A Slice of the Pie: The T trials – Welcome to raising a teen

October 2022 Posted in Opinion / Columnists

Last winter my middle daughter turned 11 and friends and family took turns congratulating her, making comments about how much she’s growing up and what a lovely human she’s become. 

Then, one week later, my oldest daughter turned 13 and things got a little weird. There were still a lot of well-wishes and congratulations but there were also a lot of folks who wished me luck because, according to them, I am going to need it. 

I have to say, it caught me by surprise. Sure, I’ve heard all of the stereotypes about how teenagers can act. And yes, I know some of them are true – after all, I was one myself. But I also know that the mopey, eye rolling, back talking, cell phone loving depiction so often portrayed in movies isn’t the whole story. 

Nor did my lovely 12-year-old daughter go through any kind of wild overnight metamorphosis on the eve of her 13th birthday – I checked, and she’s still the same girl. So, what gives?

Well, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought over the last six months, and I’ve come up with a theory – the fear of the dreaded T’s. 

First it was the terrible twos. 

“I hope you’re ready for two!” everyone around me seemed to say. 

So, I steeled myself, waiting for the little monster to emerge. Then…nothing.

Sure, she had her moments – doesn’t every toddler? But we worked our way through them just as we would work our way through the trials of every age. 

What good then did all those doomsday predictions do me – or us (as my daughter was more often than not in the room)? Was the repetition of negative stereotypes helpful? I’m not sure. 

Now, apparently, I’m back there again. Facing the dreaded T’s. 

This time I’d like to think I’m a much more seasoned parent. Enough that I’m inclined to ignore the negative hype and in favor of looking forward to the many positives the next seven years might bring. 

And no, I’m not naive. I know within a stereotype there is often a nugget of truth and that there is every possibility a whole plethora of annoying “teen behaviors”. I just don’t want those to be my focus. 

So, I’m blocking my ears – or trying to – and tuning out what I’ve come to see as a tired rhetoric. Instead, I’m filling my mind with the sage advice of my friend, Ted Hays, who said it is the job of every parent – and the community as well – to see the good in all children and to recognize those innate gifts that have been inside them since birth. And then, to nurture them. If we don’t, we are not only letting them down but letting ourselves down as well.  I like that. It’s simple. 

As I set out on my journey as the mom of a teen, I hope to keep those priorities in mind. Not to inhibit and cut my daughter down by expecting the worst, but to build her confidence and help her grow her into her best self at every age. 

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