Our family reached a milestone this summer. We have four teenagers in the house, and three of them are girls! When our children were younger, I can’t tell you how many times we heard comments like: “Teenage girls have so much drama” or “They’re going to hate you from the time they’re 15 until they’re 21” or simply “God bless you. You’re going to need it.”
I won’t even address the inherent sexism that accompanies the countless declarations we’ve heard about how much more difficult teenage girls are than boys because that would fill a book. I will say that Henry Ford’s quote rings true here. He famously said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t—you’re right.” This quote might be rephrased to apply to parenting teenage girls to say, “Whether you think she’s difficult or you think she’s not—you’re right.”
I think all these expectations of attitude, conflict, drama, and strife that we project onto teenage girls becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we THINK that they’ll behave a certain way, we’ll see all of the behavior that confirms OUR preconceived notions of how teenage girls are. If we choose to see the good, that’s what we’ll see. As a mother of three teenage girls, I choose to see the good in them, and my life is much less difficult for it.
Am I just burying my head in the sand? No way! My teenage girls (all my children really, but I’ll focus on my teenage girls here) bring me so much joy, each in her own way.
My oldest, Elizabeth, recently got her driver’s license, and she doesn’t hesitate to load her youngest sister’s carseat into her car and take her out for cookies or donuts. She’s a Girl Scout, and, though only half-way through with high school, she’s already completed more than the 100 volunteer hours required to complete her AICE high school diploma. Service is where her heart is, and it shows both to our family and to the organizations she serves. Far from hating each other, Elizabeth and I love to talk and laugh with one another.
Grace is technically my step-daughter, but I think of her as my own. She is downright hilarious and is nearly always upbeat and happy. Grace’s jokes brighten my days, which has become even more important during the last few months of quarantine. Her upbeat attitude brings a smile to my face. Every single time I enter a room, I hear Grace say, “Hey cutie!” When I get dressed up (which these days means could simply mean putting on a pair of shorts instead of sweatpants), Grace always affirms me with comments like “Mom, you look so pretty!” And yes she calls me Mom, even though I didn’t birth her. If you’re a step-mom, you know how deeply I cherish how comfortable she is with calling me that.
Maggie is our newest teenager, and just like Grace she is my step-daughter but calls me Mom. She was the baby of the family for a long time before our youngest two arrived, and I worried about her being “dethroned” from her baby-of-the-family status, but she is an AMAZING big sister. Maggie paints her little sister’s fingernails and toenails, and she’ll put her baby brother in a stroller and take him for a walk. She’s a kind and gentle soul. I was recently talking to the mother of a friend of Maggie’s and that mom told me that she had read her daughter’s texts when her daughter was going through a difficult time. That mom confided in me that Maggie’s texts were nothing short of incredible. Even in an instance when she had no expectation of anyone knowing if she’d do the right thing, Maggie uplifted and encouraged her friend.
All three of my teenage girls are active in their church youth group. They all volunteer at the church and take their smiling faces with them. My girls love musicals, and our home is often filled with the sound of them singing along to Hamilton. They are all wonderful examples to their brothers and little sister. As parents, my husband and I could not ask for better daughters, and we can only hope that our younger ones are such a pleasure to parent when they are teenagers.
Rather than characterizing teenage girls as dramatic or catty, my experience with teenage girls is that they are vibrant, loving, funny, joy-filled, exuberant, friendly, and the list goes on and on.
If you’re the mother of girls and you hear the same negative remarks that we hear, remember “Whether you think she’s difficult or you think she’s not—you’re right.”
Teenage boys on the other hand . . .