So raising a teenager isn’t on your bucket list? Too bad for you. The task holds plenty of adventure and opportunity for growth. Raising a teen is challenging, filled with danger (of losing your shit at any given moment), provides deep emotional satisfaction and gives you new insight into life. Sure, you’ll be forced to deal with fights over grades, emotional cloudbursts of hormones, confusing communication and the always-present danger that they’ll do something to hurt themselves or worse.
But all that makes raising a teen girl worth it — I think everyone should give it a try.
Prayers for my daughter
This post was inspired by several things, including the Mark Jarman poem “Prayer for Our Daughters” which asks that our daughters “return from every kind of suffering (except the last, which doesn’t bear repeating).”
I’m also reminded of Tina Fey’s Bossypants’ excellent prayer, which includes the phrase “…and let her play drums and beat to the rhythm of her own heart so that she does not lie down with drummers…”
Finally, I felt like 25 Rules for Mothers of Daughters needed some caveats for those of us raising older daughters. So in a twist on her list, I came up with 25 tiny prayers for my teen daughter.
“I love 13-year-olds! You’re so lucky!”
No one has ever said this, ever, in the history of parenting, or talking about parenting. Because teenagers are a pain in the ass. Whether they’re thirteen or eighteen, teens have carved out a special place in the development spectrum, so that they cannot be grown up or cannot be children for any length of time. They’re stuck in the middle, with you (cue the Stealers Wheel song).
I’ve been reading Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindful Parenting for the past few months, picking it up here and there to read a chapter and absorb its wisdom. Whether you’ve got an infant or an adult kid living at home, you really must read this book. JKZ reminds us that parenting is a journey, not a destination, and parenting is an opportunity to practice being our best selves, every day:
“Such a calling is in actuality nothing less than a rigorous spiritual discipline—a quest to realize our truest, deepest nature as a human being. The very fact that we are a parent is continually asking us to find and express what is most nourishing, most loving, most wise and caring in ourselves, to be, as much as we can, our best selves.”
A path we’ve all traveled
Raise your hand if you would like to be thirteen again (anyone? Anyone at all?). Unless you grew up on some tropical island and your parents were famous researchers who homeschooled you in complete isolation while you played with monkeys, you hated being 13. You smelled funny, your emotions were always changing, and you were a constant, unwilling slave to the stupidest kind of peer pressure.
Those years were a nonstop parade of humiliation and confusion. But if you try really hard, you’ll remember that all the suffering was occasionally punctuated by rare moments of discovery and adventure. And that’s what made all the difference.
A blessing & a curse
My teen daughter is one of the great blessings in my life. And I don’t mean just in that woo-woo, she gives me challenges to work through, isn’t-it-great-all-this-growth-we’re-experiencing kind of blessing. She tells me to stop eating the leftover pizza that made me sick the night before. She gives random and surprise embraces. She draws tiny, precise, Asian-inspired little drawings and leaves them on my nightstand, the coffee table, the refrigerator. She still calls yoga “Olga,” like when she was three, because she likes the way it sounds.
She laughs at my jokes. (For the mom of a teenager, this is epic, and honestly, I fully expect it to cease at any moment and be replaced with professional eye-rolling.)
But she also spends a fair amount of time undertaking activities of which I have zero comprehension: wearing glasses without prescription lenses. Talking for 15 minutes straight about the politics of the school lunch table. Bossing her younger brother around like she’s his second mother.
So as we move together through the next few years, and we both brace ourselves for change — she’s going to a new school, I’m dating again (just to name a few) — I felt like I needed to send up my own prayers to see my way through.
Because it makes all the difference to keep the most important stuff in mind. Already I’ve seen how easy it is to let the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life – the homework, the hormones, the mixed-up communication – get in the way of the things that really matter. This is my attempt at a guide to get us through the storms and steer us away from the rocks.
25 tiny prayers for raising a teen daughter
- Let her work for it.
- Show her the hard stuff is the best stuff.
- Teach her to be wild.
- Show up & suit up in her life.
- Encourage her to try on different clothes, ideas, people.
- Trust her with independence.
- Go camping, just the two of you.
- Teach her it’s okay to laugh at herself.
- Offer up the best kind of heroines and role models.
- Give hugs & kisses & shoulder punches.
- Love her weirdness.
- Buy less. Move more.
- Compliment her beauty.
- Show her what healthy sexuality looks like.
- Give her books as gifts.
- Respect her privacy.
- Make sure she knows her body belongs to her.
- Dance with her in the kitchen.
- Sing with the music in the car.
- Practice gratitude.
- Know when to stand up, and when to stand down.
- Commiserate with her when love lets her down.
- Show her how to apologize gracefully.
- Ask for help.
- Let her fail.
So what prayers do you have for your daughter (or niece, or your best friend’s kid, the little girl that lives down the street, etc.? What do you hope they’ll learn along the way?
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