The challenges of being a mother of teens when you are close to retirement are beautifully terrifying.
I am a second time around mom. I have a grown daughter and I been a stepmom too. Four years ago I married a man who waited until his mid-thirties to have children. He has three daughters who I adopted.
I went from an empty nest when the two oldest girls flew the coop to a full nest of teenage girls overnight. I thought I was finished raising children.
My girls are ages 16, 14, 13 and 33. I also have a grown stepdaughter now 34 years old who I had a part in raising. That is a total of five girls.
Being a mother today is not easy. There is no greater joy and no deeper fear. I am scared of screwing them up in big ways that will affect them for life. I am constantly thinking, “What if I do this parenting thing wrong?” All I can do is my best with what I have and hope they come out on the other side relatively unscathed. Raising girls is weird, terrifying, and entertaining.
Mothers of teenage girls must nerve of steel.
There is a trend now of older parents. Mostly because careers are put forward first. We, older mothers, have raised the Manilials that education and career are top priority and then have children if you want them. When I was a young adult and mom the opposite was true. Women were expected to have a career and children. The sigma of the working mom was prevalent.
The world is a completely different place. What worked when raising the first set of daughters, will not always work for teenagers now. Life is not the same. I often feel overwhelmed, outsmarted, and outnumbered by our girls. I decided that I needed a shift in parenting style very early on in this adventure from a punishment system to a reward-based parenting plan.
The premise is simple, the girls have the freedom to do the right thing or not. They have to live with the consequences of their decisions. Good or bad.
We discussed the house rules as a family. They had input in creating the rules. They know what they are supposed to do and what the house rules are. They have the freedom to make the decision to follow the house rules or not. They have to live with the consequences of their decisions. Good or bad.
They flourish in the freedom to make choices. They will ask for help when they need help. They will confide in me when they want to talk or need advice. They will come forward and seek amnesty when they have broken the rules. One of the best things is they value having sisters. When they need to, they depend on each other and work together to find a solution. I like that a lot.
Some challenges are the same.
Both generations of daughters have some things in common. Messy bedrooms are still a thing. Teen girls are slobs one day and neat freaks the next, but wait, no they are slobs again. They love showers. They hate showers. They want to have all their stuff in drawers and on shelves. Then everything they own is on the floor again. They will wear the same hoodie for a month if I don’t insist they peel it off and wash it. I have decided that there are some battles I will not fight. Showers, yes. Neatly folded clothes and underwear, not so much. I have grown accustomed to closing the doors to their bedrooms, walking away, and not looking back.
Most teenagers have their own language and slang. My girls are no different. They have taught me new interesting vocabulary. One of my girls has taken to saying, “Yeet” all the time and “They have he-ed their last haw.” Which I thought was a reference to the old television show Hee-Haw, I was wrong. It took me forever to realize when they said “Gucci” they were not talking about a purse.
Friendships are Different
Social interactions are very different from what I remember. I remember a house full of girls laughing at all hours of the day and night. Gone are the days of knowing all their friends by who comes in and out of my kitchen.
There are still girls hanging out on my sofa, but more likely it is with a screen in their hands. I find myself asking a lot, “Have I met that friend?” Often to hear, “No she lives in Bulgaria” or some other far off place. I insist that my girls do not reveal where they are from, and that they practice all the internet safe things. Still, I can’t stop them from meeting new people without banning the girls from social media altogether. I monitor their screen use with parenting apps. I insist on proof that the person they are talking to is indeed a teenage boy or girl. That’s not always easy.
Life isn’t always pink or blue.
Speaking of boys and girls, I have learned not to get uptight about the gender fluidness of their appearance. They sometimes dress in boys’ clothing, down to the boxer shorts under their pants. Then before I get used to that, I am taking them to try on fancy prom dresses for a school dance. They have had long hair, purple hair, and no hair when they shaved their heads. I let them be who they want to be as long as they are not being disrespectful to themselves or others. The girls know I do not want to see breasts hanging out or pants that leave little to the imagination. Hair will grow back and clothing styles change. They will eventually figure out their own style. I sort of miss my house smelling like a nail salon and finding glitter all over the furniture.
Our home is full of their freestyle happiness.
One of my favorite things about my girls is that they are not afraid to display happiness in a big way. Have you ever seen a kitchen or bed top dance party? Music on the highest volume imaginable with arms and legs waving all over the place. Sometimes the parties are planned but most of the time they are spontaneous. However, in the case of a bed top dance party, the girls are bouncing and bobbing standing on my bed while I am frantically watching that their heads aren’t getting decapitated by the ceiling fan.
Yes, my younger girls are being raised completely differently than how I raised my other girls in the 80s. I have come to realize that though things are different, teenage girls still need the same things. They need copious amounts of love and understanding. They need me to be quiet and listen when they need to talk. They need me to help them when they do not know what the need. They need me to give them the space to be themselves.
And to think, I almost settled for a quiet retirement.