Miss Moe is 15 and a freshman in high school, so I admit I’ve got some time left and many more lessons to learn. However, knock on wood, it has been much easier than the toddler days so far. A few lessons that I’ve learned:
- I’ve been frank that I’m not the expert at all the things. I’ve told her – ‘yes, this is your first time being a teenager, but this is the first time I’ve been the mother to one. We’ll get through this together – let’s just breathe and be nice to one another while we’re doing so.’ This truth, and my constant mantra that I am not the expert in all things has helped keep me humble and her to understand that I am human.
- Listen, listen, listen. Sometimes I feel like I ask too many things. We’ve been given two ears and one mouth for a reason – listen twice as much as you talk. I try not to judge or get too preachy. Sometimes, I fail at this.
- She was born boy crazy – it’s just how she’s wired. It’s how I was wired, I get it. We don’t do the whole – boys are bad (‘honey go clean the gun’). That narrative is tired and unhealthy. Relationships are good! She’ll have some good ones and bad ones – because honestly, how else do you figure out what kind of person you want for the rest of the days of your life? Those lessons should be learned in high school and college, not after the “I do”.
- If I find she isn’t as compassionate as she maybe can be, I gently put myself in the other person’s shoes, and sometimes that’s enough. If she gets defensive – I back off, because then I KNOW it has gotten through. My job is to plant the seed, from there she needs to grow it.
- She is her own person, she’s tried different churches, groups of friends, boyfriends. I give her the space she needs to figure out exactly who she is. But, I’m always a safe place to land if she seeks advice or solace.
- When she hides out in her room I check in every once in a while. She knows I’m here, and available. I come to her on her terms, and I find we have lots of our most intimate conversations in her space – where she feels safe.
- Sometimes I see her facing what I know will be a failure. As long as she’s still safe – I let her do it anyway. We can’t protect our child from every hurt, and learning to fail is just as important as the sweet feeling of success.
- Girls only chats. I love Mr. Moe. He’s my favorite person on this Earth, but he has never, and will never, be a teenage girl. I carve out space for us to talk about things girls talk about, and I keep her private information private. He trusts that I have her best interests at heart. Mr. Moe gets his special time with her (teaching her to drive, ice cream dates, driving to school) and I get mine. We’re needed and loved for different reasons. I’m not envious of his space, and he isn’t of mine.
- I don’t celebrate natural gifts. When she is placed second chair (amongst the seniors) in orchestra I shrug and say ‘that’s nice’ Because she never practices. When she works hours and hours on a new dance routine at home, I effuse pride and joy. Effort, not natural gifts is how I celebrate accomplishment.
- Teens are the same and different as the previous generation. Yes, social media has made a lot of differences (growing up faster, FOMO, etc.), but in the end she is still a teenager dealing with all those feelings that come with teenagery. Some teens have a healthier relationship with social media than adults.
- We eat together as a family, at least a few times a week. Everyone gets a turn to talk about something on their mind that day. It’s one of the great joys of my life. Phones are never invited into this sacred time.
- Sometimes, it’s okay to go to bed irritated or angry. Allowing space and time to cool off is perfectly acceptable. This is a lesson I’ve actually learned pretty well from Miss Moe (not the other way around). When she’s just plain irritated with me because – teenagers…. she doesn’t instigate – she just heads to her room. Everyone is better for it.
- Best advice I received from someone near and dear to me – you have to LET them pull away, it’s supposed to bring some conflict. If she doesn’t pull away, she’ll be in your basement when she’s 40.
- Second best piece of advice – just because she has invited you on the roller coaster doesn’t mean you have to get on.
Everyone has a different situation, and is wired differently. For us, we recognize we couldn’t be more alike. But, she’s a gentler version of me, she forgives quicker, grudges less, and overall has taught me some ways to be a better person. I can only hope that I give her as much joy, happiness, and acceptance as she gives me.