Thursday, March 8, 2018

What Does Raising Teenage Girls Have To Do With Dylan O'Brien?

Apparently Everything. He is Everything. But who knew? First, I had to figure out who he was. There was a popular TV show Teen Wolf, then other stuff, then a movie franchise concerning running through complex mazes, which I thought was a form of parkour.  But I see this and get it. Every teen girls poster dream boy.

Or at least twin E and her group. I guess Dylan would be to the equivalent crush I had on Neil Young when I was 14.

Okay, now that the girls are rapidly approaching 15, I need to figure a few things out.

So I thought I'd read a quick "How to Raise Teen Girls" post to make sure I'm still on top of things. After Googling, I settle on the first one on the search bar.

The thing is parents never know if they are doing a good job. If they boast having a strong handle on parenting skills, they are lying. But love to them. Perfect parenting does not exist. Imperfect parenting is the best we can hope for.

This post is about girls because that is what I'm raising at the moment. I'm sure these strategies can be applied to boys, I think.

I already raised a boy, and sort of forgot how I did this so I recently asked him. He really deserves his own post, but for time management, he's a tech engineer computer science type working up in Seattle. He has lots of other interests from playing drums to competing in Mario Smash Bro contests and everything in between. He was super fun to raise, but also I was super young. I even enjoyed Disneyland back then. Not so much, now.

Me: On a scale 1-10, how did I do in raising you, or subtext "How do you rate me as a mom?"
H:  Eleven.

See, he knows if he had said, say eight, I would have kept him on the phone. "Why? What did I do so wrong? Did I forget something? I never lost you in the park! ... ad nauseum." He knows how to stay ahead of the people crazy curve; so there's that. He'll sometimes tag me on one of these.

Big ups.

Anyway, back to the teenage girl twins.  Might I just say, I'm delighted they are healthy and they are doing just fine? By that I mean, my own personal philosophy regarding children is to keep them safe, alive and try to create a world where they can have a better life than you. Or as Diane Ladd so eloquently said:

Let them stand on your shoulders so they can see further than you did.

Pretty simple. Yet this requires an extraordinary amount of sacrifice because you are no longer the priority. Your kids are. And my belief is if you're incapable of lifting your kids up to your own possible detriment, in every possible manner, then reconsider having them. For the love of god, don't have kids because you think they will keep you young. Addressed here. 

Back to article:

It would be irresponsible of me to move forward until we address the obvious;  they are the first generation of kids growing up where "gun drills" have replaced the more innocuous "fire" drills.

This is something we parents can't actually comprehend, but when talking to kids, YES, they are highly anxious. In case anyone is wondering.

But this is only one small part of their forever increasing anxiety. Forget the normal teen angst, social issues, hormonal insanity and educational pressure, this added layer also has to wedge itself into their developing brains and somehow they have to be okay with it.

In any case, let's see how I'm doing.

Here are the suggestions to best raise teenage girls.

REMAIN CALM  --  The idea being when they freak out over something or say something "crazy" don't react. In fact, the article suggests, count to five. -- Okay, will do. As in this has never happened.

First, I could not think of one time my kid said something so whacky I blew a gasket, started foaming at the mouth and then set my hair on fire.  Plus, for me, I'm already super chill. I wish sometimes I could get more amped, about anything, but no. I must like being calm. Even when I'm upset. Okay, I'm basically water.

Like all kids, they occasionally complain and with good reason; the insane piles of homework or a  difficult teacher or some jackass at school that interrupts class all the time. If they didn't I'd be concerned. Also, I happen to agree with the girls. I hate homework. I really do. All that busy nonsense when they could be working on their own interests, or cleaning my house. Plus, I have no love for the apathetic teacher or the class clown with fire ants in his/her/they pants. So vent away.

Nothing these two girls say I would interpret as "crazy," an overused word that's lost all meaning.

I was raised in real crazy. We were not concerned with homework, we were concerned with when the eviction notice was about to arrive or what sister would overdose on heroin that day. Yet my mother did not react. She was always calm. When my 16-year old sister said she was moving to Florida with her Hells Angel boyfriend, my mother yelled: "Wear a helmet!" When my other sister suggested she wanted work at a bank so she could steal money,  my mother said: "What a great idea. Why didn't I think of that!"

To date, the most outrageous statement my girls recently uttered was probably:  "I've never seen a cloud shaped exactly like an elephant. I'm calling bullshit."

Whatever the goings on, I retreat to my sanctuary; my beloved bedroom filled with soft pillows, clean lines, and perfection. This is my personal space and everyone knows it, so they only enter when they consider their situation a true emergency. Like, "I'm starving!"

LET HER SOLVE HER OWN PROBLEM:   Yeah, no pushback on that one. For example, go make your own dinner. As if I don't have enough of my own problems to solve!

These two rarely ask for my advice. They might ask for some help, as in, "Could you collate these 11,500 pages for me?" or "Can you spell check this 450-page poem and don't change one word, thanks."  I'm basically their assistant that does busy work we all hate to do. Including me. But I love them, so I do their busy work.

The last time I offered advice, one of the girls was upset about a friend who was ''beefing" her. (what?) Of course, I want to make her feel better, so I go on about how girls are so immature, clearly, she's giving you the cold shoulder because she's jealous or something along those lines.

E: "No, she's pissed because I stole her phone and threw it in the trash at school, as a joke but now it's gone. Also, she's British! This is beyond anything you can help with!" This daughter has a predilection for British folks, but also loves all peoples;  mixed peoples with various combinations of Asian, African-American and Santorini Greeks but with a British accent.

Her "dream" guy, the one she'll consider dating when she's in college, is a racial collage, a pinboard of sorts.  Equal parts Asian, African-American, a bit Italian and this splash of ancient Greek. And of course, the British accent.

