As a mom of three little girls, we hear a surprising number of unsolicited comments from strangers about how bad things will be during the teenage years. Usually they’re quick and easily dismissible but sometimes they really get under my skin.
Last week I was printing a few things at a mailing/printing shop. Piper, my 2 year old, was with me, and as I got ready to pay, the employee who had been so helpful before started saying things like,” Oh she’s cute now but wait till she get’s older. My daughter is a nightmare. Those teenage years…ugh.”
I should have just smiled and nodded but I jumped in and said, “Actually we have three girls. People say stuff like that all the time. I know we’ll have some tough years as they get older but teenagers can be pretty great too. I’m looking forward to those days.”
He straight up laughed at me. “Yeah, right. My daughter doesn’t even want to talk to me.”
“I’m sorry. Yeah I had a bad year or two but I have a great relationship with my parents now. I think it’s possible to come through that if you stick with each other. I bet she’ll come around.”
He laughed again.
I left feeling so frustrated. Why is it okay to start those kinds of conversations? What if I saw someone leaving Gap at the mall and said, “Oh, tough break sister, those jeans are going to stretch out and sag so fast. You’ll be sorry.”
Or on the car lot, “Honda Odyssey, huh? They have transmission problems around 120,000 miles. Good luck with that. Ha!”
There are a lot of strangers who offer encouragement as well, and I don’t want to dismiss that. But I have a really hard time with how common these anti-girl comments have become for us.
Another thing we get a lot is the old “polishing my shotgun” joke. Someone says Duff, my husband, better get ready to sit on the porch with his gun on his lap when some kid comes to take one of our girls out on a date.
As a teenager, that joke made me feel like a I should be some silly blonde giggling out of the house to meet a kid who looks like no good. The kind of girl who needed some man-to-man threat to go down between her dad and her date because she wasn’t capable of picking the right kind of guy or making smart decisions. I know it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but when you look at what that joke is really saying, it’s pretty insulting.
Instead, my dad flipped the script and acknowledged the brain I have. He and my mom had great guidelines – I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, they had to meet anyone I went on a date with in person, and we had regular check-ins. My dad’s shotgun stayed in the closet because he knew Jesus, and he knew ME. And because my parents realized that preparing me for dating started YEARS before I ever left the house with a boy, that knowledge was rich and deep, and it was enough.
He and my mom never wavered on their obligation to stay involved. But they acknowledged my wisdom and discernment (and sometimes my rebellion and mistakes). That has a lot to do with why I had to talk to THEM when my relationship with my now-husband was at it’s most difficult point. They trusted me, and I needed their advice because I trusted them too.
When I speak to the employee at the print shop, I’m not just speaking my hopes, I’m speaking my experience. I’m sure that the dating years will send all of our heads spinning here and there. But I know it’s possible to lean into each other, to parent our daughters with the Gospel as a guide, and to come out with story that isn’t perfect, but IS covered in grace.