It’s Sunday morning and I just picked up donuts for my daughter and her friends. Yesterday, one friend coming over turned into three and before the night was over there were five giggling teenagers singing songs from musicals well into the night.
I love having the kids at the house. It seems lively and fun. I like being able to keep my eyes on them too. Knowing Olives friends is important to me, and I’m happy she’s chosen such nice girls to spend time with. I like having them close because I want to hear them. I want to listen to what they say and what’s important to them. This morning, I noticed something new.
As they were deciding what they wanted to eat a different tone emerged. They each shared their preferences, some more specific than others, and few made comments as if the ones sharing their preferences were just being picky.
As if they were just being difficult for no reason.
It was all done as teasing, but the underlying message was there. Just do what we are doing. Just eat like we do.
I went and got them donuts, something they all agreed on and on the way home I thought, there is something more there. Something more than the food choices and preferences. Something important.
And so when I came home, with the donuts in hand, I put my hand on top of the box and I looked at each of them around the kitchen island. I looked at them right in the eyes and I said, “I don’t care if it’s potatoes or melted cheese or eggs or chocolate or lipstick or beer or hugs or whatever it is… YOU get to decide what is okay for you. YOU get to decide what you want and what you don’t want and nobody else gets to decide for you. It doesn’t even have to make sense to anyone else. It’s up to you.”
They stared at me, but their eyes said relief. Their eyes said, Yes! Someone heard us and knows that this is hard. Being a girl, a teenage girl in this grown up world, is hard work. Wanting to be invisible while still having preferences makes navigating everything that much harder.
I find my job as a mother, less now about helping with the basics and more about searching for the hidden and the complex. I find myself searching for clues about what will happen when I’m not there and trying to weigh out what is ‘just talk’ and what is a nugget into a world I hardly remember. I take a risk, saying what I think and telling them a truth, but today it pays off.
Raising strong daughters is more than a one mother job. I rely on the mom’s of her friends to notice and take action. I rely on teachers to encourage her to speak up in a room full of strangers and say what she thinks, even when it’s hard.
Moms of teenage girls lets stick together. Let’s speak up and direct them to be strong, smart, fearless women someday. I know we can.