When My Tween Turned Teen

When her daughter turns 13, one mom reflects on becoming a mother of a teenager, and all the new struggles and experiences that being a 'teen mom' entails

 “My tween turns teen this Saturday, FYI!” I wrote in the email.  

“LOVE that. That makes you TEEN MOM,” replied my acquaintance.  

This was the first super positive utterance I heard about my eldest turning 13. Mind you, it was an email exchange with an older, wiser mom who happens to be a certified parenting expert. And the jubilance was followed by two book recommendations: Parenting a Teen Girl  by Lucie Hemmen and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence by Rachel Simmons.

Still, I relished in the excitement. I’d spent weeks dreading this turn of the numbers, but I’d also been happy too! My girl was turning 13! We’d survived 11 and 12! She was still alive! 90% of the time my almost-as-tall-as-me daughter is awesome.

Of course, it’s the 10% of the time that everyone else was telling me about with their short lines of doom and looks of condolence.

Maybe the 10% extreme moody/challenging parenting time will morph into 90%.

Maybe my girl will be the one whose teen years complete with Dante’s Inferno descriptions.

Maybe my best friend’s familiar text line reply to any text I sent her about a fun tween outing “enjoy now because it only gets worse” is exactly how it is.

I know many mom bloggers write beautiful essays about how they no longer write about their kids. I hear their voices as I write these lines. Am I invading her space when I tell you mornings are hard lately at our house? That I see myself in her?

Great! Thanks! Dreading the next six years seems like a fantastic idea!

Psst! We are barely a month into 13 and I’m speed reading those parenting a teen girl books. I know many mom bloggers write beautiful essays about how they no longer write about their kids. I hear their voices as I write these lines. Am I invading her space when I tell you mornings are hard lately at our house? That I see myself in her? That I remember feeling so gross and nothing anyone said convinced me otherwise?

When I write about her I know I’m writing about me. When her ponytail doesn’t look right to her I am always thinking about what I needed to hear when I was a teen. I’m remembering the purple pants I wore in the eighth grade. How the white piping down the side was cool and wearing these pants made me feel safe when I felt like everyone was staring at me.

I was staring at everyone else. A page in my science notebook noted what the popular girl wore every day to school. She didn’t start repeating pieces of clothing until about four weeks into the quarter. Someone surely was taking notes on my pimples, my unruly too-straight hair and my glasses. I needed those brand new purple pants with the white piping to shield me from all those eyes I saw everywhere in the hallways of my school.

Going backwards isn’t helpful in the middle of a crisis moment. But I pull a tiny bit of those old feelings out thanks to all those parenting books I have sped read. “I know you feel gross. I know your shirt is too small and I need to order you new uniform clothes. I know your ponytail feels wrong. I remember feeling gross when I was 13,” I say to her when she tells me how gross she looks.

I’d be lying if I told you this morning followed a trajectory you can use in your own life with your 13-year-old daughter. I can’t tell you what my daughter heard that helped her stop crying. When she asked me to try to fix her ponytail, I knew she was on track to making it to school just fifteen minutes past the final morning bell. All I can tell you is after she played with the dogs and had a snack and reapplied her make-up, she enjoyed hearing about my purple pants with the white piping.

I can’t tell you if writing in public about your own kids is a good idea. I can’t tell you if I wish I could still pretend that the teen years aren’t going to be hard. A few months ago I took a class on parenting middle school kids. The teacher made each of us say out loud, “Maybe my kid,” with the idea that maybe my kid will drink, or do drugs, or suffer from depression or do any number of things we want to pretend will never happen to our kids.

What can I tell you? There’s still nowhere else I’d rather be than with my 13-year-old daughter. Even in the toughest moments, I’m lucky to be in the room with her, figuring out how to be her mom.

I may not be ready for 13, but I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how I felt when I became her mom all those years ago. I’ve never lost that thought I had while sitting in my first moms group (PEPS, of course.). We all were introducing ourselves and our newborns. I looked around at all those tiny crinkly old person faces that sat atop those tiny baby bodies. Clear as a bell I heard this in my brain: “All those moms are jealous of me. I’ve got the most beautiful baby in the world.”

Guess what? I’m the mom of the most beautiful 13-year-old on this planet, too. I’m betting you are, too. How lucky is that? Congrats on being a mom to your 13-year-old. You’re a teen mom!

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