Everyone told me that raising a teenage girl was going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Well, all I can go on is my own experience, and here’s what I can tell you: raising the teenage BOY has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, while my teenage girl has made my job pretty easy so far.
Me with my girls.
When I was my daughter’s age (8th grade), I was a geeky, bookish, horse-crazy child, who was completely freaked out by the changes happening with my body, but too scared to talk to anyone about any of it. Frankly, I found puberty really embarrassing. I remember agonizing over how to ask my mother if I could start shaving my legs….in the 9th grade!
My daughter, on the other hand, is incredibly self confident about her body, and herself. She’s got a very good sense of who she is, and she and I can (and do) talk about anything and everything. That makes me really happy. Unlike some parents, it hasn’t bothered me a bit to see her becoming a young woman; I’ve just been thrilled to see how comfortable she is with the whole thing.
However, we do live in a culture that hyper-sexualizes adolescent girls at younger and younger ages, and while I don’t want to hold her back, I do sometimes have to hold the line. I am trying really hard to strike a balance between empowering her and protecting her. I think that excess in either direction can be really bad for an adolescent girl. For example, I do let her have Facebook and My Space accounts, but she has to let me “friend” her – meaning I check her accounts regularly – and sometimes I tell her when a photo she has posted is inappropriate for one reason or another (you should SEE what some girls my daughter’s age post on their social networking sites!). I let her make most of her own clothing choices, but I do have a few rules: no high heels yet, and no pants of any kind with words written on the rear end (a la J Lo) to be worn outside the house. She’s wearing make-up now, and I think I let her wear more than a lot of moms of 8th graders, because she really loves experimenting, but when she’s gone overboard, I tell her she has to tone it down before going out.
So far, dating hasn’t been an issue because she goes to a parochial school with so few boys that the pickins are slim; these are the same 15 boys she’s known since 1st grade, so they don’t hold tremendous appeal. She did get asked to one high school dance, but she told me she didn’t really want to go, so she told the boy that her parents had said no. I am sure that next year, in high school, the dating issue will become more front and center, and I need to do some thinking about what my guidelines will be. Mainly, I want to spend a lot of time talking with her about what HER guidelines will be. I want her to feel like she’s driving the bus when it comes to her love life, not me or her father. We will be here to back her up, step in when necessary, and catch her when she falls, but she needs to learn to make good decisions, feel comfortable saying no, and figure out what really matters to her in choosing people to date. I didn’t learn that stuff until well into adulthood, but I’d really like my daughters to get the hang of it much earlier!
I feel really lucky that teenagehood is going so well for her (and for me!) so far. And I’m actually excited about what the next four years will bring. She’s a cool chick. I’m lucky to get to be her mama.
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