It happens every single time. I’ll walk into my daughter’s room and find her sobbing over something horrible that happened at school that day. Or I’ll be making the kids’ lunches, and I’ll look at her lunch tote, and this overwhelming fear will hit me, as I imagine her sitting completely alone at lunch. Or I’ll notice a boy’s name doodled on a piece of paper on her desk and I’ll wonder… what worries me more- that he doesn’t like her back, or that he does?
And every time, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I will hear my mother’s words playing in my mind, saying, “Girls are SO MUCH HARDER to raise than boys”.
I might have been a teen the first time I heard my mother say those words. And I remember getting defensive, and well, just outright pissed about it. What the heck, Mom? I’m like the greatest daughter to ever walk the earth! Yeah, I think I thought something like that.
In any event, I didn’t really know what she meant, and I took it personally. I still had no clue when I had my own daughter, more than a decade later. No, it wasn’t until my own daughter hit those delicate, hormone driven, emotional roller-coaster, “Holy Cow, who is this stranger in my house and why does she hate me so much?” tween years that I ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY 100% UNDERSTOOD EXACTLY WHAT SHE MEANT.
When it comes to boys, even into the teen years, the fear is more that they will break themselves, or someone else, or someTHING else. I hear my boys wrestling, screaming, banging into walls upstairs, and I think “Oh good GRAVY, please don’t make me have to go to the ER today!” I know that it would be naive to think there won’t be some major worries on the horizon, but even that fear is different. I should also note that I’m very aware that I live seeped in the luxury of white privilege and there are fears I will never have to consider for my boys. But that’s another post for another day, perhaps. The bottom line is that my boys somehow feel solid.
My girl feels so much more delicate, more breakable. When I catch one of my sons checking himself out in the bathroom, I know he’s either sniffing his armpits to see if he needs a shower, or he’s examining his upper lip for evidence of a mustache. But he’s not questioning his value or his worth. When I catch my daughter looking at herself in the mirror, my heart skips a beat. I can see it in her eyes already. She’s questioning something. She’s scrutinizing her hair, or her tummy, or the color of her eyes, or her skin. She’s wondering if she’s pretty. She’s doubting herself. So delicate. So breakable.
Whatever it is that this delicate creature is thinking about, whatever it is that she’s struggling with, questioning, worrying over- somehow it’s my fault. Despite the fact that I see nothing but beauty in her from head to toe, despite the fact that I’m the one girl in her life who hasn’t mistreated her or broken her trust, despite the fact that I’m the one person she’ll always be able to depend on, and despite the fact that I don’t even know who this boy is or that girlfriend, or that “no of course she is not FAT!”, somehow this is my fault. I’m the one who gets the tears, I’m the one who gets yelled at, I get the stomping up the stairs, I get the eye rolling, the silent treatment, all of it. Half the time I don’t even know why, but I’m Mom, so I get it all.
THIS is usually the time when my mother’s voice comes back to me.
I think this is what my Mom meant when she said raising girls was so much harder. This whole paradox of having this girl in your life who has a hold of your heart like nothing you’ve ever known before, this beautiful young creature who means the world to you, and having her also be the one person who can set you off faster than Flo Jo in the 1988 Olympics! This idea that someone can take you from your highest highs to “oh no she did NOT just look at me like that” all before breakfast!
Well, for starters, she can share her secret. That secret that she loves this sweet girl living in her house, but oh my goodness, she is going to lost her… stuff on her if she gets that look from her just one more time! I can’t get over how every single time I share my pain with another mom, that mom just laughs and says, “oh my GOODNESS, I know!!!”. There’s comfort in the community of other moms of teen daughters. I’m finding so much encouragement in connecting with other moms.
It's why I've created a FB Group especially for moms with teen daughters. It's called Love Through The Lens, and it's a place for moms to share their stories, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's a place to ask questions, to learn about mothering and about photography. It's a place for all moms, EVEN IF your girls isn't QUITE a teen yet. All moms are welcome!
Discovering we’re not the only ones going through this- it’s so encouraging. So I’m looking for moms everywhere to commiserate with, to celebrate with, to hold hands and walk through the scary parts with. I know it’s just going to get scarier. My daughter’s 12! This joy ride is just beginning!
One more thing I have the luxury of doing? I can call my mom and laugh and say, “Umm… yeah, remember those teen years of mine? Yeah, I’m SOOOOOOO sorry! And please HELP ME!” I do that every now and again. And sometimes, even through the phone, I can see that smirk of hers, and hear that smile in her voice, and I think, “Yeah, she knows she was right. I HATE it when she’s right!”