’ve got a steaming pot just waiting to boil over.
The good news is, we parents are up for this, especially if we do it together. I believe that the more we know about what makes our girls tick and the more we share our own experiences, both as the teens we once were and the parents we are now, the better able we’ll be to guide our girls through this time of monumental development with compassion and smarts. Our girls are awesome and they need us to be awesome back, but we can’t do that unless we understand what they’re experiencing and how we might best parent them. That’s where the community Raising Jane: Parenting Teen Girls comes in.
I recently posted a photo on Facebook of three books I’m reading about raising teenagers and girls specifically – Untangle, The Teenage Brain and Girls & Sex. Many of you responded saying you too were reading one of the same books, are in the thick of raising a teenage girl yourself, requested that I share everything I learn about teen girls, let you know which book was most helpful, suggested additional reading or had made it through the day with your teenager and were enjoying a big glass of wine!
Then my friend Francie wrote, “If we lived closer, we could have a book club.” That got me thinking: what if we did create a community around the experience of raising teenage girls? Where would we start? How about right here, right now. Let’s build a safe place where parents can share stories, resources, challenges and successes. Let’s read together and use that as a jumping off point for in-depth discussion. Let’s ask each other questions, lend each other support and cheer each other on.
Are you in? If so, come on over to the Raising Jane Facebook group, a community for parents with daughters between the ages of 11 and 19 (5th grade through the first year post high school). We’ll read books together, engage in conversation and share links to sites and articles. If you’d like an invite to Raising Jane, you can visit the page and request to join, leave a comment below or direct message me on Facebook.
I’m thrilled to be on this journey with you! See you soon at Raising Jane.
All my best,
P.S. A big thanks to my friend Steve Chabon who helped brainstorm the name Raising Jane…and he doesn’t even have any daughters!