I thought these fellows looked interesting, but a funny thing happened when I put all of that info into the Google. I came up with this guy, Laurence Coke. I mean, come on! How cute is he?

In carpool today, I was telling the girls I was in search of a mixed race teen boy for my blog and I came across this guy. They were "shook." (Again, what?) Then screamed and laughed.

"Mom, how did you find him?! He's so-and-so's cousin! You met him at their BBQ! He came up on Google? OMG!"

What a bizarre coincidence. In any case, my daughter was rightfully mortified, as she is by everything I do. But her friend liked that I was writing this article. She is the sweetest.

When it comes to boys, again, they will solve their own problems. We aren't there yet.

I retreat to my room.

COMPLIMENT REGULARLY:  --  As opposed to what? Criticizing them? Passive aggressive needling? Also, I think it's a mistake to compliment your kids all the time. They grow up thinking that shit is real.

If I told my daughters how pretty there were, how smart they are, how amazing they perform at everything, they would go into the world so ill prepared that the first critical remark might send them into a clinical depression.

Instead what I do is evaluate their progress, and praise that, or not. I also might compliment a certain way they handled a situation or how they carried a difficult school project all the way through. When I do complement their appearance, it's with extreme caution. This is an area, particularly for girls, filled subterfuge.

I once suggested, "Maybe you should stop brushing your hair so much. I love the curls, you flatten them." Well, what she hears is --  You think I don't know how to take care of myself? You think I'm not taking pride in what I do? You think my hair is ugly? THEN: "Well I hate curls. Plus it's my hair and I'll do what I want. Don't comment on my hair. Ever."

I retreat to my room.

TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY:  That is, when they have an issue, don't just say, "Oh, it's high school, it will pass, it won't mean a thing in a few years. The most popular girl, also the main cheerleader and homecoming queen now pole dances at a strip club."

Okay, I would never say that and have never heard other mothers say it. Just no. It's some sort of weird parenting throwback go-to. Who wrote this thing? Plus, who would say this to their daughters?!

If there is a super popular girl at school who also runs the Latin club, is the star of the drama club and excels at everything, good for her! As long as she's enjoying this and not doing it to please some helicopter parent, good-for-her.

Of course, I take my daughters seriously. Do I care if those pants at Buffalo Exchange are no longer available? Hell no. But the girls do. They also both know this is not of import to say, me. Or anyone else, not their age. But I do have a car. This is where I come in handy. We'll find those damn repurposed pants if it takes all day.

Believe it or not, every pair is different ^ ^ ^. How do I know this? Because she tried them all on while I deleted 5000 emails on my phone. Five hours later, she "accepted" one, albeit not her first choice, then later slashed them with a razor blade. When I was 14, I had exactly two pairs of jeans. They had holes, not by design.  Hanging around in vintage warehouses all day with my daughter is love. That is love!

By the way, there was nothing in this article about trick questions. Which is what I get, more than actual conversation. Just yesterday my daughter asked, in a long, drawn-out whistful way,

"Mom, didn't you just love being a teenager?"

Okay, this is fraught with all of it, trip wires, hidden explosives, poison darts and flat out trickery. If I say, oh sure I loved it; she will think there is something wrong with her because she was probably hating her life at the moment, which is why she lobbed that at me. If I say, it sucked, she will no longer trust anything I ever have to say.

So, I answer like this: "I must admit, I've loved all my years.  Teens, 20's, 30's  40's and after that, I stopped rating."

Then I retreat to my room.

LISTEN MORE:   Okay, now I'm just getting pissed off. All I do is listen. Not because I'm so incredible and patient but because when they are in a chatty mood, they never stop talking. They invade my private space and talk and talk and talk. Until they figure out what the hell they are going to do. If I go to my office and shut the door, they come in and talk.

If I put up a sign that says I'm working, they come in and talk. If I teach them boundaries about that, that's ignored because it's considered urgent talk.

I don't listen to validate or affirm her feelings, I listen because I'm trapped. But by the very nature of listening, I am validating their feelings. But I must admit, I do enjoy their trips into chatty-ville.  There is no better way to learn about your daughter than to be on the receiving end of a long-winded rant. Or an epic observation about well, anything.

Unless... Unless... their conversation-at-me takes a deep dive into uncomfortable waters, like,

"I'm not as smart as my friends in MATH."

Well, then I break all the above rules.

I fly off the handle, say crazy shit, throw dishes, try to solve the problem by figuring out which horrible girl said this to my beloved daughter, or was it one of the evil nun teachers?

In which case I email that pest and ask ---

"What's up? You want my daughter to go into the world and think she's stupid at math? Where is your female empowerment!"-- Then I resort to complimenting the daughter. ---"You're a goddamn genius. A goddamn genius! The rest of the world is stupid. Give me the math problem, I will figure it out myself. Then I will get that kid expelled and the teacher fired. This math is insane! Who can do this?"

After my red rage rant-a-thon, having not listened at all to the girls, they lead me to my room, tell me it's no big deal, and also none of my business.  "Take it easy, Mom, calm down, we'll work it out. Why don't you watch one of those Sandra Bullock comedies you like. Where she's super mean but then becomes super nice."  Which is pretty much all of her romantic comedies but I do love them.

After I'm calm, but kids. ^ ^ ^

I retreat to my room.

Here is the thing. When in doubt.

Rhonda Talbot weighing in on teenagers, girls, motherhood, parenting, emotions, love wins, Happy Birthday.


  1. So right on the money! So glad you are their mother. So happy you can retreat to your room. Brilliant. We (your readers) can say that about you. We just can't (so quickly) say it about our own daughters all the time despite the fact that it's absolutely true.

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