I ask my daughter how she’s doing every single morning when she wakes up. She always replies with “fine” or “good.”
I ask her how her day was when I pick her up from school. She gives me the same “fine” or “good” regardless of the kind of day she’s had– there’s no way anyone has a good day every day for years in a row, especially during the teen years.
I smile and try not to press her for more until she had a chance to wake up or has been home from school for a bit and is able to decompress with some water and a snack.
I’ve been asking her how she is long enough to know every day is simply not “fine” or “good.” I don’t want to push her away but I don’t want to take her words at face value, I know better.
1988 wasn’t so long ago that I don’t remember being in 8th grade and all the twisted, thorny thoughts and emotions that come with that age. Many things certainly didn’t feel “fine” or “good” to me – not my body, not my hair, not my mood swings, not my school work, not my parents’ divorce, not the friend drama.
I dig a little deeper asking her questions about her friends, who she sat with at lunch, what she has for math homework, and if she wants to do anything fun this weekend.
Then I stop. I know what she wants to say but isn’t able to.
I know she wants to tell me she’s constantly comparing herself to other girls and it’s not something she used to do when she was swinging next to them on the swings during elementary school recess.
I know she feels nostalgic for her younger years and misses being little, but she can’t say that because she likes being a young adult and having freedoms, and she’s confused about it all.
She wants to say she feels down sometimes and wants to be alone but she has no idea why. Her sadness and irritation feel like they’re constantly in the way and she doesn’t know how to push through her feelings to get to a happier place.
She wants all the same jeans the other girls are wearing but hates how she slips them on and feels disappointed they don’t look as good on her as everyone else.
She has wavy hair but she wishes it was straight and wonders why she doesn’t score as many goals on her lacrosse team as some of the other girls and thinks everyone notices her because of it.
She’s afraid if she stands up for herself or disagrees with a friend she might not be accepted or included or invited to do things with them any longer.
She’s sick of me asking her questions and trying to comfort her and guide her to believe in herself. My words don’t mean all that much because of course I’m supposed to think she is beautiful, she’s my daughter. And she wishes I would stop.
But I won’t stop, I can’t stop teaching her how to show up for herself. I won’t stop sending her inspirational memes and having talks with her on the way to get our brows waxed even if she continues to tell me she’s “fine” and “good” and it seems like she isn’t listening to a word I am saying.
Our teenagers can be happy and well- adjusted and still struggle. This is the age they learn self-assault and it’s hard to turn the negative voices in their heads off.
They are curious, they are trying to figure all out, they are trying to find their place in their social circle and in the world. They are trying to find themselves and discover who they are going to be.
That’s weighty stuff, and it doesn’t come with feeling “fine” every day. And so, I will keep asking. I’m I’ll get the same response knowing that isn’t the case most of the time and do my best to let her know my heart is always open to discuss anything she wants.
There are times in our lives that can feel so tumultuous yet we can’t quite hammer down what is wrong. It just feels like there is a longing we are trying to get a hold of and dissect it to death so we can figure it out, then make it go away.
At best, this what the teenage years feel like, and that doesn’t equal “fine.” Not even a little bit.