Tag Archives: teenage daughters

One more day

DQ leaves tomorrow for her dad’s. I’ve distanced myself from this reality, treating it like one long vacation. And for the most part, I’ve been blissful in my little world of denial. She’s been busy packing up her room, taking over the washer machine and boxing up anything she thinks will fit into my car for her last trip away from our home. I took her shopping for warmer clothes, since she is leaving the warmer winters of the Bay Area for the snowy weather of the mountains. And I’ve forbid myself from dwelling too hard in “lasts”.

Like, last time we watch cheesy sitcoms together. Last time we trade movie quotes. Last time we bake snickerdoodles. Last time we wrestle over my Spotify account. Last time I treat her to a cupcake. Last time she confides in me over matters of the heart. Last time the two females overpower our house of boys.

It hasn’t been all wine and roses, though. She’s a typical teenager, which of course means she’s been pleasant as pie. That’s sarcasm, if you can’t read between the lines. She’s totally checked out of our house, and counting down the moments when she is out of our evil clutches and living in the wonderful home of her father. It’s funny, a year ago when Frizz was going through his own annoying adolescence of treating adults like gum on the bottom of his shoe, DQ told me she would NEVER be like that. At the time, I was actually dumb enough to believe her. And then she entered high school, and Shawn and I became the stupidest people on the planet. Shawn has received the brunt of this title from her. There is a very small percent of me that wonders how much more peaceful life will be after she moves from here, moves into a home that offers much less in just about everything, and finally sees all we do for her on a daily basis.

Of course, if I think too hard about where she is going to live, I can’t help but freak out a little.

The Ex is barely making it financially. He has a job now, but he’s not known for keeping jobs. Half the time he is working under the table to avoid paying child support. He’s struggling with his addictions, still unable to get a full year of sobriety under his belt. I never know when the guy is telling the truth or pulling my leg. Sometimes he’s lying to hide stuff he’s ashamed of, sometimes he lies to keep himself out of trouble, and sometimes he just lies to amuse himself. He lives in a tiny one-bedroom apartment that he shares with his ex-girlfriend’s female cousin and her two kids. He has his infant son several days a week. And DQ will be sleeping in a closet that’s been turned into a cramped mini bedroom. He doesn’t have a car, and it’s unclear how she is going to get to school every day. His roommate has a car, but knowing the Ex, he’ll burn that bridge soon and will be left with no transportation whatsoever. He can’t even pick up the kids tomorrow as planned, since he failed to secure a car before then, despite the fact that we planned this trip a month ago. He has never been the primary parent of DQ and Taz – that job has always been left to me. And I worry about what he really has to offer her as a parent. Does he have it in him? Can he do this? Am I sending DQ to the sharks, and will she come out worse on the other side?

This is a man who used to abuse me, who chose drugs as his answer to handling life, who took my paycheck and left me to starve, who made my life a living hell until I finally walked out. This is the man who gave me nightmares for years after until I was finally able to let it all go and move beyond the thought of him, leaving all those demons in the past. I no longer hate him. I am no longer angry. But I also no longer have faith in him.

But I know I have to let her go. I feel like this is a God thing, like God is telling me to just trust that everything will be ok. She has friends up there, the kind of friends I wish she could have made down here. She has a chance to really start over fresh, having realized the mistakes she’s made here. I have people all around me who are angry with this decision, questioning me and DQ about this decision. And honestly, I don’t have an answer that will appease everyone about why I am letting this happen. DQ would hate me forever if I forbid this. I have to let her see what it’s like on her own for her to understand. I am running the risk of her deciding she loves it there, and never coming back. I know this, even though my denial is telling me she will most definitely be back when the school year is over. How could she not? What is there over there for her that is so much better than here?

“You’re in denial,” my cousin told me when I let her know for the first time that DQ was moving away, and who she moving in with.  She said it because I was so calm, treating this as if it were a normal case of a teenage girl living with her father.  But it isn’t.  I know that.  It hasn’t been normal since I met the man almost 20 years ago.  But I’m powerless in this decision.  And I hate it more than anyone knows.  And the only way to cope with it is to remain in denial.

