After careful consideration, I have decided that I am not equipped to parent a teenaged girl. This is really a pity, because it leaves me just three short years with my family before I either have to send Chickadee off to a military academy or enter the Witness Protection Program, and I’m not sure I’m even going to be caught up with all of the television shows I have DVRed, by then. Also, who will tell Monkey to put his socks in the hamper? Who will say to Otto, “HUSBAND! Please go outside and MAKE FIRE and bring us back some CHARRED FLESH!”?
In case you haven’t guessed, my darling daughter has a wee small case of PMS. And by “wee small” I of course mean “raging, out-of-control, how is this possible at not-quite-10, please kill me now.”
Parenthood: The ability to love another human with the very depths of your soul while simultaneously wanting to reach across the dinner table and stab her with your fork.
The worst part, of course, is that some of what she’s doing I have vivid memories of having gone through myself. And you’d think that would render me more capable of DOING SOMETHING USEFUL, but you would be incorrect, because everything I do is WRONG. I almost prefer the nonsensical rages where she stomps around shooting death rays at everyone who dares to glance her way; that’s certainly easier to watch than a replaying of every insecurity I’ve ever had.
For example, my sweet, darling daughter has recently decided that she is ugly. Do not try to convince her otherwise. You are JUST SAYING THAT. Because she IS ugly. SO UGLY.
Now, I recall my own mother telling me (as I wrestled with this same monster, because I am pretty sure it’s in the handbook that accelerated growth in preparation for puberty goes like this: foot growth spurt, a.k.a. Sudden Flippers; darkening body hair; conviction that you are the ugliest creature ever to live; boobs) “of course you’re pretty!” I also remember thinking that she couldn’t have been less convincing if she tried, because CLEARLY she was just BEING A MOM. GOD.
So I tried VERY HARD not to sound trite or talk her out of it; I told her that obviously I think she’s beautiful, but I would like to help HER feel beautiful, too, and was there something in particular about herself that she doesn’t like? Well, everything about her is STUPID. Her hair is STUPID. Her face is STUPID. And unless she’s wearing her very favorite outfit, she’s ugly.
What do you say to that? I mean, what can you say that doesn’t sound like “Of course you’re pretty!” or—worse!—“Don’t be stupid!”
I ran through every option in my parenting arsenal. I told her that it’s very common, at her age, to start becoming more conscious of how she looks, and equally common to feel that she’s somehow lacking. I told her that the hormones that are starting to course through her body to get her ready for puberty—those same hormones that tend to make her grouchy for no good reason—can trick her into thinking negative things about herself. I told her that true beauty is on the inside, and that people who are beautiful on the inside shine on the outside. I told her that people who worry overly about how they look forget to worry about who they are and how they act. I told her that sometimes it helps to pick ONE thing you like about the way you look and focus on that. (That one went over like a lead balloon, because haven’t you heard? Everything about her is stupid.) I told her that she has the prettiest smile I’ve ever seen, and that when she’s a little bit older all the girls who have to be careful about what they eat are going to hate her because she’s going to stay naturally thin even if she continues eating everything that doesn’t eat her first.
Basically all I accomplished during that conversation is that by the end, I wanted to cry, too.
I know it’s normal. I know this is standard I’m-not-a-little-kid-anymore stuff. I do.
A couple of nights ago the kids were getting ready for bed, and Chickadee came stomping down the stairs with her chin set. She made a beeline for where I was sitting, and demanded, “Is Santa real? TELL ME THE TRUTH.”
The truth is that around Christmas it became abundantly clear that she not only still believed, but that most of the kids in her class did not, and she was horrified at their cynicism. I had left multiple openings for her to “confess” and she had never taken the bait. Now I was to face the music on a random night in February?
“Well, honey, why do you ask?”
Her face crumpled. “You lied to me,” she wailed, before collapsing in my lap, wracked with sobs.
I ran through my parenting arsenal (again). I talked about how it’s a wonderful tradition about giving for the sheer joy of it, and with no expectations or strings attached. I talked about how real magic isn’t flying on brooms and turning invisible, but doing generous things for others and small answered prayers and everyday compassion. I pointed out that next year when we have Christmas with her cousins, she’ll be the only one who knows the secret, and she can help me get things ready for the little boys.
