It’s the age-old question of who is in charge, and when will they grow up and move out? The answer is always the same too, “I survived it, and so will you.” Indeed, we survived, but wouldn’t it be a better answer if the survivor felt more assured of success. Babies don’t come with pamphlets and teenagers don’t come without undue stress on the parent, so where’s the answer to the “age-old” question? You won’t find it in a book, and possibly you will never find it anywhere, because each teenager is different. My girls, now 33 and 26, went through the boy-crazy, hair poofing, short skirt years, and I did survive. It’s worth mentioning that they are both grown, living on their own, and have 5-children between them. However, it’s not easy and a lot of tears have passed over my cheeks in the years between teenage angst and adult maturity.
When I asked my mother about sex, she answered, “Only married people have sex.” I was a smart aleck and asked her in exchange, “Dogs don’t get married, but they have sex, don’t they?” There was a loud smacking noise, and I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. The point is that there are no simple answers, and my girls didn’t ask me about sex, they more or less, told me what they knew. It didn’t take to much instinct to understand that they knew more than I would have told them, had I been given the chance.
At some point, in the midst of the teenage depression years, it occurred to me that I was giving my girls the same stupid answers my mother had given me. That’s when I decided to remember what mom had done, and then do as much in the opposite direction as possible. Instead of making it impossible for the girls to talk to me about sex, dating, young boys, or what they were going to wear -no matter how revealing-I would do the opposite. I would listen. Listening has it’s downfall, because it’s inevitable that you’re going to hear something that you really don’t want to hear, but better to hear it from them than to hear it about them. While you’re listening, remember you are not your daughter’s friend; you are her mother and should remain in an area of authority. There will come a day when you can be your daughter’s friend; however, the teenage years are no time for friendships between mother and child. When someone tells me that they and their daughter are the best of friends, I have to wonder which of the two is the more childish. Does the mother seek her daughter’s approval, or does the daughter lack for piers in her age range? It’s foolish to believe that you are your daughter’s best friend, because there is someone out there that she is telling more to than she is telling you. Another factor that gets tested during teen years is that of trust. It’s so hard to trust your children when the temptations, and the knowledge of your own teen years tell you not too. You should trust them, but be aware that there are things -unforeseen things-that will figure into their lives. I have only one really good piece of advice, and that is to remember where you and your mother had problems. Remember why you lied, or didn’t get home when told too, or anything that caused a rift or crisis when you were a teenager, and then counter-act that with good sense. All children want their parent’s approval, even a teenager.
When your daughters are grown women with children, and a home, they will be your friends. It’s important to them that you are there to help, but they don’t need your advice, they need your understanding and comfort. If my daughters ask me for advice, I tell them, “Whatever I did, if it was wrong don’t do it. If it was right, do it better than I did.”