Raising Teenage Girls (Heaven help me!)

I haven't written about my 13-year old daughter in a while. I think I tend to think of her in a protective way and that comes out in my handling of her in my writing. Not that she's particularly fragile. In fact, I consider her pretty tough... hence her blog name of "Cookie." She's a tough cookie, indeed. (That and she really likes to bake.)

But toughness aside, there is a huge innocence about her which I am reluctant to part with and I watch and marvel and tremble as she transitions into womanhood. It's not that I think she has to give up that innocence, but that I know that the spirit of the world will increasingly encroach and push for attention. As a woman, I know specifically how this plays out for females in the world. I watch her peers grow and battle through and I shudder when I try and think through how I am supposed to help her navigate.

Cookie has always appeared older than her age. In spite of the fact that she is two years younger than her older brother, it is not obvious that she is the younger. In fact, she has often been mistaken for being older... and he is often mistaken for being older than he is. It is not uncommon for someone to assume she is 17 years old when she is in fact only a newly turned teen. This is a very scary mom thing. If I had a dime for every time other women have warned me to be careful to keep the older boys at bay... well, our medical bills would be covered. They look at me with serious eyes and say "You watch carefully. The boys won't know how old she is and they won't care. I'm not kidding." Yes, I know. I know all about it. 

This is all a roundabout way of coming to my central thought of the morning which is of an incident between Cookie and an older boy this past weekend. They are friends, she enjoys his companionship very much... but when he asked for her phone number so that he could "call her sometime" she said... No. 

"No. I don't think that would be the best thing to do."

She really said that. She's way tougher than I. Even as she said it and I rejoiced for her, my heart broke into two over the wounded pride of the boy. I'm a complete sap. She wasn't bothered at all. How did he take that? I asked. She shrugged. "I don't know. I don't think he was very happy but I just didn't see any other thing to do. He's a lot older than I am... it didn't seem like the right thing."

I recognize clearly that she is fully capable (as a normal human being) of falling into a ridiculous emotional state over a member of the opposite sex and, consequently, being severely tempted to make stupid decisions. But I'm also seeing that she is not as emotionally silly in general as I have always been. She's okay with people being annoyed with her, even people with whom she will have regular contact, which is something I have always struggled with. Huge pride issues here.

This brief event was a tiny little light in the vast darkness of parental maze walking. I have been parenting teenagers long enough to know that it is just going to get scarier and more complex... it doesn't take very long at all to figure this out as a parent. So that little light is excellent.

My daughter is beautiful. She is tough. She is fragile. She is loving. She is complex. In short, she is a pretty normal young female. I thank God for the gift of being her mother... but heaven help me! This is terrifying.

We've been talking more and more with our older kids about "dating" and trying to get them to envision and imagine a way that does not really look like the way of the secular world. Professor has done reading on his own about a Christian approach to courtship and has been forming some strong opinions about the nature of such things. He's a normal boy. Appreciates girls very much. And now is fighting to put that appreciation into the proper context. If I truly care about someone, what does that look like through action... when I'm 15, or 17, or 21? 

One of the greatest blessings of homeschooling teens is that they are not forced to live day in and day out in the midst of a very screwed up teen dating culture. It allows them a little more emotional, intellectual, and physical freedom to explore some beautiful possibilities. This doesn't mean they will always act perfectly.... but it is a little light that has the potential to grow much stronger. Thanks be to God.
Posted on April 11, 2013 and filed under "dating", "girls", "parenting", "teenagers".