I remember when my daughter was younger, I’d hear all the time “She’s so cute…enjoy it while it lasts because when she’s a teenager, she’ll be hell on wheels.” Or something to that effect. I had my daughter at the ripe old age of 21 (ha!). She’s almost 14 now, and I tell you what….
I hate that I wasted time worrying about how horrible she’d be as a teenager. Instead I wish someone, would have told me how much fun the teen years can be. That it is actually WORTH looking forward to.
In fact, these years- when I’m getting to see her personality truly blossom and help her navigate real (teenage) life situations have been some of my most treasured time as a parent. I love every moment of it. She’s not perfect, by any means. She procrastinates, gives in to peer pressure, makes mistakes on social media, and is lazy— typical teen. We have many teachable moments. But, I wouldn’t trade it. It’s been my favorite age group so far…and as my middle son gets older, I can tell it’s not a fluke. Pre-teen/Teen is my parenting jam.
I know what you parents of children older than mine are thinking… “YOU JUST WAIT. Wait until they’re driving, or dating, or fill-in-the-blank.” But, honestly, I’m done worrying. Done waiting for the “other” shoe to drop. While I am aware that things will get progressively harder the more independent they get, I’m committed to loving where they are right now, instead of dreading where they might be in a few years.
In a time when we’re so obsessed (rightfully so) about the images we project onto our girls- the idea that they’re difficult and hateful during their teen years doesn’t help the movement. A girl’s self esteem PEAKS at the age of 9. NINE YEARS OLD. Consider that, then think about what they hear about themselves from the masses. That’s what they think is expected of them as they get older.
What we say to other adults does, in fact, affect our children. I’m reminded of when Queen Llama (self appointed nickname) was little maybe around 5; as I introduced her to friends and other adults I’d always explain that she was “shy”. She was really soft spoken, always looked at me for validation while talking to others. So I’d speak up on her behalf and explain away my intervention with her shyness. Fast forward to third grade, she’d began to complain about not having friends to talk to at lunch. After a few questions, I learned that she was taking a book to lunch with her, reading, not starting any conversations and was confused why the other kids didn’t talk to her. I explained that she was closing herself off by reading a book and that she needed to learn some ice breakers. “I can’t start a conversation, Mom! I’M SHY!!!!!!”
It was then I learned the disservice I was doing her. By telling other adults that she was shy in front of her, I allowed her to hide behind that description. She knew I expected her to be shy…and so she was. Long story short, we practiced conversation starters and confidence and she’s never proclaimed to be shy since.
It’s the same with labeling our children, our girls especially, as difficult teenagers before they’re even sure what that means. They know from a young age we expect them to be difficult, and so they are.
There’s not a day that goes by that my teenager doesn’t say or do something that makes my heart burst with pride. I’m willing to bet, Mom of a younger daughter, that the same will happen to you. So please, don’t waste a moment worrying about what things will be like when she’s a teenager. The same way that she gives you an immense amount of joy now…she will give to you then.
When someone speaks the fear of her growing up into your life, kindly tell them that not everyone has that “horrible teen” experience. Tell them you’re committed to loving them in whichever stage they’re in. Tell them that you’re looking forward to their teen years, because it’s an opportunity to get to know her all over again. Ask them if they have anything encouraging to say about that stage of raising their children.
Encouragement. That’s what gives us Moms hope while we’re in the trenches, unsure if we’re doing anything right and wondering if we should start that account for our kids’ therapy sessions now. I can’t tell you how many Mommas have actually THANKED me for sharing how much I’ve loved having a teenage girl. Be that Mom, the Encouraging One, to someone else.