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Dear Teenager:

I know how you feel. You may think I do not. I am your mother—a relic from another time, one who does not understand your pain, your life changes, your struggles, or how you think and act. The world is different than when I was your age, but the feelings are the same. I WAS YOU, long ago. You are constantly changing yet wanting to stay the same; you react too quickly before your brain can process something or make decisions; you feel angry or sad for no reason other than that you are frustrated; you want to be older and more mature even if your parents and the world say you are not. I GET IT. I felt all these things too.

As your mother, I want to help you. It is a basic instinct of good parents to want to prevent pain, frustration, disappointment, and heartache for their children, even if we know we cannot prevent any or all of these things. I yearn to make your life easier and to help you navigate these awkward years. I want to be there during your first boy/girl rejection, that failed test you studied your hardest for, the betrayal of a friend, or the moment you are embarrassed in front of the whole world (or just a class . . . teenagers are SO dramatic). I just want to help you and take that pain for you.

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Even if I could physically be there for all these moments and more, you will not let me. You want independence and freedom, and I have to give you some. You want to hide your thoughts and emotions, and I cannot force you to share everything with me. You want to sneak around, to figure things out on your own, and to hide your failures; I felt the same way once, too. In short, you are a teenager. A fickle, indecisive, impulsive, short-fused person who is growing and changing rapidly before my eyes. You are not a child and not an adult, and I cannot and must not treat you as one, either. In spite of all this, I want you to know a few things.

First, I will love you no matter what. You will disappoint me, frustrate me, make me think I am going crazy, and cause me to question my own beliefs—but this is normal. In fact, I can learn a thing or two from you! But nothing you will do can cause me to stop loving you. You are MY child. I carried you inside me for nine long months. I felt every hiccup, kick, and pain (and there was pain). I have nurtured you from day one and have watched you grow and change for over thirteen years, and I plan to do so for the rest of my life. Face it—you are stuck with me.

Second, this time in your life is brief. It does not feel like it right now, but it is. The feelings and thoughts you have now will not remain for your entire life. You will outgrow the pimples, the growing pains, the insecurities, and the frustrations. You will look back at this time as only a fraction of your life, so do not fret too much about what happens now. Study hard, learn a life lesson or two, and know that life only goes up from here.

RELATED: To My Teenage Daughter, How Do I Let You Go?

Third, it is okay to hate your dad and me sometimes. I aim to be a “cool mom” as lame as that statement sounds. I want to do all the fun and exciting things with you like rock concerts, scary movies, intellectual conversations about the world, and the latest technologies. But, I am your mother. My biggest goal and responsibility is to ensure that you grow into a responsible, good person. This means that I have to disagree with you and punish you for bad or irresponsible behavior. It means I say “no” to things you may want and must stop any bad decision-making when I can. I may have to take your phone or computer to check what you are doing, which is so lame. You may think I’m unfair, and you may curse me for whatever I inflict on you—and that is OK. It just means I am doing my job. I’m willing to be the bad guy to ensure you do not grow up to be a jerk.

Finally, embrace this time. It is a period of new experiences and freedom. Yes, you are still under your parents’ rule. Yes, you are not an adult. On the other hand, you are not burdened with regular life. You have no bills to pay! You have no job to report to! Your only worries are to study, follow your parents’ rules, and live a decent life. You will never feel this freedom again. I tell all my kids frequently that adulthood is a trap—you think you want to be an adult until you realize adults are slaves to jobs, bills, taxes, responsibilities, and life in general. Embrace your teenage years. Embrace your experiences and seize the opportunities you have (and that your parents are paying for). Learn as much as you can, live as much as you can, and enjoy your years with your family before the real world calls.

I will end this letter to you, my darling teenage daughter, and hope that your brain absorbed at least a third of this. I will always be here for you, with as little judgment as I can muster, to help you in whatever way possible. You are my baby, no matter how old you are, and you grow more beautiful and confident each day. I feel privileged to witness your life and to enable your progress, and I hope you let me guide you until my last breath.

Love always,
The cool mom

P.S. You still cannot wear a fake nose ring. Sorry.

Originally published on the author’s blog 

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Rachel Carpenter

Rachel is a military spouse and mother to four children. Her family has lived in several states and countries and now calls Hawaii home. She loves reading anything and everything, coffee, spending time with her family, and writing. Rachel writes for her personal blog, aralalcarpenterdaily, and as a contributor for the Military Moms Blog.

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