She asked me to tell her about when I found out. Then she asked Otto. Otto couldn’t remember, exactly, but he’s an oldest child just like her, and so he talked about how he got to help for the littler ones after he knew. She tried to digest all of this while curled up as small as possible with her head tucked under my chin.
“I don’t want to grow up,” she whispered into my shoulder, hugging me hard.
I don’t know that there’s a light at the end of this particular tunnel. I think it might be more like a single, flickering lightning bug.
Yesterday Monkey fiddled with a loose tooth until it came out in his hand. “I’m going to write the tooth fairy a note!” he declared, dizzy with the possibilities. Chickadee snuck me a furtive, knowing glance. I smiled at her, a smile that I hope told her that life on this side of the fence is pretty good, too. She smiled back.
This morning, she asked me something and apparently I answered wrong. “FINE!” she screamed at me, stomping off to brush her STUPID HAIR.
It’s hard being the rock in those teenage storms….so hard.
The 14 year old is better now, but wow when she was that age. Seriously wanted to kill her a couple of times. Once they actually start having their real cycle, it gets a little better…it’s only a week or two out of the month, not EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now the second one is hitting that age…and Lord help me. My Mantra is “This too shall pass.”
I guess I’m not a very good mom, cause I always answered the I’m so ugly or I look so stupid comment with a smart butt comment back. Oh my Goodness, you are hideous…the Hunchback is prettier than you…Your hair is stupid? First, I didn’t know hair was an object that had intelligence, and secondly, we’ll just shave it all off then. Really unsympathetic huh?
And my girls will never admit they don’t believe…they like the loot too much.
My oldest daughter sailed serenely through the hormonal waters. I’m still waiting for her to get PMS. Second daughter? Let’s see… first word was, “No!” second word was, “Mine!” and so I reckon we hit PMS stage right around 18 months. Poor love has to cope with a nasty horrid mother who A. refuses to put up with being treated like crap and B. does frequently laugh when Teh Hormones make said daughter say utterly ridiculous things. Fortunately she still loves me, and is – I promise – now emerging from the estrogen storm with few mental scars and a blossoming self image. Thank. God.
I wish I could help but I was an absolutely horrible teenager. I ended up changing my custody agreement and moving in with my father when I was 15. There is just something about mothers and teen girls. You need your Mom but you also can’t stand her at times. Compliments from my father went a lot farther for me in those days than from my Mom. I guess I just needed to hear it from a guy. I did outgrow it and by college I was calling my Mom everyday to tell her all about everything. I still do. The older I get the closer we are. So this too shall pass. Hang in there.
I don’t want to grow up either.
this newfound knowledge – Santa, the tooth fairy & the Easter Bunny are really mom & dad – could be an opening. She says she doesn’t want to grow up, but when she finds out that growing up means new privileges – she could maybe stay up a half hour longer than Monkey, the shared secret about Santa enabling her to help prepare Monkey’s stocking or help wrap his gifts from “Santa”, she gets a key to the front door (not that she gets to come home by herself – duh) but knowing the responsibility that comes with having that key, something like that. Getting a little more allowance than Monkey, etc.
This is exactly why I pray that there is no such thing as reincarnation. I DO NOT want to go through that again. Even knowing what I know now, because logic doesn’t live there. Its all emotion all the time.
Regardless, I have a 6 year old who told me she thought her hands were sore because she was going through puberty (as opposed to sleeping on them funny). I don’t even know where she heard that word before but I feel like I am at the crest of a roller coaster and there is no getting off. I may just jump.
I still have 8 years before I have to worry about a teen-age girl … and I am grateful for every single one of them. :)
This frightens me.
But, can it really be worse than living with a three-year-old?
As the mother of a 7 year old, I already see it coming. She told me the other day that she was fat. WHAT?!?! I’m so not ready for this. Maybe I should start crafting my motherly speeches now. Even better, maybe I should just get them printed on 3X5 cards so I can just hand them to her and run away when the time comes. . . . ahhh, the joys of avoidance
I wish I could tell you that it gets better! Really!…but it doesn’t.
Diva is almost 13 now and I never thought she’d live this long. Last night’s drama was over computer wallpaper. Seriously. She cried.
