Oh, Mom, You Just Don’t Get It!
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Oh, Mom, You Just Don’t Get It!What to do when your teen girl thinks you were born yesterday?
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but the fact is if you’re parenting a teenage girl you will one day be conscripted to the ranks of the least appealing, least smart, least funny, least interesting, and definitely the least cool person who ever lived. Prepare yourself. This will last for several years. In one of my own trying moments as a parent, when my daughter was 17, I was so incredibly uncool and lacking in intelligence that she told me she couldn’t understand how I managed to stay employed! It was one of those moments in my daughter’s adolescence that I will never forget. The comment was hurtful yet so utterly preposterous that laughter was the only reasonable response. Laughter is really your best defense, and in battles like these, humor should always win out. In our case it did, and she and I still joke about that ridiculous moment now.
Being cool is a huge part of the teen experience, and it starts long before adolescence. What drives it is the desire to feel accepted as a member of an identifiable community. Enter teen peer group, exit parents, especially mothers. For teenage girls, mothers are often particularly uncool while fathers run a close second. No doubt this is connected to the drive to individuate and ensure that you’re anything but your mother.
Family life and its participants at this phase of development should ideally provide a backdrop for community, a safety net of sorts. Teens need to know their families are there should they require something that the peer group can’t provide. And, more important, family life, at its best, maintains a scaffold of civility and social organization so that when teenagers get a little wild, parents can step in and corral the beast. However, teens’ peers remain in the foreground of their social lives. And, as a bonus, the families of their friends give your girls an opportunity to observe how other families operate, and to decide what they like about their own family and what they don’t.
The offense that many parents take when their girls decide not to participate in their own family’s activities often elicits a disproportionately negative response, especially from mothers. This is unreasonable, and, to be frank, as far as your daughter is concerned, a big part of what makes you so incredibly uncool. This is a time when we mothers simply have to step aside and tough it out. Your girl is already very familiar with her own family’s traditions and ideas of having fun. What she’s looking for is new data and a real break from all she knows best. So give it to her.
Moreover, when she does have this information, don’t be surprised when she reports it back to you and her stories include editorial comments about how cool it is in comparison to what her own family does. Ouch! At these stinging moments, it’s helpful to remember that this is a necessary phase in her journey toward independence. Our responsibility is to simply endure it, knowing it will eventually pass and assume a more normal place in her social interactions. But for now, you must be resigned to being closed out of your daughter’s culture of cool, until such time as she is ready to let you back in.