Staying In Touch with a Teenage Daughter
My baby is 16 years old. Wow. A couple of weeks ago, she asked me to take her to the mall so she could blow through the gift certificates and cash she received for her birthday.
My darling girl loves the mall.
I hate it.
But we had a pleasant afternoon, spending her money on new clothes, and my money on cheap ear rings we plan to share.
Of course her fingers never stopped flying across the tiny cell phone dial pad. While we finished up a late lunch in the food court, she asked if I would drop her off at her boyfriend's house on the way home.
"Oh, you've spent all your money and now you're done with me, huh?" I teased. "I see how it is. Why didn't you just have him give you a ride to the mall?"
"I thought it would be nice for us to spend some time together," she said.
I know what you are all thinking...master manipulators, those teenage girls. But I believe she was sincere.
Since she started "dating" her beau about 10 months ago, I've had the usual concerns. They spend all of their time together, either at my house or his parents'. I've been concerned she's neglecting her girl friends, her school work, her chores. Extra-curricular activities are practically non-existent.
I've always been proud of my relationship with my daughter. She's a good girl. She doesn't lie to me. She doesn't get in trouble--at least not to compare with what I did at her age! She's beautiful, sensitive, witty, confident. I knew I was a good mommy when she was little, but as she grows, I worry myself constantly about the things I've failed to teach her.
In some ways it feels like 16 is too late to bother. She is who she is, and I doubt I can really influence her much more. My concerns now are almost completely about the give and take of freedom, letting her make her own mistakes, knowing when to set firm boundaries and when to extend trust.
Last night when her boyfriend dropped her off (on time--she's never missed a curfew, thanks to his NC restricted drivers license!), she was full of energy and wanted to chat. Chatter. I was busy online, trying to once again jump-start my writing career while she filled me in on the details of her weekend.
"You talk to everyone else more than you talk to me!" she finally complained.
I closed my computer and gave her my undivided attention, amazed that she wanted it.
I think the secret of parenting a teen finally sank in. I just have to stay in touch. It is basically the same advice a colleague gave to me when she was just starting kindergarten. She said, "They start having their own life, and if you let them get away, it's hard to get them back."
I'm so glad I remembered this lesson before she got away. I am planning more trips to the mall. And I'm recognizing that the little things, like watching certain television shows with her, are what keep us connected.
With all the bad news out there about teen girls, I wish I had more specific advice to offer on how to raise a good one. I'm not sure what the "secret" ever was. I just loved her to the best of my ability. And that's never been hard. I have decided to ask some "experts" for opinions. I plan to survey my friends and colleagues who also have "good girls" and write about it later. It's about time teen girls had some good press!
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