For the first decade of her life, my daughter and I were snug as two bugs in a rug. She loved hanging out with me, requested a final hug and kiss every night at bedtime, and came into my room first thing every morning. Then the tween years arrived. We often faced off over issues like bedtime, whether or not a movie was appropriate for her to watch and when—oh, when—would she be able to have an Instagram account? I remember at times feeling so distant from her as I stood on one side of the fence and she on the other.
Fast-forward a few years and I am now the mom of a teenage girl. Yes, we still have our tense moments—and sometimes days—but as she grows closer to adulthood, we’ve found plenty of common ground. Here are a few ways my teenage daughter and I totally relate:
1. PMS is real.
The mood swings, the bloating, the irritability—these are a part of my daughter’s new reality. Now she understands all too well how difficult it is to deal with the requests of the world when your hormones are screwy and your uterus is aching. My girl and I commiserate with brownies, know when to keep our distance from one another, and appreciate small acts of kindness, like a surprise cup of bedtime tea or taking a day off from school.
2. Sweat stinks.
Where once it was just a damp discomfort, sweat is now infused with hormones that leave you smelling like chicken soup one day and an unwashed elephant another—even though you took a shower two hours ago. I used to come home from a workout and get “Mom, you stink!” Yeah, well, grown women stink it up sometimes. Now she’s just as likely to take a sniff and declare herself the odorous one.
3. You CAN wear black leggings anytime, anywhere.
When she was younger, my skirt-wearing, dress-donning daughter used to give me all kinds of flack for walking around in my black leggings all day everyday. Now my teenager has about eight pairs in her own sartorial rotation, which means leggings are finally cool.
4. Sometimes life calls for a good old-fashioned expletive.
I’m not as careful about watching my language around my teen as I once was, which means I sometimes get an earful. After 13 years of drilling it into her, I know my girl understands that casual cursing isn’t commonly accepted in our house. However, sometimes a curse word is the best descriptor—like when you leave your wallet at the grocery store (me) or that guy you have a crush on catches you blowing your nose (her).
5. Friends are important.
My daughter used to complain about the time I spent with my friends: “You’re always going out to dinner or to book group or for a walk!” Yes, I am, and now she is too. Instead of grumbling about the time I spend with my friends, my daughter asks me what we talk about and for advice about her friendships. I’m happy to help her foster the same sort of meaningful, supportive female relationships that I have.
6. Bathroom time is sacred time.
When the bathroom door is closed, do not, under any circumstances, come in, no matter how long I’m in there. When my daughter was younger, she didn’t understand why I spent so much time alone in the bathroom. Now she gets it: Besides toileting, bathing and brushing teeth, this is where we contemplate, examine and gather ourselves.
7. We know about sex.
Your teen might not know about sex firsthand, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know the how, what and why. Pretending that my husband and I don’t get it on is futile. Sometimes my daughter reacts with “Ew, gross!” and other times she just raises her eyebrows with a knowing look. It’s a little uncomfortable, but I’m trying to be grown up about it.
8. Wearing heels isn’t all that.
When my daughter was a tween, she was obsessed with heels. Anytime we went shopping she’d beeline for the shoe department and ask to try on a pair. Now that she’s a teen, she has a pair of her own. She wears them on occasion, but is quick to kick them off the minute she gets home, complaining about her sore feet. Now she knows why I’m willing to forgo the glamour and stick to my flats.
9. We watch what we eat.
This isn’t necessarily a good thing. As women, we’re conditioned to monitor our eating, whether we avoid specific foods, don’t eat after 8 p.m., cleanse or occasionally skip meals. My girl watches my every move on this front and I’ve noticed some subtle changes on her part. We’re having more conversations around food, how it affects our bodies, and the cultural pressures women face.
10. Mom was once a teenage girl too.
There’s an a-ha moment that happens when girls approach 13. Instead of “You don’t know anything!” I’m getting more of “What was your first date/kiss/high school party like?” As former teens ourselves, we moms actually have some clout with our daughters now. I’m enjoying my position as the seasoned expert, especially since it gives us a chance to connect and share.
So, while raising teenage girls can be challenging, knowing that we have so much in common makes it a whole lot easier.