This post made my heart ache in so many different ways. I remember being that girl–so baffled by my body. But my mother told me I would get boobs and I NEVER did, so make sure you don’t tell her that unless you have a healthy stock of chest in your family. :)
I have a just turned 10 4th grade daughter also and am right there with ya sister! I thank GOD every day that I only have one girl, I really don’t think I could go through this twice, and this is just the begining….
I for one will not only be buying teen Midol for her, but lots…LOTS of wine (for me, of course!)
Oh, Chickadee. Her “I don’t want to grow up” just broke my heart a little. She’s lucky to have you for a mom, though.
the teenage years suck. i either have the world’s sweetest, loving daughter or the 360 head spins with spewing pea soup.
messy, very very messy.
i will offer you one piece of assvice that you weren’t asking for: my daughter spills EVERYTHING if i recount a story from my own childhood. not “oh i went through that too,” but just jumping right in: “when i was 12, i had such a huge crush on this boy and i thought i was gonna die if he didn’t like me too…”
stuff like that. all of a sudden, i’m not MOM but i’m someone who understands her angst.
try “queen bees and wannabe” by rosalind wiseman. best. book. ever. for understanding teen/tween girls.
sorry. didn’t mean to hijack your comments section. i just relate ;-)
I’m sorry C. is going through a rough patch. My own daughter’s drama is of the almost-two variety, rather than the almost-teen variety. Still, there are similarities. Minus body image problems. She consistently beams at the sight of her naked body in the mirror, but the temper! And the real and deeply felt anguish over every little setback!
My son stopped believing in Santa this year. He’s only 6 3/4 and I was jealous that yours both seemed to still believe, but maybe it was better this way. He let go pretty easily, just a little wistful.
“I don’t want to grow up.”
Me neither, Chicadee. But you’ve got the best mom to guide you through the mess that is teenager-dom.
My now 17 YO went through it late – she was great until about 14, and the last 3 years have been rough. However, just as I’m seeing that flickering light with her (going off to college in 6 months!), her 12.5 YO sister is moving into it full swing already! I too remember being this way, feeling out of control – realizing I was being completely irrational but not being able to help it. I try to remember that when the girls go nuts, but it’s not always easy, and often I find myself in shouting matches, being just as irrational as they are. Hmm, wonder where they get it? No great advice here – just hang in there, and love her, and enjoy those little shared mom/daughter moments when they come. The best is when you can get them away from siblings and have just one on one time – it’s so much easier for them to be open when there’s no audience.
Ugh, the drama! One reason I’m glad I have boys. But I’m sure I’ll want to stab them with my fork at times, too. In fact, that happens now, and they’re only 4 and 6.5…
I will pray for you daily. Random compliments help with the uglies, but they can’t come too close to the outbursts. They’ll probably mean more if they come from Otto. I don’t know why, but DQ preens every time the hubs says she looks nice, etc.
And you’re are a much nicer mommy than I am. I take MamaLang’s route and agree with the “I’m so ugly/fat/stupid.” I even gave her a bag for her head one day. No wonder she thinks I’m cruel.
Oh my LORD, I am so glad I only have boys. (Although I did want to stab the 3.5 yr old with my steak knife yesterday.)
I am also glad I only have a boy. I totally could not parent a girl. I don’t remember myself at that age, but I’m sure, as the youngest and the only girl I drove my mother crazy.
I do feel for you also. Except I have boys & my 11 year old is going through something similar??? I can’t relate (Well I can relate to chin whiskers??) and dad is hiding under the couch so he won’t have to get involved. We shall muddle through. Keep up the wonderful advice that you are telling C so I can tell my demon and maybe he will love me in the end. (gripping my fork tightly)
I feel your pain. Mine turns 11 next week. HATES her teeth. HATES her hair. HATES the new hair that is appearing in (in)appropriate places. One day she’s got friends, the next day they’re all enemies. And she still wants to sit on my lap. I love her so much and it’s so hard to be the bystander in all this. But I second Janet: sharing stories from own time in the teen trenches does seem to help us connect.
And the 14 y.o. son? Someone please pass the salt peter!
I remember clearly being nine years old, and having my mom repeatedly tell me, “if you’re going to act like a 13 year old now, remember, you don’t get to do it again in four years.” And I don’t think I did. And God bless her, she didn’t even whack me with a spoon, let alone stab me with a fork. Patience of a saint, I tell you.
