Sunday, July 22, 2012

Have a Teenage Daughter? Call your Girlfriend

My youngest has been spitting nails for a few days now. I think it is safe to say that hormones have played a hand in her impulse-driven, wild-eyed, I-hate-the-world attitude. She didn’t believe me until I reminded her about similar experiences in the recent past that just happen to line up with what we call premenstrual syndrome. She stopped gnashing her teeth at me long enough to look thoughtful.

It really was a hellacious day.

I kept telling myself – she doesn’t mean it – she does care – she doesn’t really want me to jump off a cliff and die. She really isn’t going to run off to L.A., become a crack addict and work Sunset Blvd. 

But she knows just what to say to make me want to say ‘you don’t mean that.’ 
The ultimate trump card in the teenager’s arsenal: telling their parent they are going to do the worst possible thing they can think of and having their parent stutter, wide-eyed with horror – ‘you don’t mean that.’

Instead I just looked at her and said, ‘you’re a mess’ and left the room. I’ve evolved – I’m not going to let her slap that trump card down on the table between us.  Doing what any smart and savvy mother would do – I called my best friend and told her I was opening up a bottle of wine. She asked if that was really what I wanted to drink and I contemplated the vodka in the liquor cabinet but thought better of it. The hangover would suck. Wine it is. Just don’t make me drink it alone, is what I said, and she came right over.

My best friend’s daughter is thirteen and we often swap stories from the trenches of hormonally induced craziness that is female puberty. The truth is I know exactly how my daughter feels. Guess what perimenopause feels like, sweetheart? When my girlfriend and savior shows up, my child actually comes down stairs and glances at the brimming wine glasses. Yes, my dear, you have driven me to drink this day. The satisfied gleam in her eye makes me smile. Bring it on - I’ve brought in reinforcements. I’ve called in my own personal coach to help talk me off the ledge of strangling my sweet, precious little girl.

The three of us start sharing stories. Being a woman; dealing with hormones and cycles and life is not a new subject. My girlfriend shares her own stories with her changeling female child and my daughter can’t help but crack a smile. It seems like she finally can hear that the personal hellhole she has been in isn’t because she is going insane. No, love, this is just life in the female body.

My daughter eventually retreats back to her black pit of despair – okay, it wasn’t that bad but she is sixteen and has just experienced her first break up on top of all that hormonal goodness (she’ll roll her eyes if she actually reads this – but this is my revenge, so, chill hon).  My girlfriend and I take our wine out onto the porch. Deep breaths, smiles and we silently toast each other with our glasses. I need our time together to regroup and remember who I am, what I’m capable of. Parenting takes a fierce kind of love and sometimes I feel completely inept in my ability to support this incredibly smart and sensitive child of mine.

By the time my friend leaves, and we’ve surprisingly only shared about a half a bottle of wine, I’m reminded that with that fierceness comes a certain kind of tenacity. I just need to keep showing up. I’ve got to let go of the words and listen, instead, to what I see and what isn’t said. I’ve got to see her – not who I think she is.

I need to keep my girlfriend on speed dial.


  1. Our youngest can be a challenge but you rise up to it with grace and strength. Though it ain't easy sometimes. Nice post.

  2. I love you too. The fact that my sweet-as-pie/psycho teen has survived this long is a testimony to the power of girlfriends and a good Merlot.