Surviving life as a mother of a preteen girl is not for the faint of heart. Most days I feel like a robot, mechanically repeating the same tired phrases over and over, only to be met with dramatic sighs and eye rolls. These slogans feel like rites of passage every matriarch must pass down to her offspring, sure to be met with the same indifference as the generation before. While it is frightening to watch how effortlessly my daughter tells me EXACTLY how she is feeling every second she feels it, it got me thinking. What if I was brave enough to say what I really mean? I decided to give it a shot.
What I Say: “You don’t know everything.”
What I Mean: I’m afraid you are smarter than I am. As the mother, I should know what I’m doing by now but most of the time, I’m winging it. I assumed I would be more mature at my age, but it turns out I am not.
What I Say: “Please be kind to your brothers, they look up to you.”
What I Mean: Stop tormenting them. Boys can be annoying and smelly and frustrating, but they look up to you. They will learn how to treat and be loved by a partner based, in part, on their relationship with you. I would prefer they don’t end up with someone as bossy.
What I Say: “You can always talk to me about sex.”
What I Mean: We both know I don’t handle these discussions well. When you were four and asked me what your vagina was, I said it was your “front butt.” When you were eight and asked how a baby got in my belly, I told you I ate a bean and it sprouted into a baby (you are still terrified of Jack and the Beanstalk). I wish I was the mom with all the right answers. Instead, when the subject of condoms came up and you said, “Yeah, I know what they are mother, my friend told me,” I yelled, “I have a LOT more experience with condoms than your friends.” You were right to call me awkward.
What I Say: “Stop being so dramatic.”
What I Mean: I know you feel like the world is against you. I feel the same way sometimes. You will never get full control of your hormones, but you need to stop acting like a lunatic.
What I Say: “If you roll your eyes at me one more time….”
What I Mean: My head is going to start spinning in circles, exorcist style, if I glimpse the whites of your eyes again. Also, I need to call my mother and apologize.
What I Say: “Pick up your clothes, I am not your maid.”
What I Mean: I wish I were not your maid.
What I Say: “Go to your room before I say something I will regret.”
What I Mean: Get out of my face so I can give you the finger behind your back.
What I Say: “Be careful.”
What I Mean: There are a million things that can go wrong when you are out of my sight. If something ever happened to you, I would never recover. You are my entire world and I love you so intensely it frightens me. I don’t know what I would do without you.
What I Say: “Stop eating candy.”
What I Mean: I am worried there will not be enough candy left for me.
What I Say: “Boys can wait.”
What I Mean: Don’t settle down too fast. Enjoy your youth. When you were little, the first book I read you was “Chickerella.” It was the story of Cinderella, told through the eyes of a chicken. And when the rooster came to rescue Chickerella from the ball, they decided they didn’t actually want to get married. Instead, they started their own fashion line and lived happily ever after as partners in their own business. No marriage. No chicks. And that is okay.
What I Say: “I don’t like you hanging out with that girl.”
What I Mean: I spy, with my little eyes, someone who will end up pregnant at 16. She is not a good influence. Choosing your friends is important; go with your gut. Now I know who talked to you about condoms.
What I Say: “Do your homework.”
What I Mean: Please, for the love of God, do not ask me to help you with math. I literally do not understand a single question. I am concerned there was some new-fangled arithmetic invented in the late ’90s I missed.
What I Say: “I’m NOT going to tell you again…”
What I Mean: We both know that’s a lie. I will tell you again, probably 5 more times. You would be astounded at the amount of things I would buy for you if you ever actually listened the first time. Instead I’ll keep adding to my yoga pants collection because that will never happen.