Walking the Tight Rope with my Teenager


This is my third teenager, so you would think I would have this down by now. I still feel like I am walking a tight rope every day.

My first two daughters were like open books as teenagers. They shared to a point where I regularly told them that they could share less. I once threatened to talk about having sex with their dad to keep one of them from oversharing. She got the point and zipped the lip real quick.

But this last teenager, she is an enigma.

Even as a little one, she was more self-contained and and stoic than her sisters and classmates. She holds her cards close to the vest and has amazing composure. This has not changed as a teenager. Pretty much the only thing I have figured out is that the more still and calm she is, the more she is actually freaking out on the inside. But, how do I ask her how she is doing without seeming intrusive? It is a constant balancing act. Navigating a tight rope and trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing on any given day and how long my balancing pole needs to be. Does she still need me? Does she hear me when I say “I love you?”

I know what so many people think — You have teenage daughters…oh, the drama!

Nope. Haven’t really had the drama. Not with the first two, and certainly not with this last one. I would actually welcome a little drama! I might be able to glean a little information from a dramatic release. I might be able to advise or comfort or provide support or something

She isn’t secretive. She tells us where she is when she goes out, who she is with, what they are doing. She follows the rules, for the most part, and has not been in any trouble. Her grades are good, she has a job, friends, a life.

Maybe that is the problem. She already has her own life.

She doesn’t need me to wake her up for school or work; she does it herself. She handles her own schedule, talks to her own teachers and coaches, changes her oil and fills her tires with only an occasional reminder from her dad. Isn’t this what we mamas want? 

I walk the tight rope with asking about her well-being. How are things going? Fine. Anything exciting happen at school? No. I try to limit myself to only a couple of questions or I start to get the heavy sigh and vibe that I am trying too hard. I walk the tight rope with physical contact. As a little, she wanted to cuddle before bed every night. Fast forward to being a teenager and a quick cheek hug (touching cheeks) or brief kiss on the side of the head suffice as a greeting or good night. Occasionally, she will humor me by allowing me to hug her briefly before a trip or big event. And, then, she is gone.

And then, the wind changes and she complains that we haven’t spent any time together.

Sometimes, we watch a movie or walk the dogs together. Occasionally, she will ask me to drive her to a practice or we will get our nails done or hike. And then, just as quickly, the wind shifts with a ding on her phone and I am left wondering again how I can catch more than just an ephemeral glimpse of this darling being and her teenage life before she floats off to adulthood.

Life with a teenager. Walking the tightrope and waiting for the wind to change.

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