My fourteen-year-old bursts from the room she shares with her younger sister.
“MOM! She threw my blankets on the floor AGAIN! After I’ve REPEATEDLY asked her NOT to!”
I can tell by the tone of her voice it’s going to be one of those evenings. The ones where hormones collide with perceived injustice to create a vortex I inevitably get sucked into. I know it’s going to start with me calmly trying to talk sense into an irrational brain, then escalate into a ridiculous argument, then culminate with me throwing up my hands and probably yelling more than I want to. I know that.
Over the years, I’ve nodded along with mock sympathy when other moms would lament their challenges with their teen daughters. But I really thought my daughter would be different. I really thought I would be different. Somehow I thought her kind disposition and my relaxed temperament would make us immune to typical mother-daughter squabbles.
You’d think I’d have learned by now that motherhood doesn’t work that way.
It’s not like she’s a bad kid. She’s pretty awesome, actually. But MY LORD, the drama. She saves it all up just for me. Perhaps I should feel privileged. Perhaps this is normal—in fact, I’m sure it is. But it’s exhausting. The stomping and the eye rolling and the demon that possesses her without warning. The constant pushing of buttons and boundaries and the relentless questioning of every rule she doesn’t agree with.
I love her to no end, but I hate the hormonal upheaval happening inside of her. I know it has to happen. I know the pushing and questioning are necessary steps to independence. I know that.
But I’m worried. I’m worried that time is running out and I haven’t prepared her enough for the world. I’m worried that I’ve somehow forgotten or neglected some major life lessons throughout her childhood. I know that teaching those lessons is not 100% my job. I know that there are things she’s going to have to learn and experience on her own. I know that.
But I’m scared. I’m scared about her growing up and losing her innocence. I’m scared of mean girls and handsome jerks and date rapists and persuasive peers. I’m scared that she might make the same mistakes that I made, and mistakes that I didn’t. I know I have to trust that we are doing our jobs as parents. I know that she will make mistakes and that she will learn from them—and that even hard lessons are still lessons. I know that.
But I’m sad. I’m sad that she’s too big for me to pick up and cradle in my arms to make everything okay. I’m sad that I won’t always be there to protect her. I’m sad that one of these days I’m going to blink and she’ll be gone, off having her own adventures, forgetting to call her mother. I know that that’s just the cycle of life. I know that she won’t understand the fierceness of my love for her until she has kids of her own. I know that.
When I step back, I can see that so much of my frustration with her right now is wrapped up in my own fear, worry, and sadness. That’s where most parental angst comes from, isn’t it? And I’m guessing a lot of her own angst comes from the same place. Growing up is exciting and scary and awesome and confusing. I remember that. I just never realized it would feel the same way from the other side. Now I know.
So when she bursts from her room again, I know what will happen. We’ll argue. She’ll roll her eyes. I’ll lose my patience. She’ll stomp away. I’ll put my hands to my head and vent to my husband.
Then I’ll calm down. She’ll calm down. We’ll talk, then laugh. I’ll wrap her strangely grown-up body in a hug. We’ll both say, “I love you,” and we’ll mean it.
Thankfully, I know that, too.
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