I really liked Bob’s advice. I’m totally going to print this & save it; I have 2 girls. I know. I know. If they’re half as hormonal as I was I’m screwed.
I remember going thru that. except my folks weren’t near as nice about it all as you are. Chickadee breaks my heart.
and thank god I have boys. still, I wish I had half your arsenal of mom speeches.
may be inappropriate but, even tho I’m not menopausal, black cohosh has really leveled out my mood swings – maybe I never did get out of that phase, hmm. DH calls it being abducted by the aliens. wonder if it would have helped me (my parents) then?
Oh! My heart is breaking! I remember those emotions at that age, and I’m still facing them with nearly 15 year old girl all the time. It hurts! I’m seriously hoping it gets better and is all worth it at the end of adolescence.
Two things that have helped me (knowing that free advice is worth everything it costs):
1. Most of what she hurls at me isn’t about me. I am being marginalized and minimalized as a person, yes. But she needs to become “herself”, and in so doing she has to work through some of it at my expense. That said, I don’t take the crap. But I don’t take most of it personally.
2. I’ve learned to find other adult mentors for my kids. Especially my daughter. People I trust who will tell them all the wonderful things I tell them. But that they’ll listen to. They don’t always have to hear it from me, so long as they hear it. That said, I still have to keep saying it.
Sorry. I’m just in the middle of it myself.
Can 9 1/2 yr old boys have PMS too? Because if so, then we gots it here at MY house too. I’m STRESSED Mom! You’re MEAN! I’m ALWAYS BORED! I don’t look COOL! Military school sounds better and better. I need to call my mom and apologize now for being a jerk. lol
It’s so much like toddlerhood, only with a bigger vocabulary.
When dealing with the “Sheesh!”es and the eye rolling, I find myself pining for the days when my almost-tenner would say, unprompted and apropos of nothing, “Mama, you’re my best friend.” I am just now beginning to understand that I need to grow much thicker skin in the coming years. Maybe someone could invent that and stock it on the shelves right next to the Tween Midol.
You forgot to mention “a nunnery” for C. Our plan is for our son to live with his Aunt … in the city … and what happens in the city stays in the city unless it makes the local news. :-)
And, yep, know the “I don’t wanna grow up” thing – combined with I do so want to grow up combined with the I don’t want things to change, but I do … gads, those were the difficult years. :-(
I think I am going to try to enjoy the non talking toddler girl I have right now. I remember I was wicked when I was a teen and I dread it with my daughter. But, my mom always told me that I didn’t need to have a girl because my oldest son (almost 8) is worse than a teenage girl at times. Yay!!
Heh, that was supposed to say “almost 8”, but it made a smiley instead.
As hard as it is for her, it’s incredibly hard for you too. Which makes you think of your own mother. Damn. I hate when it turns out they were right. Especially when it takes 25 years for you to understand “You’ll understand when you’re older.”
Oh boy. Not a fun time. I don’t know how my mother survived me during those years, nor do I understand how she LET ME survive during those years.
Tween Midol for her and Valium for you? (Or vodka?)
My heart was breaking reading this. As an “early bloomer”, I remember everything Chickadee is feeling, right up to “I don’t want to grow up.” Heck, I still feel that way!!
Bless both of your hearts.
And where might I get one of these parenting arsenals? Good lord I’m already feeling increasingly less prepared and mine is just barely a toddler. At least he’s boy, I hear they’re easier. Of course if he’s anything like his father (and he is) we’re doomed.
Aw man, Mir, why you gotta make me cry?
This was the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long time. I know you feel like it’s hard and you’re struggling, but trust me, Chickadee is so lucky to have a mom like you who takes her fears seriously, who understands the emotional turmoil she’s going through, who is willing to talk it through with her.
And, man, do I want to scoop that not-yet-a-woman up and give her a huge hug. Those years just suck so, so hard. Thanks so much for writing about this. You’re such a good mom! I hope I am half as good as you are when I have kids.
Between flashbacks to my own youth, I realized that “the Mother’s Curse” (to have a daughter JUST LIKE YOU) that my mother flung at me so haphazardly in my youth is going to come back and bite me in the ass big time. Eleven and a half years until my sweet baby becomes a teen, and I’m stocking up on vodka now!!!
