When I was a teenager, I was certain that my mom had never been one. She never wore trendy clothes, gossiped with her girlfriends, or had a crush. The Beatles? Bet she never listened to them. Hippies? She probably never knew one. As far as I was concerned, she was never “cool.”
When I had my daughter exactly 15½ years ago, I was determined to not let this same thing happen to me. After all, unlike my own mom, I had authentic teenage experience which would enable me to better understand the nuances of teenage angst, and avoid the pitfalls of high school parenting. Boy was I WRONG.
Seventh grade was simple. My then thirteen-year-old daughter wore ponytails, hoodies and jeans, texted her friends, and made high honors. But that year went quick, and by the time age 14 rolled around, her eyes began to roll as well. She lobbied brilliantly for Instagram and SnapChat, learned how to tame her gorgeous wavy blond hair, and started requesting trips to the mall. After much hesitation and deliberation, we switched out her flip phone for an iPhone and she was off and running into contemporary teen-dom. We fastened our seat belts.
In the first half of 8th grade, I made every effort to keep up with the current trends. We shopped at American Eagle, I listened to her music in the car, and took her to her first concert, which, I’ll admit, I actually enjoyed. But then something happened. I don’t know exactly how or when, but “we” were suddenly gone, and only “she” remained. I had unknowingly crossed over to the uncool side of the street, and I don’t know when or if I’ll be allowed back.
I’ve always had decent rhythm, but now my dancing is an embarrassment. I have a master’s degree, but I don’t know anything. I run my own website, but if I’m not a master of the latest social media app, I’m old and completely out of touch. My fashion sense is flawed, dinner always sucks, and sometimes I forget that my card has a chip, and I swipe (which she quickly points out every single time). I’m constantly blamed, doubted, and second-guessed. If anyone else ever treated me like this, I’d run the other way and fast.
But, my husband and I gave birth to this beautiful woman-child, and we must continue to be supportive and understanding. We must be a soft place for her to fall when life throws her curves. We have to help her learn from her mistakes with us and with others, even if it causes us to feel hurt, sad, or really, really, really angry.
Problem is, I haven’t figured out how to do any of this, as I had counted on my “cool” to get me through. But here’s the one thing that I actually have learned – raising a teenager is about so much more than just the teen. It’s about us as parents. It’s about the agonizing process of watching our sweet children turn sour, knowing that the sweet will eventually return, and loving them through the process. It’s about taking hits, shaking them off, and staying strong. It’s about believing in yourself, in your parenting, and in your child.
On tough days I focus on the positives, and I’m comforted by my daughter’s creativity and commitment to academics. She’s an accomplished musician and pours her sweet, guarded heart into guitar and piano. She’s a whiz in the kitchen and has mastered the intricacies of cooking, baking and cake decorating. Whatever piques her interest, she embraces fully and passionately, and maybe one day that will be me.
In the meantime, I’ll keep on dancing, cooking and swiping. I’ll love my little girl as hard as she lets me, and proudly wear my “uncool” title until it gradually wears off. I will do my absolute best to be the strong, determined, and honest role model of a mom that I have always tried to be. And if you ask me, that’s pretty cool.
Abby Helman Kelly is a Simsbury mom of four and the founder and owner of www.glutenfreeconnecticut.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.