Becoming You

May 5, 2016
Reading time: 3 minutes
Kindness, Parenting

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In honor of Mother’s Day I want to share some of the joys and discoveries of my parenting journey. As a mother of four, ranging in ages from 3 to 17, I want to say I’ve seen it all. I want to say that, but just when I think I’ve got everything covered one of my children hits another developmental milestone and I feel like I’m back at square one.

 

My daughter is 12, going on 13, going on 32. Much has been written about the mother/teenage daughter dynamic. Many women recall their teenage years and the strife in their relationships with their own mothers. There’s so much going on. While their bodies are changing rapidly and dramatically this is also the time when they are working through issues of attachment versus separation from their mothers, as well as reconciling a level of similarity and differentiation they are comfortable with. (Thank you very much, puberty.)

 

From the Pixar’s Inside Out:

“Hey guys! What’s poo-burty?” [puberty]

“Huh…Probably not important.”

 

I laughed and laughed.

 

This is the time where girls this age are exploring their individuality and discovering who they are in the world outside of their place in our family. They are testing the boundaries of their independence and attachment. That all sounds very logical and simple on paper, but in the real world this means they make fun of our clothes and roll their eyes at things we say. It’s personal, but at the same time it’s an expected and necessary part of their developmental process. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call them out on it; it just means we need to try (really hard) not to let it hurt our feelings.

 

It’s an interesting time. On one hand my daughter wants privacy and to be given more freedom, while at the same time, she still calls me from the other room to pour her a bowl of cereal. Independence – Attachment.

 

The mother-daughter relationship is complex because a teenage girl has two levels of connection – she is attached to her mother, the birth connection and subsequent years of nursing and nurturing create a powerful bond and both (mother and daughter) are sexually similar (female). It is difficult for girls to create an identity of their own in their mother’s shadow and it causes strain as the daughter explores various ways to be independent. Those various means she employs to create a distinct identity are rarely artful. She loves you, but she hates you. She needs to be independent from you, but she needs you to stay close.

 

It’s a dance and not a particularly graceful one! Often fathers of teenage girls will tell me that they tell their wives, “Would you just leave her alone? All you two ever do is fight!” But as a mother, that’s the role. Not fighting back severs the security of being attached to each other, and she needs to feel that bond in these years. At the same time, a mother has to allow her daughter some independence in her thinking, clothing, music and lifestyle choices.

Having Kids

 

With emotions (and hormones) running amok it’s easy for mothers and daughters to fall into negative patterns and for sadness and bitterness to take root. It’s a difficult time for both, but as the Mom, I try to remember how I felt during those teen years. It’s impossible to be a perfect parent, but I use kindness as my guiding principle. I listen with an open mind. I show as much compassion as I can muster. I ignore what she just said about my dress.

 

Thought Into Action

Remember when you were going through the teen years and discovering your identity? What would the teenage you think about who you are today? (And maybe call your mom and apologize. I started doing this years ago.)

 


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