You write so well…..
Here’s something that might help: The Mother Daughter Project, by SuEllen Hamkins & Renee Schultz. With my 10 year old daughter, I’ve formed a group with 3 other mother/daughter pairs. Great fun, and a potential built-in support system for the future (I am *terrified* of her and her little sister’s approaching adolescence, and am trying to head off the worst of it!)
Welcome to my personal hell…. Hang on. It is going to be a bumpy ride.
When does the madness end? Seriously, my daughter’s alien family needs to come back here and beam her up. oh, and I love your “Parenthood: The ability to love another human with the very depths of your soul while simultaneously wanting to reach across the dinner table and stab her with your fork.”
There’s an oldie but goodie out there. I think the title is “Get out of my life! But first, can you drive me to the mall?” The fashions in the pictures may be outdated, but the sentiment isn’t. I read and reread that book when my daughter hit her Tweens; and remember I taught tweens (6th grade) for nine years!
I was just thinking the other day how it took me until the age of 32 to truly appreciate my parents and all they did while I was in those horrifyingly self centered teen years. So you can look at it as personal growth – the more terrifying she gets, the more you’ll appreciate your parents.
My sister married into being a step-parent of twin 9yo girls. They’re now 10. I’m pretty sure she found a really good book. (Their mom has been in pretty severe denial that puberty is well on its way, never mind they have questions about S!E!X! and buds where they used to have nothing.) I’ll ask her to come give you a referral.
Oh my, you just succeeded in scaring the every living crap out of me. I must have completely forgotten my teen years as I do not recall being this way, but I am sure I must have.
I would rather just pretend that my daughter is never going to go through this. Who needs reality?
Bossy has two years. Oyvey, thanks for the reminder.
Why do we love the internet? Because you can commiserate with someone else sho is going through the same dark territory you’re traipsing through, find folks who lived to tell the tale, and vent our spleen (thus saving the need to stab anybody with a fork!)
Some days I wonder if everybody will survive adolescence (my oldest is 12 with a brother and a sister coming up behind her). Some days I promise my kids that if only one of us is coming out alove on the other side, then it’s gonna’ be me.
I do think you’re to be commended for pulling out everything you’ve got in the parental arsenal. Hopefully in the end, when hormones have leveled out and they join the human race again, they’ll see our efforts to guide them through PMS and teen angst as the acts of love and bravery that they were!
*down on knees thanking God from the bottom of my heart for only seeing fit to give me sons*
Hang in there…
Do they make it for boys? OMG I’ve been going through this for the past few years with my son who turns 13 in less than a month.
While I’ve never had to discuss body image issues, we have had many conversations on personal hygiene, instead of screaming I get monosyllabic grunts, and even though he is now my height and has bigger hands and feet than me he still wants to curl up on my lap occasionally.
Aha! Princess Bitchface Syndrome. Don’t you love it. Nearly over for me now. *does victory dance*
I have two girls…now I’m scared. Very scared.
The only thing that I’ve come up with so far to say to my daughter is, “Growing up is hard. Very, very hard.”
Sigh. You’re doing an excellent job, sweetie. I do not envy you.
I remember going through all that when I was a kid. Nothing anyone ever said could make me feel differently. Growing up I learned gradually — so gradually — that while some people might give you grief about your appearance, to your face or behind your back, generally speaking everyone’s too worried about their own. Everyone feels bad sometimes.
Poor Mir and Poor Chicky—poor household. Do they make ‘Tween Brandy? (and I’m not talkin’ ’bout the singer)
Aw Mir! It really does sound like you’re doing a great job! Also sounds very, very hard though.
Carson (a more frequent commenter and reader than I) sent me here today. The books she sent you are really awesome s.e.x. and first period/bras/hormones books. My husband sees his previously loving daughter stomp her feet, yell, roll her eyes and generally behave like an animal instead of a human. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the growling.) He is then afraid that she has an anger problem. I’m so sorry to tell him this is just preteen girl. I sent him here to read as well, just to prove that she isn’t 17 deviations beyound the norm.
