Ideas & Advice

Raising a teenager is scary. Don’t be daunted and embrace the hard work | Andie Fox

Raising my daughter through this teenage years is scary and i dont know if i will make it

These core years of adolescent education are a bit like the early years of parenthood. Once again you feel overwhelmed and incompetent. There is also loneliness.

Sometimes when I admit to another parent that it is hard, harder than I expected, they bow their heads close to mine and with wide eyes whisper urgently something very disturbing they are facing as a parent. Their voices convey the relief of an honest conversation, but also the pain of big issues that cannot be solved immediately for a child.

The loneliness we felt when raising babies consisted of maintaining the facade that babies didn’t soften us too much or that the days were filled with nothing but joy. Now, loneliness is all about being low-key. Teens have a right to privacy and rebirth while they get along. While teen impulsiveness is quite predictable, bad choices are always judged very harshly by the rest of the world.

I don’t know if the world is getting more and more complex for raising teenagers or if it has been so busy for a long time. I don’t know because like I said nobody talks about this part of parenting very honestly. I recently sought advice from a close friend. She was going through a rough time as a mother, but she said, reassuringly, that it’s probably like that book we read and read to our children when they were little: We go bear hunting. .

In the book, a young family goes on an adventure to find a bear. The plot is like the motivations you fabricate to maintain the energy of small children on long walks. We are walking, why? To find a bear, of course. When walking with young children, even the simplest walks present challenges. Every lump of mud or water that you manage to get through without a child falling into it feels like a feat.

So, it always seemed logical to me that the book should focus more on the obstacles of walking than on the dangers of a bear. And whenever the family is deterred by new ground, the book repeats the mantra: we can’t go over, we can’t go under, we have to go through.

When I used to read this story to my children, I assumed its appeal lay in the whimsical meaning of the drama and song-song lessons on prepositions and spatial concepts. But maybe the book was written for parents? Rereading it as the mother of a 16-year-old girl, it seems obvious that her real purpose is to print a script for a living.

And so, I now look with curiosity at the depictions of mother and daughter in the book. In one part of the story, the family makes their way through an overgrown field. The mother and the little girl, arms outstretched towards each other, hold hands but are swallowed up to the breasts in the tall grass. Does the daughter show her mother the way or does the mother help her daughter across the grass? We can’t assume at this point in teen parenting that we as parents always know what’s best.

I remember a quietly haunting poem by Lucille Clifton, My mom moved through the days, describing the experience of being the child of a failing mother. The mother does her best – “she almost took us through the tall grass” – before tragically succumbing to something terrible inside her and returning to the grass on her own.

My own experience with mothering a teenage daughter is that there is a lot of push-pull. She still wants to hold my hand, but insists that she knows the right way through the tall grass. So when I look at this illustration in the Bear Hunt story, I see a mother trying to take her daughter off a dangerous path.

I try to explain this fear to my daughter carefully, so as not to offend her.

What it feels like to not only be afraid, as a parent, but also to be unexpectedly helpless. My daughter and I were walking our dogs off leash, when I told her about a fear in the United States, real or imagined, that dogs might be lured away from their owners by coyotes.

Whether the dog follows a coyote for play or out of bravado it can’t be said, but the result is that they underestimate the mischievous little creature until they find themselves isolated and surrounded by a pack. Then, far from the protection of their owner, they are killed.

Her mouth fell in horror. That’s what it feels like to be a parent sometimes, I told her. I’m trying to remind you, to warn you of the dangers of the world, but you disappear into the tall grass.

Of course, my daughter is not like a pet. She is not mine; she becomes her own person. And I have deliberately tried not to bring up my daughter to be too afraid of the world, lest she limit her participation as a young woman.

But the youthful underestimation, my corresponding helplessness, and the collision of it all with a world not as good as I hoped for my children turns out to be a daunting combination for me as a mother.

What to do? When I feel engulfed, I remember the instructions from the book. Resistance and avoidance are their own pain. Achieve acceptance – that I will have to pass by there and doing the hard work that goes with it – is the only way for me to get to the other side.

My friend, if it’s you too, I have these words for you: continue.

Andie Fox is a freelance writer who writes about motherhood from a feminist perspective.

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