After surviving the gut-wrenching tween years with my oldest daughter, I’m ready for a little less emotional drama and a little more more reasonable conversation. A mom can dream, can’t she?
While raising a teen daughter is definitely less fraught than raising a tween—mostly because my heart is calloused and my nerves like steel after surviving that learning curve—it still has plenty of challenges for us both. I’m learning when to keep my distance as she grows up and into herself, whooping up her successes and owning her mistakes along the way. She’s learning that it’s OK to make those mistakes, to come to me when she can’t handle something on her own, and to bask in the pure joy of her own light.
Parenting my teen girl, I can’t help but be reminded of what I was like at that age growing up in the ’80s and how different things are today. Nevertheless, there are a few ’80s songs that keep popping up on my favorite Pandora station whose titles seem to perfectly describe life with my teenage girl today:
1. Duran Duran, ‘Girls on Film’
Or rather, Snapchat, which is essentially this generation’s version of film (if only they knew what film was). My almost 14-year-old girl snaps endless selfies, then immediately launches them out into the virtual universe. Some of them are downright ugly (purposely) while others melt my heart with their beauty (#nofilter). I remind her that everything online is permanent. She rolls her eyes, tells me she knows that, then keeps on snapping.
2. The Clash, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’
I’m not always sure when my daughter wants me hanging around to help her with homework or a challenging social situation or when she’d rather I just beat it so she can figure it out on her own. My tendency is to hover, but I know learning to navigate the highs and lows on her own is part of growing up. These days, I’m paying extra attention to when she needs me and when she’s got it covered.
3. Madonna, ‘Like a Virgin’
We talk about sex a lot, like, way more than I ever did with my mom as a teen. While a part of me wants to scream, “Abstinence!” the part of me that remembers the hormone-induced lust of my own teen years takes a more realistic approach. We talk about when it happens, not if, how to be clear about what you want and don’t want, protection, pleasure, and relationships. To be honest, it makes me a little squirmy, but whoever said raising teens was going to be a walk in the park?
4. Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, ‘Joy And Pain’
Just because she’s better at regulating her emotions than she was as a tween doesn’t mean my daughter doesn’t still whip herself into frenzy—both the joyful and the painful kind. Her crying jags, while fewer, are intense. Her anger and frustration flare up fast. Just as fierce is her exuberance and excitement. Aced the math test? Time to do cartwheels on the front lawn while belting out “Eye of the Tiger”—obvs.
5. AC/DC, ‘Back in Black’
Once upon a time, I had an adorable little girl who wore all things princess, pretty, and pink. Now I have an edgy teenager who wears nothing but shades of black—black leggings, artfully ripped, washed-out black jeans, drapey black T-shirts, little black dresses, and roughed-up black Converse. Every once in a while she throws on a dark gray tank top or a burgundy sweatshirt. Phase or ever-lasting fashion statement? Either way, she looks pretty cool.
6. Pet Shop Boys, ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’
When my daughter throws daggers at me for no apparent reason, like I didn’t give her a napkin or I reminded her she has five minutes before her ride arrives, I often wonder what I’ve done to deserve this kind of treatment. Then I remember that I’m parenting a teenager and the answer is, “Absolutely nothing.” It doesn’t make the interaction acceptable, but it does remind me that the teenage brain is dealing with a lot and not to take it personally.
7. Salt-N-Pepa, ‘Push It’
If you thought setting boundaries for a toddler was tough, just wait until that toddler becomes a teen. Example: “Mom, can you pick me up from Juliet’s house at 11 tonight? She’s having people over, and I totally found myself a ride there so…” The rule in our house is no late evening plans on weeknights, but she hopes I’ll overlook that because she made her own plans and found herself a ride. I love that she’s proactive, but she’s also pushing the limits of what we’ve agreed on. With a teenager, it’s our job to set guidelines and expectations and her job is to push back on them.
8. Simple Minds, ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’
In her rush to be independent, my girl sometimes gets in over her head, whether emotionally, academically, or generally. She wants to figure it all out on her own or with the help of her equally inexperienced peers. Thing is, she forgets she has the most knowledgeable, supportive, and loving resource of all right down the hall: me. I gently remind her that I too was once a teenage girl and that I’m always available to listen, give advice or just a hug.
9. Guns N’ Roses, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’
The best thing about having a teenage girl? You never forget the sweet child she is at her core. That’s what she’s been building on all these years. Parenting my teen daughter is sticky business, but as she pushes and pulls, eye rolls and air kisses, defies and complies her way into young adulthood, I know she’s got a heart of gold.
Parenting a teenage girl keeps me on my toes, but as long as we keep communicating, whether it’s through selfies, more sex talks, fashion tips or a simple hug, I think we’ll make it through OK. Maybe I’ll make her mixtape.