One more day.  And then the whole world will be changed.

Teenage Jekyll & Hyde

(This article is publishing in the Press Democrat on June 29th)

On a recent evening, I took my daughter, DQ, to the store to go shopping for some clothes and jewelry she wanted for a special occasion.  We not only looked for what she needed, but had fun going through the different aisles trying on scarves and making fun of gaudy rings.  It was an inexpensive way to get in some mother-daughter time – until we got to the checkout.  We both knew I ended up spending too much money on her, and she was extremely gracious about all her new pretty things I bought for her.  So I was caught off guard when the very next day she was blasting me via text about how uncool I was over a household rule I wouldn’t bend on, and how I always treated her like a baby.  We closed the conversation and ended up not speaking to each other for the rest of the day.

The following day she helped me put dishes away, finished her chores early, and then hung out with me all afternoon.  But that night at dinner she sassed back anyone who had the audacity to speak to her, making it clear that we were all idiots, and appalled when we required her to help out with cleaning up after dinner.  A mere 30 minutes later, she was lacing up her shoes to join me on a run around our neighborhood.  When we got home, she cracked jokes with her stepdad.  But when he joked back, she whipped around and snapped at him.

We are officially in the Jekyll & Hyde years, that lovely age when darling daughters turn into exceptionally moody beings that are sweet as pie one second, and then turn into raving monsters the next.  Sometimes there’s a buildup to the actual explosion, giving you some time to duck and take cover.  But mostly it’s without warning, the scene changing from serene to volatile in the blink of an eye.

“One minute you still have your sweet girl, the next minute she’s back talking and slamming her door. Never really know which one you’re dealing with,” Carley Harp of Rohnert Park said about teenage girls around age 14.

One mom I know was astounded when she discovered that her daughter had a secret Facebook for her friends, and a more innocent one she kept for all her family.  Another mom stated that her daughter had recently stopped speaking altogether to her parents, her only form of communication done by rapidly moving fingers over the keyboard of her phone.

Having worked with teenagers for years at a summer camp our family attends, I have witnessed girls around my daughter’s age who are incredibly mature in their responsibilities.  But get them around their parents, these same girls are suddenly spewing venom and hatred.  And have you ever witnessed a Facebook newsfeed filled with hormonal teenage girls?  Emotions create an avalanche of ups and downs, ranging from exaggerated excitedness to depressed song lyrics and cryptic codes begging for others to ask “what’s wrong”.

“My girl was sweet, calm and gentle up until puberty,” Caren McLerran of Santa Rosa said about her own now-adult daughter.  “Then wham, she changed into a secretive, defiant person that I didn’t know.”  But she offered hope to parents going through the same thing with their daughters, having observed her own daughter coming back to her senses around age 18.   “Let’s just say that the caterpillar stage of a girl’s life is hell, eating her way through the feelings of everyone around her. But as she emerges from her rather toxic chrysalis she has once again returned to her beautiful butterfly-self.

The fact of the matter is that girls around age 13-15 are going through a huge shift in how they view their bodies, what it takes for boys to be interested in them, the pressure of popularity and fitting in, and the hormonal and physical changes going on inside and outside their bodies.  According to statistics, 50% of young teenage girls view themselves as fat, and 80% have dieted in some form or another (visit anad.org and eatingdisorders411.com for more statistics on teens and body image).  Peer pressure, whether it be drugs, sex, or any other pressure of “going with the flow”, are the strongest in the early teen years.  And this is the age when teens begin to make real adult decisions that could impact the rest of their lives.

So how do you deal with the fragile temperament of these cantankerous cherubs?  There is no cookie cutter answer.  The best you can do is try to remember what it was like when you were a teenager, and have empathy for what your daughter is going through.  And whenever she’s on the sweet side of her Jekyll & Hyde mentality, savor it for all its worth.