… OR WHERE HAS MY DAUGHTER GONE?
Just like Snagglepuss (the whimsical pink mountain lion in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the early 60s), my teenage daughter has suddenly decided to “Exit, stage left!”
Packed with her are the chatty conversations we used to have about her day, struggling together over a science assignment at the kitchen table or throwing a ball around the back garden. No more walking the dogs together, planning sleepovers with friends or watching Harry Potter or Twilight for the 70-bazillionth time. Shopping with me now fills her with crushing boredom, so it appears I’ve lost my willing helper. And forget snuggling together in bed early on a Sunday morning.
Instead I find myself being dragged into a vortex of super skinny jeans, low-fat everything, Victoria’s Secret potions, Boost juices, hideous high-rotation radio stations, push-up bras, endless discussions about boys and their habits, inconsistency, and the deep mystery that is Snapchat.
Homework is done in the privacy of her room rather than at the kitchen table. I hate this.
There are requests for leg-waxing, suggestions that she now be allowed to go to parties with boys, endless wardrobe changes and rare outbursts of temper so fierce they scare our cat.
The eye roll has made an unwelcome appearance, along with expressions of incredulity should I dare to offer advice on what she might wear to watch her older brother play rugby on a Saturday morning (another new-found passion).
I appear to have been superseded as a credible source of information. Instead, a boy, whom my daughter is actually yet to meet, but ‘chats’ to via text (for hours on end) is now of far more interest and educational opportunity than anything I might have to offer.
When similar shifts began to happen with my son I felt inexorably sad and wrote about it for Sunday Life magazine. You can find that article here.
But none of this bewilders me with my daughter. In fact it makes me very happy. Because I remember it so well of myself. You see, I’ve been to this gig, I’ve read the book, seen the movie and came out of the theatre in one piece. So will my daughter.
She has reached the stage in a young girl’s life when everything is so full of promise and opportunity that they will often find themselves spontaneously wriggling with excitement. Everything seems wondrous, new and shiny again. It’s like going to the local milk bar to find that it has been restocked, not with more boring staples, but rather with row after row of exotic baubles, lollies, treasures and a few new tantalising foreign objects. Although, at the moment, the last person she wants to share these with is me.
I am happy too, because despite sometimes feeling that she hates me with a passion, when we have them, our conversations are more adult and engaged. With that comes the exciting opportunity to deepen our bond and expand our relationship.
I am reassured, because on the whole, she is still happy and helpful around the home. There are now lots more secrets but she isn’t secretive. She willingly gives me hugs and kisses and continues to ask questions on issues about which she is unsure. She is yet to believe that she can manage by herself. She’s not aggressively testing limits or pushing back on everything. School continues to inspire and engage her. (Too much) makeup and midriff tops only make sporadic appearances and she still appears to have a healthy level of self-worth and sense of place. These last two make my heart sing.
Of course, every girl is different and with some, the rush to get to (and through) the teenage years, can bring with it some risky and bewildering behaviours. I asked Dr Briony Scott, Principal of Wenona, a K-12 girls school in Sydney, to offer some advice on how to help you and your daughter navigate the teenage journey safely…
- Be confident in who you are as a parent. Despite your daughter growing up faster than you may have predicted, you know them better than anyone. Be their greatest fan and their strongest advocate. You won’t spoil your daughter by believing in her and supporting her through tough times.
- Go slow on the judgement. No girl wakes up in the morning and thinks to herself, how can I make everyone mad at me today? Everyone wants to do well, wants to be loved, wants to get things right. And your daughter is no different. Adults are not critiqued with anywhere near the level of scrutiny children are, on a regular, even daily basis. To shrug your shoulders and go ‘oh well’, and to offer support and kindness when things don’t go as planned will let them know that you’re there for them.
- Deliberately create memories. This window of time is fleeting and before you know it, your daughter will be leaving home and getting on with their life. While they’re at home, do things that you know they’ll love, and experience these good times with them. Don’t outsource the memories, the adventures, the parenting. Take photos and see life through the eyes of your daughter as she sees and experiences things for the first time.
- Keep your own loves and interests bubbling along. You are a crucial role model and essential in showing your daughter how to do life well. Rather than being overly invested in her life, or developing a martyr complex as you sacrifice everything for others, invest in you and your relationships. Be happy and enjoy life. Keep being interesting and doing what you love!
Wise words. So, despite knowing there will continue to be frustration, mistakes and occasional emotional outbursts to rival the Real Housewives of Melbourne, I’ll carry on as my daughter’s silent wingman ~ ready to step up or fall back when required and I’ll do everything I can to ensure the self-worth bucket is kept full to overflowing.
Do you have a teen daughter? Any advice you can give me to keep things on an even keel?
Until next time…
For ideas and tips on finding wonder in the everyday and getting your kids to unplug, consider buying my new book. You can purchase it via the link in my sidebar above, or at all good bookstores and online and as an e-book. For interview opportunities please contact Jackie Evans on 0407 776 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org