At the end of July, I will become the mom of a teenager. I am having a difficult time swallowing that thought: mom of a teenager. It was just yesterday that this sweet, shy two-year-old with spiral ringlets was playing with her Playskool Busy Ball Popper and reading Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? This girl who, at a very young age, fell in love with classic musicals like State Fair, The King and I, and The Sound of Music has now moved on to The Hunger Games and Harry Potter.
How can she be 13? I swear I just gave birth to her. She was this tiny preemie (born four weeks early), but she was ready to take on our big, scary world. I blinked, and she went from a toddler singing “Five Little Monkeys Swinging In A Tree” to a young lady rocking out to Imagine Dragons and Pink. She is intelligent and kind and goofy and full of sass. She plays three instruments, is a national gymnastics champion, and loves Amazon Prime. She is everything a mom could want in a daughter…except she isn’t little anymore.
I just want to pull her up on my lap and cuddle her and stroke her hair and discuss the finer things in life, like Barbies and Disney princesses. Social norms tell me that might be a tad embarrassing to her. It couldn’t be any worse than the time I brought her lunch to school and accidentally went in the wrong door of the cafeteria. The lunch aide yelled across the entire lunchroom asking if I had a pass to be there. All eyes were on me; then all eyes diverted to her when one of the kids yelled, “That’s Grace’s mom!”
I don’t think she wanted to go back to sixth grade after that day.
But, seriously, why can’t she stay young forever? I miss it.
It can be so difficult to let go of this desire to keep our children little. I never fully understood it until I became a mom. All of my friends always told me, “Enjoy them while they’re young. They will grow up so fast.” I just laughed off their statements and pretended to know what they were talking about.
Then came the pre-teen years, along with hormones and attitudes. All of a sudden, I was no longer cool to hang out with. We had arguments, and we yelled. We cried (me probably more than she). We fumbled through awkward apologies and forced hugs. It finally dawned on me that my daughter was growing up, and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it.
It definitely hasn’t been all wine and roses dealing with this new phase of parenthood (more like whine and woes—and that’s just from me). I have struggled in trying to understand her age group more than any other thus far. I thought it would be easy as a woman to relate to a teen girl. After all, I was a teen girl once upon a time.
I thought wrong.
During this precarious time, I have tried everything I can think of to connect with her. The thing that has actually worked the best for us is space—space for her to figure out the person she is becoming; space for me when I get frustrated with her figuring out the person she is becoming. Space…with just the right amount of grace sprinkled on top.
The two of us have never been more in need of grace (for ourselves and for each other) in our entire lives. I’m constantly telling my daughter that I have no clue what I’m doing and I’m sorry and please bear with me as I fumble through motherhood like the blind leading the blind. Sometimes she is gracious with me and lets me know everything will be OK. Other times, she rolls her eyes, gives me a “whatever,” and retreats to her room to hide until bedtime.
Space and grace.
Now we are on the horizon of full-fledged teendom—a place that is generally met by parents with extreme trepidation. No parent seems to want to battle the attitudes or the defiance or the constant desire to forge one’s own way. I often hear parents say, “I am not looking forward to the teenage years,” or, “I know what I was like as a teenager. Payback is coming!”
I used to be one of those parents. Once I started to turn that proverbial corner of parenthood, I dug my heels in (you could seriously see the skid marks behind me). I didn’t think I was ready for the adolescent stage. It meant me admitting my girls wouldn’t be little forever.
But, kids growing up is a part of life. There is no escaping it. And as parents, the sooner we learn to accept that fact, the easier it will be to handle the obstacles that the teen years throw at us. Our children can’t grow up to become great leaders or musicians or artists or writers or philanthropists or doctors or teachers or whatever else they might choose to be if we only see them as little (and treat them as such).
It’s time to swallow our selfish desires and allow life to happen. The days are long, but the years are short, my friends. We’ve got to relish every stage of childhood—no matter how easy or hard—whether we want to or not. I am learning this more and more each day.
With grace, I am armed and ready to face the teen years (and beyond) head-on. It’s a good thing, too, because I have three more daughters who will be here as soon as I’m finished blinking.
Need a little pick-me-up, Mama? Listen to our recent podcast episode just for you! Stop the Mommy Wars: Every Mom Is Doing Something Right – 045.
And if you’re parenting a teen, don’t miss: When Is Your Teen out of Control and What Do You Do? With Dr. Zoe Shaw – 032
You’ll also like Why You Need to Talk to Your Teen Girl About Sex and How to Do It, Your Teenage Boy Will Break Your Heart, and You’ll Be Better for It, How to Be a #Girlmom, High School Graduation: Things Are Changing, but for the Good, and From One Mom to Another: How to Help Your Teen Mature.