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November 30, 2011

The Changing Role of Motherhood: Life With a Teenage Daughter

by Anne Paddock

My 15-year old daughter recently asked me if I missed the old days when she was little and although my brain was screaming “YES, YES, YES, ” I calmly admitted to sometimes missing those days we spent together running errands, seeing Disney on Ice, having lunch together, and reading a book before bedtime (6:30 pm back then). Right now I would go so far as to admit that I would welcome seeing “Barney’s Big Adventure” again (and I’ve seen it at least four times and each time was more painful than the previous).

I couldn’t lie to my daughter and tell her that I’m thoroughly enjoying this stage of adolescence because I feel like I’m walking on hot coals half the time.  From her perspective, I’m either asking the wrong question, too many questions, or annoying her. From my perspective, she is not answering the question, not telling me enough, or not helping out around the house. It all seems to come down to what I’m doing and what she’s not doing.

Several years ago, friend after friend told me “just you wait” but my judgmental self chalked up their warnings to parental mistakes; how wrong I was.  I would talk about all the fun excursions my little buddy and I were taking and how great it was to have a daughter (and it is), never imagining that the ugly head of adolescence would rear itself up a decade later. Those were the days when my daughter was receptive to what I was telling her and thought the sun would rise and set with her parents. We’ve since kissed those days good-bye.

Something changed about a year ago – my daughter wanted to decorate her bedroom by covering  the walls with magazine pictures and using a glue gun to adhere “crap” (my word) to her beautiful wooden canopy bed. We compromised on the magazine pictures and a trip to Anthropologie to buy Haitian French newspaper shellacked animal heads to put on the walls (think Baby Doc meets “Out of Africa”).  Just when we got through that process, the room turned into a mess…a big mess with piles of clothes, papers, magazines, and stuff covering every furniture top and open carpet space.  It was all I could do not to take an industrial sized garbage bag and throw it all away.

No longer were we spending Saturdays or Sundays together as my daughter wanted to be with her friends. And, on weekend nights, she didn’t want to come home until midnight which just didn’t work for me.  11:00 o’clock was my limit and to that I earned the following response: “Mom, can you just loosen the leash a little?” And, then there is the tattoo and piercing request to which I issued a resounding and uncompromising “NO.”  In no uncertain terms, I told my daughter that if she wants to get a tattoo or body piercing, she can make that decision at 21 but until then, the answer is no.

My daughter will walk out the door with no jacket when it’s 42 degrees outside so I’ve issued guidelines: From 40-50 degrees, a jacket is required, below 40 degrees a coat is needed, and if it’s raining, a raincoat is appropriate attire. I had this feeling of deja vu – didn’t I say all these things about 12 years ago when she was 3? This happens over and over and over again.  I honestly don’t have any dislike of piercings but if my daughter can’t figure out the jacket/coat thing, how can she be entrusted to take care of a body piercing that carries much more risk of infection from neglect? And, the tattoo…well, there are not too many good decisions that I made between the ages of 14-21 and there are a whole lot of regrets.  I’m trying to save her from the painful (literally) regrets but she sees my wisdom as limiting her ability to express herself.

I ran into an old friend today who also has a teenage daughter and as we were comparing notes and laughing, she said “my daughter is a better lawyer than I am and she’s only in 8th grade. She thinks of arguments that I would never think of and she doesn’t give up.”  I could only crack up laughing because she made me feel that I’m not alone, that there are other mothers going through this same painful stage. And, even though I read the recent National Geographic issue on the teenage brain and intuitively understand what my daughter is going through, living through the process with a child I absolutely adore and an adolescent whose behavior I don’t always like, is quite another matter.

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