I can feel the heat rising in my neck as I log onto my daughter’s email account because I’m afraid at what I might see.
Less than a year ago, I had no reason to check her email. She had a phone and always knew I ‘could’ check it if I wanted to but mostly I only checked it on occasion, just in case. I think teenagers need space and I promised her I wouldn’t intrude unless I thought I needed to.
Lately I’ve thought I needed to more than I wish. She started hanging out with a new friend. A friend with a different set of values. So I watched more closely. My daughter’s grades started slipping. I watched even closer. A change in grades and textbook behavior is a classic sign of trouble so I started to monitor the situation regularly.
Every stage of childhood has its own challenges, but 13 makes me want to gauge my eyes out. Nothing makes me question my ability as a mother like a 13 year-old.
Every day is like riding one of those loop-o-plane rides at a carnival…ups and downs, flipping between excitement and nausea often accompanied by loud music.
I worry I get on her case too much. I worry I didn’t get on it enough.
I talk to friends. I read articles quoting experts. I love that kid so much that I feel at any minute my heart could burst.
Sometimes I catch her singing to herself, or writing, or cooking in the kitchen and I can see the beautiful person she is capable of becoming.
Then, five minutes later my jaw drops in wide-eyed amazement as I see a text she has sent to a friend dropping an F-bomb.
These days, I never know what I’m going to get. The kid who walks into my office with a Starbucks in hand and a funny story to share or the kid who wants to argue over everything I ask her to do. Or will it be the kid who wants to cuddle on the couch and watch a movie.
It’s like an alien has taken over her body.
It’s hard to watch your kid do dumb stuff.
Practically speaking, if a friend found herself in the same situation I would tell her all the right things…keep the lines of communication open, its normal for kids to act out and experiment at this age, it’s not a reflection of her as a mother blah, blah, blah…
Yet, all of this feels personal to me.
I wake up and go to bed praying for the wisdom to know what she needs today. How best to talk to her, to be firm but loving, to pick the right battles that are worth fighting.
Every day I renew my promise to give her my all of the support, love and guidance she needs to grow into a productive, happy, well-adjusted adult.
And most days I feel like I fall short.
Then I think back to the stupid things I did at that age and remind myself that she’s a good kid. I kick fear in the face and try to focus.
I remember asking my mom once “Do you ever stop looking at your kids like they are the best thing?”
My mom who skillfully and gracefully (most times) raised 6 strong-willed kids didn’t hesitate. “Yes, between the ages of 13 and 15,” my mom replied. “They think they know everything and are a giant pain. You love them but you don’t always like them much. Then they start coming around.”
OK just two more years of this to go….
Allison Andrews is adjusting to life as the mom of a teenager which she says is more difficult than earning the 3 Emmy awards that sit in her office. She left a 25-year career in television news to help other people tell their stories and find more time to tell her own. Follow her latest adventures to visit 50 places she’s never been the year she turns 50 at MileMarker50.com