Thursday, April 20, 2017

ABC Post 20--Parenting Teenage Girls

Today was a long day.

I got up at 4 a.m., brewed coffee instead of the usual tea, and went to Junction City and picked up Steven at the fire station where he lives.

By 6:00 we were in Corvallis at a dental-surgery clinic. By 7 we were in the recovery room and he had a white ice wrap around his jaw and was talking to me about mashed potatoes and Nicki Minaj. He also threatened to pull out his IV because he knows what he's doing, he's a professional.

I drove him to our house and tucked him in bed even though he knew he was well enough to go back to the fire station and go on calls.

Then I took a nap and went to Eugene and gave a talk to a women's group, the Fortnightly Club, about Humor in Everyday Life.

Then Paul met me at Gateway Mall and we shopped for a new and larger mattress. And went out to eat, and shopped some more.

We came home.  I was tired.

I went to bed early-ish, sank into the comforting depths, and OH! The CHICKENS! A fox or something has been getting them and I have to shut the little flappy door or I'll be minus one or two in the morning.

So I put on boots and a heavy coat and shut the hens in.  And then I admired the stars for a while, because we don't see stars much all winter.

Back to the comfort of bed and its comforting depths, and suddenly "OH DEAR I NEVER WROTE MY BLOG POST FOR TODAY!!"

So here I am, planning to finish before midnight.  Midnight, it so happens, is when the last of my many children will no longer be a child.  Jenny is turning 18. It just can't be.

I thought I would tell you what I've learned about parenting teenage girls.  Teen girls can be volatile creatures, mercurial, unpredictable, and fragile.  And also lovable and funny and unbelievably beautiful.

Some are easier to raise than others.


1. Listen a lot.

2. Be the nice loving mom but don't let yourself get manipulated.  I don't know how to do this. I just know I should have.

3. If you're going through a rough spot, find one thing you both enjoy doing, and do it together. For Emily and me at one point, that one thing was having tea together.

4. If they get mouthy, send them outside to cool off and calm down.

5. Try to keep them supplied with pretty things that they think are just so vitally important to survival, but also set your limits and make them buy anything over that limit, as long as you can also make sure they have a chance to earn money.

6. Encourage them to say things out loud, name their feelings, and explain what's going on inside--instead of sulking in silence and expecting you to ask what's wrong. .

7. Teach skills of all kinds. Even if their friends don't have to learn to sew and bake and run the lawn mower, and even if your daughters fuss and forget, they will be so tickled with the skills, some day. Make a chart and let them take their day for making meals, cleaning, and so on.

8. I am told one of the things I did right, that none of the young friends could BELIEVE, was that when I had the most detailed Talk, I actually drew little diagrams of fallopian tubes and such. Also I didn't just hand them a book with information in it about Stuff. I actually talked. They have no idea how near this ordeal came to killing me, but they say it made them matter-of-fact about the process. And NONE of their friends' moms drew DIAGRAMS!!

9. I taught traditional women's roles--nurture, support, wearing a head covering--at the same time as I encouraged them to pursue their interests in math and photography and travel and much more. This is possible, you know, and you don't have to get all political in any direction.  I didn't have to teach the girls to speak their minds because they are Smuckers. Smuckers have to be taught that they don't need to holler every single opinion that pops in their heads.

10. Let them have their own tastes in clothes, as long as they look decent and dignified. Go to secondhand stores.

11. Teach respect for their dad.

12. Give their dad nudges about what the girls need from him, since some dads are confused and alarmed by teenage daughters.  He should tell them they're beautiful, insist on respect to their mom, teach them to drive, and talk about boys.

13.  Don't tell them that you're fat or gray or wrinkled, or that they're fat. Talk about being healthy, and eating fruit and protein, and drinking water, and going on walks.

14. Let them know that you will always love them.

15. Let them have time alone, time with their friends, and  time to study.

16. Encourage them to talk to their aunts about things they find hard to discuss with you. It's ok if this makes you cry because you feel left out. But this can get you and especially her through a rough patch. Aunts will keep a confidence, but if it's something you really need to know, they'll tell you.

17. Pray a lot. Remember that if you're in a tough stage, full of conflict and strife and emotion, that this too shall pass. Because it will pass, I promise.

That's all, because I'm falling asleep.  And just so you know, Amy is coming home for six weeks in June and July, and we plan to take a girls' vacation on the Southern Oregon Coast.

And I wonder: how did I, with my bumbling and ignorance and taking everything personally, manage to raise these three fine daughters that I love to spend time with and who make me laugh and laugh??

If I can do it, so can you.


  1. As the mom of 6 girls, 3 of which are teens right now, I love this!!!

  2. Thanks for burning night oil cause I needed this encouragement today!

  3. This is exactly what I needed today; thank you so much!

  4. As a Mom with three teen girls I needed to read this. Thanks for sharing the truth with us and reminding us, it's an age & stage. This week as I made a phone call, the octopus kept saying "Don't rock the boat, sit down & shut up!" But sometimes teen girls need an advocate and I wrestled the slime and won. (this time) As a Mom, I need to give it my best and trust God to do the rest.

    1. Yay for being the advocate even if it's hard.

  5. I have three girls. The first just became a teen. I am moved to tears - trepidation, awe, gratefulness- over the ongoing responsibility and privilege I am entering with my girls as they enter their teen years. Thank you.

  6. What wisdom! I am waiting for your post on how to nurture a marriage, and how to live with, love, and interact with elderly senile parents.

  7. I have 3 wonderful girls too, all young adults, the oldest married, and 2 great boys, the oldest married.

  8. Thanks for all the comments and a big hug to all you moms of daughters. YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES. Remember that.