When my daughter arrived, I felt like I’d read the ending of this book before I started. From the very beginning, I noticed that we shared similar traits and I was delighted to realize that she adores the color pink as much as I do. I’ve gifted her with my nose and my stubbornness, and she has a razor sharp sense of humor that makes me cackle. Most days, I feel an odd sense of déjà vu, as if I’m watching my childhood in 3D. She and I are very similar and the commonalities we share have made parenting her almost like a trip down the memory lane of my early childhood.
We’ve shared my favorite Ramona books, she loves to play dress-up in my closet as I did in my mother’s, and we’ve had many a rainy day tea party as she’s grown up. But now that she’s approaching her teen years, I’m realizing there are some pretty significant facts that I’ve forgotten — or blocked — from my mind about being a teenage girl. It turns out, she’s not much different than I was back when I wore acid washed jeans, braces, and jacked-to-Jesus hair.
1. Teenage girls really do spend an ungodly amount of time in the bathroom.
When I was 12, I can remember my brothers banging on the door and threatening bodily harm upon me as I took long leisurely showers in our only bathroom. They howled and yelled as I deep conditioned and then sprayed cans of AquaNet on my hair. I’d forgotten about those bathroom battles until I came across my son, sitting on the floor with his back to the bathroom door, reading a book. When I asked him what he was doing, he rolled his eyes and said, “I gave up banging on the door ten minutes ago. She’ll come out eventually.” God, I wish my brothers were that patient.
2. Teenage girls need their mothers to teach them how to shave.
Since I’ve been trying to keep my hairy legs under control for the better part of 30 years, I’d forgotten that the ability to remove unwanted hair without bleeding to death is a learned skill. Recently, I noticed that my daughter had sprouted hair under her arms and I gently suggested she shave her armpits.
Her eyes widened and took on a deer-in-the-headlights look as she said, “You mean with a razor? I’m not even allowed to use knives alone!” I’d forgotten that I clumsily balanced my leg on the bathtub while I nicked the hell out of myself as my mother tried to explain how best not to exsanguinate. (I hope my brothers are now starting to understand why I was in there for so long.)
3. Teenage girls NEVER. SHUT. UP.
As a teen, I loved to talk to my girlfriends for hours on end. To this day, I cannot tell you one detail of those conversations, but I assure you, they were of the utmost importance. I talked so damned much that my parents installed a second line in the house just so they could call 911 should the need arise. I may have had a pink princess phone, but my daughter has FaceTime. She spends hours talking to her girlfriends and planning her outfits. She babbles to me. She yammers to my husband. She talks constantly and I’m pretty sure I hear my mother snickering.
4. Teenage girls are nervous about their periods.
I can remember reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and thinking that men-stroooo-ation was the worst thing to befall teenage girls. I was panicked about bleeding, ruining my clothes and — gasp — boys finding out. And the concept of tampons made my nerves go into overdrive.
My daughter is terrified that she’ll bleed to death, and she’s pretty convinced that her life will be over when Aunt Flow arrives. Recently, she asked me about tampons, but it turns out that she had them confused with teepees. We had a very circular conversation that brought her to tears until I realized her mistake. She was relieved to hear that she did not have to shove a Native American habitat into her private area.
5. Teenage girls cry at the drop of a hat.
As I watch my daughter’s eyes well up with tears because her shoelaces are giving her trouble, the memories of my teen angst come flooding back. The sensation of injustice, the hot tears, and the feeling of rage just under your skin become all too familiar when you see your teen losing her shit because her hair isn’t just so. And when the drama is accompanied by stomping up the stairs and slamming her door, well, let’s just say I’m reminded that my mother was a saint.
I’m sure these realizations are the tip of the iceberg. I know I’ll relive many memories of my teen years as she navigates the choppy waters of puberty. I know I’ll be reminded of my first love, how difficult it is to actually parallel park a car, and a thousand other moments I’ve forgotten from my youth. And, as I watch her grow into a beautiful young woman, I’m secretly excited that she’s becoming one of my best friends.
Don’t tell her, though. She’ll totally roll her eyes.