Dear Future Teenage Daughter,
I know the tough years are ahead of us. I’m sure there will be moments that we probably won’t even like one another. You’ll be convinced I’m out to ruin your life, and we’re convinced you’re trying to put us in an early grave.
Even though by the time you’re a teenager I will have almost two decades of experience working with teenagers, these trying years of your childhood scare me more than the unknown world of infancy and sleepless nights. I understand at this point it’s less and less about me and more and more about you. You will start to make your own decisions and choices. I will just be a voice of reason in your subconscious. What your friends have to say and think may matter more to you than what your dad and I say and think. So when times get tough and we’re both possibly angry and one or both of us are crying I hope this letter offers you a sense of comfort and direction.
The first and most important thing to remember, daughter, is NO matter what, your dad and I love you so much. I remember when you were four years old and you cut your sister’s hair (see, you’re already smiling again at that memory) and you told me you didn’t think I loved you anymore because I was upset with you for giving your sister the most horrific haircut ever. In that moment I tried so hard to get you to understand that no matter the mistakes or bad decisions you would make I would always love you. Being upset with you never means we love you less. We get upset because we love you so much and just want the very best for you. We know you will make mistakes and even when we’re disappointed in you we ALWAYS love you.
As a teenager I know you’re going to make mistakes and bad decisions. The greatest poor decision I fear is drinking and driving, whether it’s you or getting in car with a friend that’s been drinking. I beg you to pick up that phone and call one of us to come get you and your friends. Forget about the fact that you’ll get in trouble for underage drinking. We’ll both quickly get past the disappointment and hurt feelings of that, but we would never get past the hurt feelings of something happening to you. So always know you can call us.
I know you’re going to be influenced by your friends and peers. You will probably be more concerned with what they think than what your father or I think. But be the leader, daughter, don’t be the follower. The real friends, even in the tender years of adolescence, will not pressure you to do something you don’t want to do. The friends that respect your decisions and accept you for you, regardless of how different you are from them, are life’s true friends. Maybe even the ones that will last through adulthood.
The same thing goes for social media. Raising a teenager during the digital age is rather intimidating. I have one simple guideline for you on this one: be a positive example. Just keep that as your personal rule for censoring what to share and not to share.
Whether it’s in the hallways or cyber space always stand up for yourself, your sister, the underdog and victim. You won’t find yourself in trouble from me for standing up for yourself or someone else. As much as I worry about negative influences and pressure, I also know on the other hand positive pressures to excel in and out of the classroom can be overwhelming, too. I want you to push yourself but not to the point that you start to hate school or whatever activity you enjoy. Life, especially these adolescent years of your youth, are meant to be enjoyed. These are some of the greatest years of your life, and we do want you to learn the value of hard work but I’ve also seen what pressure to overachieve does to adolescents so never be afraid to talk to us about feeling overwhelmed or the need to cut back.
That being said, you may think we’re out to make your life harder instead of easier because we won’t buy you every little thing everyone else’s parents are supposedly buying their teenagers, or we make you pay for some things on your own. We’re not trying to make your life hard, daughter, we’re trying to prepare you to deal with hard. It is our job to prepare you for the adult world you’re so anxious to probably enter at this point, but you have to know the value of money and credit in order to be ready for that world.
The last thing we want you to know during these coming-of-age years, is about boys and that first love. I know your dad may threaten that you can’t date until you’re thirty, but I’ll talk him down to about half of that around 16 so you should at least by thankful for that. Honestly, your dad and I both had our first long term relationship that started at 15. Just like with your friends, find a boy that loves you for you and respects your choices. That first love at 15, 16, 17, or whenever it is will be special to you. But here’s the important thing to remember when you’re facing that first broken heart. It is not the end of the world. Your life will go on to be beautiful and complete, and when you look back at this first love hopefully it will also be a beautiful memory of your past. Both your dad and I had high school sweethearts that obviously were not each other, and these past relationships were important to each of us in their own way. But our lives did go on and so will yours.
This time right now may seem hard and like we don’t understand. But we are your training wheels. We’re here to help you keep your balance as you slowly begin to navigate from the world of childhood to adulthood. We are here for you and know you can always come to us. No matter what it is, we will figure it out. Most importantly, know we love you.
About the Author
Angela Williams Glenn is the writer behind Stepping into Motherhood and the book about motherhood in our 21st century digital world, Moms, Monsters, Media, and Margaritas . She is a teacher, wife, and mother to three young children from two months to seven years of age.