Five Lessons I'm Learning By Raising A Tween Daughter
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By Jennifer Lebo
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“Mom, would you stop loving me if I told you about something bad that I did?”


My breath caught in my throat as my daughter hesitantly asked me this question, and two thoughts quickly came to mind.  First, “Could she actually believe that I would stop loving her for any reason?  Is this actually a legitimate concern of her?”


Followed closely by, “What in the world did she do???”


I quickly caught my breath and reassured her that nothing could ever cause me to stop loving her.  I then asked her to share her confession with me, and tried to remain calm as I waited.  Turns out, she had been using some “less than becoming” language on the school bus in an attempt to fit in.  We talked about it, and I told her that this kind of language doesn’t really make a kid look cool, and that she now had the difficult task of breaking a bad habit.  But then I told her how happy I was that she felt she could tell me what was bothering her, that she could always tell me anything.  And that I would help her break this habit.


Ten minutes later, I was standing outside her bedroom, breathing through the anxiety, and feeling yet another gray hair sprout from my head.  Yes, I actually felt it!  And in that moment, I was reminded for the umpteenth time that this “raising a teen girl” thing was NOT going to be a walk in the park.  In fact, my daughter is still just a “tween”, and I’ve already learned more lessons than I could have imagined.


Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned so far.


1. Clothes shopping for her is not the super fun, cutie patootie experience it once was.

When Brady was a baby, I envisioned our future together, complete with afternoon shopping dates and shared clothes.  I remember having a friend in high school who shared all of her clothes with her sister and her mom, and I totally thought that would be us.  We are not even the same size yet, and I am already seeing my mistake.  


No matter what I choose for this girl, she doesn’t like it.  I can choose leggings and she’ll pick jeans.  I choose jeans.  She’ll prefer a dress.  I can’t figure it out except for this.  It seems that this girl is in a rush to “look grown up” and I might be fixed on “keeping her a little girl”.  So be it.  I’m learning to pick my battles.  No to the 2 inch wedges.  But absolutely to the cowboy boots.  We meet in the middle with the yoga pants.  I mean, really.  What girl doesn’t love yoga pants!


2. Gray hairs start earlier than I had once thought.

Seriously, I am too young for all this gray hair.  But man, it was like one day that sweet little girl who loved American Girl Dolls and Barbies vanished from our house, and was replaced by this sassy, eye-rolling, “why can’t I have a phone?” complaining tween.  I’m exhausted on a daily basis, and not the way I used to be when the kids wouldn’t nap, or when one of them smeared poop all over her crib (oh yeah, that happened in your house too?).  No this is a different kind of exhaustion.  Now I worry about whether she’s ok at school.  Does she have friends?  Is she being bullied?  Is SHE a bully?  Does she hate me?  Will she always hate me?  Am I doing this “mom thing” wrong?  I’m mentally and emotionally drained by her.  I love her to a million pieces, but the girl wears me down.  So I buy another box of hair color.  And another.  And another.


3. Insecurity and self-esteem issues start early.

I was dreading this one.  I knew the minute that ultrasound technician said “It’s a girl!” that someday I’d be reliving those hellish years of insecurity, of struggles with body image, of all the “girl stuff”.  I just had no idea it would be starting so soon.


I know I’m biased, and I know you probably feel this same way about your own daughter, but I look at my daughter and I see the most beautiful girl.  I love everything about her. (when she’s not sassing me and rolling her eyes at me!)  But then I walk into her room and find her without her glasses on.  When I press her on it, she says she looks prettier without them.  Or I’ll notice her looking at her waist, asking if she needs to lose weight.  Oh my goodness, I’m not ready for this.  But I know I need to get ready, because I have to be that inner voice in her head- the one she hears whenever she doubts her beauty, or her value, or her worth.  I want to be that voice that she hears say, “No.  You are so beautiful.  So exceptional.  You are enough.  You are amazing.”  I will teach her that she is beautiful, that she is enough.


Can you relate?  Are you in it, too?


4. It’s ALWAYS OK to ask for a “Do Over”.

Remember the days of “do overs”?  I still hear my youngest begging for them when he’s playing with his older brother.  Ah, the “do over”.  Give me another chance!  That one doesn’t count.  I made a mistake.  I’ll do it better next time!


This relates so much to my mothering, especially with my daughter.  How many times have you walked out of your daughter’s room and thought, “ugh, I totally screwed that up!”?  I think that way almost daily.  But I try to remember the “do over”.  I may have messed up, or made a mistake, but I always get to try again when it comes to helping my kids.  


And the same goes for them.  I’ve been trying to encourage my daughter with this idea.  Sure, she’ll make mistakes (a LOT of them, and the best ones are yet to come, good gracious, help me!).  But there’s always room for a  “do over”.  It’s never EVER too late to turn around and choose the better path.


5. Listening can be such a powerful tool.

Lately, I’ve been feeling so helpless when it comes to my daughter.  How do I fix this?  Her struggles are no longer fixed with a kiss and a bandaid.  I often don’t know what to do.  I don’t have the right words.  Heck, most days I don’t have ANY words.  But I’m learning that most of the time, it’s ok to not have words.  So often, listening is my most powerful tool.


Our presence can be so helpful.  Giving our daughters our shoulders to cry on, our ears and hearts to hear them, our presence just to show them they’re not alone, and that we care.  Most of the time, they don’t need us to fix things.  They just need someone to go through it with them.


I’m learning to listen, to just be present, and to use another tool in my belt.  I use my camera.  


There are times when I know that something is on my daughter’s mind, but I don’t want to pry, or “nag” as she might see it.  I just want to connect, to reach out without asking, and maybe let her share without being asked.  So I take out my camera, head to her room, and ask if I can play around and shoot a bit while she’s not too busy.  This allows me to be with her, to create an opportunity for connection, for maybe laughter, for comfort and ease, where she might initiate some conversation.


My camera is quickly becoming my “go to” tool for connecting with my girl, and I strongly encourage you to use your camera the same way.


In a nutshell, raising a teen daughter is a million times harder than I thought it would be!  Stating the obvious, I know.  I’m also realizing that it is often more about what she has to teach me than about what I have to teach her.  It’s like she and I are growing together, and it’s scary, but it’s pretty awesome too.


What about you?  Are you finding this journey through “teen daughterhood” as challenging as I am?  What are you learning?  I’d love it if you’d share one lesson YOU’VE learned in the comments below.


We’ve got this mom thing!



Leave a comment:
Jennifer Lebo - First of all, how is she THREE already??? Not possible! Second of all, you watch- she'll be 13 tomorrow! So excited you're sticking around. In fact, I hope you'll offer your tips. Three or thirteen, we're all doing our best, and you're a GREAT mom! Love that we're connected this way!
Laura - My little lady is only 3, but I’m following along to learn with you! You are a rockstar Mama and so wise! Thanks for sharing your journey. Xoxo