vacillate between thinking I understand my daughter perfectly and fearing I
understand her not at all.
I should understand her. I raised her. For at least the first 10 years of her life I pretty much knew
everything she did, every teacher she had, every friend. I knew where she went, what she ate, the
books she read, the music she listened to, the jokes that made her laugh. I knew what she dreamed at night.
I should understand her because I was a teen girl once. Sure, that was before cell phones and Guitar
Hero and World of Warcraft. It was
before Bill Clinton made oral sex not really sex. Before Red Bull. Before (thank heaven) Justin Bieber.
being a teen is being a teen, despite changes in technology and pop culture,
isn’t it? The heart of it, the gist of it, is the same
today as it was when I was my daughter’s age. That off-kilter mix of vulnerability and invulnerability, the way you
can feel both carefree and hyper self-conscious at the same time; the
compulsion to be different coupled with the need to be accepted; the social
discomfort as you find your way (or don’t); the loneliness; the mad, wild ride
of that first (second, third, fourth) crush; the sudden realization that your
parents are unbelievably lame and boring. Yes, yes. I understand. I understand her.
then I don’t.
think I know how she’ll react, and I’m wrong. Like really, really wrong. I buy
her something I just know she’ll love, and she doesn’t. She does or says something—good, bad or
neutral—and I have not a clue where it came from, what motivated it, what she
was thinking. And it feels, eerily, as
if she’s some stranger who just happens to live in my house. There’s everyday life when things make
sense, and then there are these moments—sometimes long moments—when little
makes sense, when she mystifies me, when I struggle to understand this person
I’ve known since birth.
don’t I understand? Here’s my mother’s
litany. I bet you have your own.
is it that she knows how to apply makeup perfectly and I don’t?
can blue not be her favorite
color? Her eyes are blue, like
mine. Blue is my favorite color. What’s up
come one minute she will blurt out an intimate detail that I would never have
dreamed of telling my mother, and the next she won’t tell me how she did on a
doesn’t she want to spend time with the family anymore? (I mean, we’re so
cool. Especially me.)
doesn’t she do chores without being nagged? (For that matter, why doesn’t she do
chores after being nagged? Repeatedly.)
does she spend more time texting with friends than actually being with them?
has she decided all of a sudden that she’s a vegan? Or a paleo eater. Or a raw foodist. Or anything that our family isn’t, that will
make more work for me.
why, oh why, does she refuse to take my sage advice? About anything.
on ... don’t tell me I was like this, too.
She wants to be independent, but she also wants to belong, both in the family and at school.
And now a word from the teenage daughter:
I’m all about the lists today. This post will be super easy to UNDERSTAND.
Here are five things your daughter wishes you understood
1. Her perspective on ... well, everything. Remember the movie Freaky Friday when the
daughter suddenly becomes the mother (inside) and vice versa, and they
experience life through each other’s eyes? Wow. If that magic (a fortune cookie, right?) could happen in real life,
just for a minute, that would be awesome.
2. What she goes through every day at school—the
nastiness, the boredom, the stress. All
those things she will never talk to you about when you ask, “So, how was school
today?” It’s just too complicated,
involves people and personalities you don’t know (and would take forever to
background you on) and, honestly, would open up some big long conversation your
daughter doesn’t really want to have anyway because she can’t wait to STOP
thinking about school.
3. That her every outburst or hurtful remark is NOT
actually about you, about what you just said, or about the relationship you
have. Sometimes you just happen to be
4. That being a teen today is different than being
a teen when you were one. So advice that
begins “When I was your age...” may not be the way to go.
5. How she really sees herself. As in NOT your little girl anymore. As in mature (almost), capable (often),
independent (her biggest wish)—a whole, separate human being.
And now, four things you’ll NEVER understand about your
1. Why she makes the bad decisions she does. (She probably doesn’t even know herself.)
2. What she sees in her boyfriend. (You see the slacker bad boy. She sees the hunky cool dude. And the guy that’s going to save her from
spending every night with her lame parents.)
3. Why it’s so important for her to fit in—even
if “fitting in” is fitting in with the outcast group. This IS hard to understand. She wants to be independent, but she also
wants to belong, both in the family and at school.
4. How she really feels about you (which can change
in a heartbeat).