I have purchase Queen Bees and Wannabees, but had forgotten. I’ll get right on that reading. And, I’ll keep coming back here so I don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. (sorry to steal your comments, but we just had a weekend from hell–because I didn’t have biscuits for breakfst and I made her wash her hair–I’m really feeling it.)
I’ve always been worried about having teens, but THIS? This has me terrified. I do not have such an extensive and wise parenting arsenal as you and would probably respond to the ugly thing with “Well, you’ll get prettier just as soon as your grow into your new body.” Oh God. I’m a horrible mother and my kids will be ruined. RUINED!
My mother used to stab us with her fork, BTW. We were notorious for putting our elbows on the table, which was when we’d get stabbed. My kids know to sit as far from me as possible.
Being a Mom on the other side of the fence(my oldest daughter is 32 and my youngest is 19.3/4)I can saftly say it is all worth in in the end. I am very close to both we talk daily and believe me when I say I packed Daughter number 1. off to college with GLEE in my heart. Number 2. joined the army at 17. Yes things did get rough and sometimes I couldn’t see the any light at the end of the tunnel I just had to feel my way.Now its sunshine everyday :)
“Parenthood: The ability to love another human with the very depths of your soul while simultaneously wanting to reach across the dinner table and stab her with your fork.”
Amen. Ever thought of getting that made into a T-shirt?
Oh Mir. I’m sorry to break this to you but you’re going to go through it with Monkey too. I’m living this with my 11 year old son right now. Will you still blog in the Witness Protection Program? :)
Does it come in a male version as well???? Nobody warned me that little boys are just as bad and start at 8 OMG! I don’t remember the whole “I hate you” “I’m fat” “my teeth are funny looking” thing happening so young! Now I’m trying to deal with the fact that my bathroom smells like a Guy when he is done, between the body wash, body spray, ect…
Although my daughter is only 8 1/2 yo, she has started already showing signs that we are closing in onto this bumpy territory, suddenly showing apathy, or getting angry at the drop of a pin, so thank you so much for sharing this, it does help a little to know that I’m not alone.
I hope this particular storm passes soon, hang in there, you are a terrific mom :)
Wow, you had some really great answers for her! Mind if I write them down for later use?
Give Chickadee a hug for us!
Oh momma! My daughters are 8 and 4. I am so not ready for this! I hope soon the road gets just a bit less bumpy!
I got my stepdaughter right around chickadee’s age. Yeah, those hormones are a bitch. She insisted, though, that she NEVER got PMS. Ha! Those were fun times, as the rest of us sure saw it.
It will get easier at times. It will get harder at times. I think you’ll handle it with much more aplomb than I did. On the other side of all that, though, we’re friends and can talk without all the angst behind it.
Of course, she’s almost 20 now. And it took until she moved out. But! There’s hope, I swear!
New to your blog and boy this one hit a nerve. I’m right there with you – with an 11yo daughter who is, at the moment, in a rational phase, but she has put me through the estrogen-charged wringer, and I’m sure she will again. Same as you, I love her but want to slug her, and, same as you, it kills me to see my own teenage insecurities rear they’re ugly heads again. One of your commenters recommended QUEEN BEES AND WANNABEES, which is great. Also, MOTHER/DAUGHTER WISDOM by, oh shit, I forget her name, you can look up by the title, great book. She also wrote one on menopause, also great. SHe’s been on Oprah if that means anything to you. And wine always helps, most definitely.
First, I love your blog title!
I have a 14 & 13 year old girl and they starting the evil transformation from sweet, kind, beloved daughters to eye-rolling, bathroom hogging, mood pendulum teenager around the age of 12! Look at it this way, yours is ahead so maybe she will grow out of it early. Or not, YIKES…..good luck.
You’re living my life, except my daughter is only 8.
I found out last week that she accidentally had discovered one of her Christmas presents in my trunk back in December. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry that happened. Which one?” I innocently asked. “My Santa present.” *faint* So! Not only was she let down, having seen one of her presents early, but imagine her heartbreak on Christmas morning when she excitedly opened her present from Santa… that was straight out of the trunk of my car.
And, yes, we’re going through the “I’m so ugly” phase combined with the “Everyone’s thinner than me” phase. It’s driving me crazy and breaking my heart all at the same time. I have run out of ways to sympathize and attempt to calm/comfort her.
So, yes, I feel your pain.