Dear teenager,

I know I give you a hard time for being on your phone so much. I know you are struggling with living in a purgatory between adults who want you to go back to “normal” yet maintain challenging rules. I know you are overwhelmed with academics and service projects and sports.

And I keep saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Trust me, you aren’t a peach, either. I brought the same coat upstairs to your room six times this weekend. I KNOW that spoon always in the sink with peanut butter on it is yours. I’m tired of finding my phone charger in the basement by your computer and watching you roll your eyes when I ask you to put your clothes away and your exasperated sigh when I tell you that maybe it’s a good idea to go to bed.

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Maybe I should have let it go when I found out you didn’t clean your room like you promised. Maybe you should have remembered before you left to go out with your friends.

But I said the wrong thing at the wrong time—and we drifted a little farther apart.

What I’ve learned about raising three teenagers is there are seasons, just like anything else. There are periods when I see that someday we will be the best of friends and times when you won’t let me anywhere near your world. There are moments filled with so much love and laughter I know I’ll remember it for the rest of my days, and times the words we say to each other bring me to my knees. There are days we get along so well and I believe I’m getting this parenting thing right, and nights I can feel your wrath from three rooms away.

And here’s the thing, dear teenager, I’ll probably keep saying the wrong thing.

Because you are changing every day. Sometimes you are so grown up it takes my breath away, and sometimes you show just how much you still need to learn. There are times you leave our house so confident I think you are about to fly the nest that very day, and nights I sit in your bed while you shed some tears. There are mornings I think you will take on the world, and evenings I worry about how you will get through the next day.

Sometimes it feels like I’m parenting a different kid, and what worked yesterday doesn’t apply today.

So I’ll keep stepping in it with you. I’ll keep parenting and guiding and yes, probably saying the wrong thing sometimes, I’ll probably say the wrong thing lots of times.

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Because even though you change personalities throughout the day, my job is always the same—and despite the words we sometimes use and the mistakes we make and the periods of silence—I’ll love you through them all.

But even when I’m saying the wrong thing, at least we’re still talking.

And as long as we’re doing that, I know we’ll be OK on the other side.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.