Actual texts with “The Girl”:
10:05 am: Girl: sends a picture of sleeping dog “Your cow is sleeping with her eyes open and dreaming”
Me: Sleepy cow
Girl: Yes. LOL
10:10am: Girl: I am literally crying rn (right now)
Me: Why? (fearing something is wrong with said dog/cow from texts minutes before)
Girl: Riley isn’t coming back next year
Me: I’m sorry, why?
Girl: She is going to Barrett (another school). What am I going to do?
Me: That sucks, I’m sorry.
10:12am: Girl: sends another picture of sleeping dog “You do you moo” (yes, my dog’s name is Moo)
Me: Wow, she is sleepy
Girl: LOL. She’s under my comforter . Lol
Seven minutes. Seven minutes and we went from happy-go-lucky girl, in bed (from the photos) playing with the dog to a crying mess and back again. I have said it many times, I love my stepdaughter, but life with a 13-year-old girl is not for the faint of heart. At the same time I was receiving these play-by-play updates on her emotional well-being, I came across a video on Facebook by a blogger mom who showed what life with her teen son is like. The emotional roller-coaster that life with a teen is for those who live with them, but with the reminder that, however hard it is on us, it so much harder for them. I sent the video to my husband, just a digital reminder that we are by no means alone.
We have all been there, we were teens and we survived. Each generation has their own struggles, but some issues of the teenage years are universal. Hormones and emotions go hand-in-hand. I always assumed that girls were worse, one because of my own experience, followed by living in the same house with my younger sister- I’m still shocked our house was still standing by the time she left for college. Some argue that today’s teens have it worse, that puberty starts earlier due in part to the food we eat (meat and dairy with added hormones). I don’t know, I think it sucked for us and it sucks for the girl and her friends.
When I was a teen my room was a mess, always. I hated to clean it and would always find a way around doing it until threatened with life and limb to clean it up. My stepdaughter is no different, daily chores are an ongoing battle. I know that the daily request via text to let her know when I leave work is so she can rush around getting everything done before we get home, never mind she has been home all day. Few teens make cleanliness a priority, but one thing I am very grateful for is the girl is not one that lets personal hygiene slip. My friend Jane’s oldest stepdaughter, Mary, will go days without showering and longer without washing her hair. It will get to the embarrassing point when her father will have to let her know she smells and teachers have reached out to them about this problem. Dick and Jane have money, so that is not an issue, yet Mary not only will not bathe, she will wear dirty clothes for an entire week. To me this is bizarre and something I only thought parent’s of teen boys dealt with, as we all know, boys are gross.
One thing I do think is harder for teens today is dealing with constant contact via electronics and social media. Yes, I spent hours on the phone with my friends at her age, but now they are doing face to face chats, often in groups- while she may be in her room alone, by stepdaughter has very little true “alone” time during her waking hours. This constant contact has made it so that she is dependent upon it. I can see the anxiety in her when a friend doesn’t reply instantly to a message or she is has the rare occasion of being disconnected from her peers. While it hasn’t been a major issue for us, cyber bullying is a real problem, with kids her age or younger committing suicide due to the pressures they face online, as well as in real life. They are unable to escape, the bullies at school literally come into their homes via social media. I know the girl has shared with me more than one instance of someone who she felt was as friend sending her nasty texts or excluding her from things- exclusion is one the most effective way teens bully each other.
My stepdaughter is loving and gets attached very quickly to her friends. I love this about her, but also see how these attachments cause her to be a target of mean girl behaviors from her “friends”. Teen girls can only have a pack that is so big, just one extra body and the balance is thrown completely off. Randomly girls will be cast out for whatever reason, when it is the girl, it crushes her and she struggles to rationalize it. Within day, if not sooner, she is back in the fold, happy to be there and quickly forgets the pain inflected upon her by her “friends”. I want to tell her to drop them like a bad habit, but while I may be old in her eyes, I still remember the delicate balance that is middle school. Recently I had an issue with a mean girl at work, I was able to share that with the girl, part to prove to that some mean girls never grow out of that bullying behavior and let her know that when I say I understand, I really do.
We, my husband and myself as well as Ursula (the girl’s mother), are very lucky that she is open to talk with all of us about what is going on in her world. I hope that continues and she knows that we are always there for her. She is 13, so I fully realize that however hard we feel it has been thus far, we have only just begun and the road is going to get far more bumpy before it smooths out. I fear what it is going to be like when boys become a real issue, not sure who that is going to be harder on, the girl or her father…stay tuned.