Freeze this momentI'm going to be honest. When I first read Eve Vawter's heartbreaking blog post, "I’m Pretty Much Waiting for My Daughter to Grow Up and Hate Me," I cried. And then, with tears streaming down my face, I shared it on Facebook so other mothers of daughters could do the same thing. That was two days ago, and I haven't stopped thinking about the anxious waiting game that begins about the time we learn that our new little bundle is female.
And I've made a decision. I'm not going to play it anymore.
I refuse to let my teenage daughter hate me.
Too simple, you say? We can't simply will things into being?
I am German. Strong-willed doesn't begin to describe my stubborn streak!
But I also have more than will. I have a plan for keeping my daughter from turning into a wild she-beast upon puberty, a plan I've been building for awhile, but which Vawter's moving mother/daughter lament really motivated me to put it into action. As she said:
I will have to remember my own puberty, my own girlhood oversensitivity, my own fears and confusion about all of the feelings that were raging through my head and heart. I will have to separate my own adolescence from hers, to let her voice her frustrations and anger without taking it personally. I will have to let her slam doors and hate me on occasion. Let her feel her own personal feelings with the knowledge at times that all I will be able to do is offer to run her a bath or bring her a heating pad.
I've already got my Bible to walk through the chemistry of the teenage girl's body. My Teenage Werewolf by Lauren Kessler is a book written by a mom and investigative journalist that's one-part memoir of her own life with her teen daughter and one-part frank reminder that it really friggin' sucks to have your body being rocked by hormones, and you need to cut your daughter some slack. You'll want her to do the same when you hit menopause, won't you? OK, then.
But that's for then.
For now, my job is to key in on the "personal feelings" that Vawter is so right to bring up.
We don't like to talk about our kids' feelings. Kids are seen and not heard, remember? Kids are supposed to toe the line, to "look me in the eyes when I'm talking to you young lady!"
If you want to parent that way, by all means. But this is my plan, my best hope for stemming the tide of anger that pretty much everyone tells me is going to coming my way at tsunami-force speed in a few years: I am making a concerted effort to concentrate on HER feelings.
Trust me, it is not easy. She is a child who is at times sweet, at times willful, always pulsing with passionate emotions of some sort. But I've found that the more I treat my daughter like a human being, complete with her own thoughts and feelings, the better things are in my house.
For example: when she gets angry with me for disciplining her, I allow her to walk off in a huff. She hides in her playroom or her bedroom for a few minutes. I don't follow. I don't continue to yell. I don't tell her that she MUST listen to me, and listen to me now.
Our fights (yes, we have fights because she is of that same German stock) are much fewer since I started this experiment. Our relationship as a whole is much closer.
It's a process I've yet to perfect. We do not have the perfect mother/daughter relationship. I'm not sure such thing exists outside of the movies (heck, watch the movies ... they don't exactly exist there either, even in cartoons!). But here's my hope: that by starting now, I will be good at this whole "putting myself in her shoes" thing by the time she's a teenager. I hope that by recognizing that her feelings should be valued, that I will be able to let the worst of her hormone-fueled outburst bounce off instead of penetrating my brain.
I hope that by treating my daughter like a human, I keep her acting like one.
Hey, it's better than just sitting around and waiting for my life to explode, right?
Do you have a plan to keep your teenage daughter on your side?
Image via Jeanne Sager