To My Almost-Teen Daughter: I'm Just As Confused As You Are

by Karen Habashi
Originally Published: 
A mother makes the hair for her almost-teen daughter while they're sitting on steps
Granger Wootz/Getty

My dear daughter,

You will soon turn 12, and that might seem nothing, but for me it’s a huge deal.

You are one year away from the dreaded teenage years, and I’m afraid that if I blink my eyes, you will be a young woman.

You are not a child anymore, but you’re still not a grown-up, and for me you will always be that little girl in the pink tutu skirt, holding her imaginary microphone and singing.

I remember when I used to sit with you to watch Toy Story, and you were obsessed with Jessie, and when she said that her owner left her behind as she grew up, you cried and hugged your toys. You whispered in their ears that you’d never do the same thing.

Yet here I am sitting in your room tidying it, and that corner that used to have your dollhouse and your dolls is filled with art supplies, make-up boxes, and some Legos. Your side table has an alarm clock, a diary and a book, and the boxes that had your toys are gone.

I know you’re confused, but believe me, so am I.

I wish I had a manual to tell me the right thing to say or the right thing to do, because lately I feel everything I say makes you angry or pushes you to tears. I feel terrible. I always feel I’m disappointing you in one way or another. I picture you in a therapist’s office talking about how bad your mother was, how she never understood you.

As the adult, I’m supposed to know everything–at least that’s what you think–but I’m sailing in uncharted waters now. I don’t know whether I should treat you as a grown-up or a child, because to me you’ll always be my baby, so my judgment will always be somewhat cloudy.

Life wants you to grow up fast. The media, your friends, you. You want to rush everything. You ask me about the first kiss, about boys and about so many things, and all I can think of is the day you will come home crying because some jerk broke your heart.

What scares me the most are the stories I heard from so many adults, about their broken relationships with their moms. Many were a result of lack of understanding from their mothers during the teen years, and I wonder: Will I fall into that category? Will my love for you and my sincere will to try and turn every stone to find a means to communicate, be enough?

How can I provide a shield for you from all the hurt in the world that comes with growing up, yet let you try and learn?

How can I put my protective mama bear to slumber when I see your tears and you say that you don’t want to talk about it?

I know life hasn’t been easy for us. Having a mother with a chronic illness, and with so much uncertainty, probably made you worry more.

Sometimes I want you to open up to me, release those fears, open that Pandora’s box, and let go of all the darkness that lurks in your head. I know you’re afraid that what you’ll say would add more burden on me, but it won’t. Your mommy is stronger than you think.

You might think that you’re adding to my stress and feel guilty about that, but I want you to know that every obstacle I pass, every fight I take on, is because of you. I draw my strength from you, and perhaps that was too much to ask of a young girl. But you will grow up stronger than you think, you will be a fighter, your soul will always shine in this dark world, because you know first-hand how to fight for the ones you care about.

One of my favorite quotes from Little Women sums up my thoughts every day: “I think she is growing up, and so begins to dream dreams, and have hopes and fears and fidgets, without knowing why or being able to explain them.”

I want you to know that everything you’re going through is normal, those feelings are normal, and I’m not here to judge you nor will I ever be mad at you. I’m here to guide you, to help you navigate through those tides of highs and lows, just like my mother did with me, and I was also angry at her. (Sorry, Mom!)

Some days I feel I have let you down, that nothing I say or do is enough anymore to comfort you. I long for the days when it was just a kiss on that little “ouchie” you had that would make the whole world better.

But my reward at the end of the day, although you’ve been staying in your room all day, is when you ask me to come and sit next to you while you fall asleep — and there she is, my little baby girl again, needing her mommy for those scary few moments before bedtime.

When you smile and tell me “I love you Mommy,” I know that I can fight all the imaginary monsters lurking around me. I can take on the hardest fight, because that smile on your face is all I need to conquer this darkness.

Life and situations will try and change you, but remember to be true to yourself, remember that a smile and an act of kindness goes a long way, and finally: “My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.” – Maya Angelou.

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