Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Raising a Daughter? Handle With Care — Especially When She's 14

When my first baby was born, the doctor handed her to me and said, "Meet your future teenage daughter." Then she got on the phone with her own teenage daughter, and the two of them got into a loud argument about what to eat for dinner. I still remember the daughter's aggrieved voice, audible through her mother's flip phone: "That is REVOLTING and I would rather eat DOG FOOD."

My husband and I raised our eyebrows at each other over our own daughter's downy head. Surely this sweet, elfin, cashew-shaped bundle would never pick a fight with us about veal scallopini. We'd be there for her and hear her; if she became a vegetarian, we would develop a taste for seitan. When this baby reached adolescence, our groovy brand of friend-parenthood and open lines of communication would upend the traditional I-hate-you-don't-leave-me dynamic.

(Are you laughing? I am.)

Fourteen years later, here's what I'd tell my new mom self about my current teenage daughter — who, despite occasional tiffs, really is well worth the wait.

1. You never know who will come downstairs in the morning. One morning, she'll be all smiles and cheer — she loves your new sweater. The next day, she'll be mute and scowling. She'll gesture with her chin at the sweater you're now wearing for the second day in a row because she said she liked it, and this time she'll say, "Are you really wearing that?"

2. Most of the time, she doesn't want a hug. But when she does, she'll wrap her arms around your waist and rest her head on your shoulder, and the effect is reminiscent of happening upon a warm spot in a freezing cold lake. You don't know why it's there — maybe you don't want to know — but you float there for a while, enjoying the view. Fifty percent of the time, as she's extracting herself from your arms, she'll say, "Can I have money to buy Julia a birthday present?"

3. You know you need to keep your opinions to yourself. The problem is, sometimes she wants your opinion: on clothes, on a sticky situation with a friend, on whom she should write about for her project for Women's History Month. You will share a rewarding dialogue, but the next day, when you say, "Did you learn anything interesting about Susan B. Anthony?" she'll look at you as if she has no idea what you're talking about. In fact, she'll look at you as if she has no idea who you are. #coldspot

4. After a decade of making late-night small talk with baby sitters, nothing beats having your own teenager meet you and your spouse at the front door in her pajamas. She says her little sister was scared, "so I put her to bed in my room." She wants to know if the two of you had fun, if you liked the movie, what you had for dessert. #warmspot

5. You think she's wasting her money on cheap black booties from When they arrive in the mail, you're pleasantly surprised that they look chic and stylish on her. When she goes to bed, you try them on. Guess what? You look like a 41-year-old mom wearing cheap shoes.

by Elisabeth Egan, Chicago Tribune |  Read more:
Image: onebluelight / E+