I just ran to Target to pick up a few stocking stuffers for my teens. I had the basics….lip balm, some face masks, chocolate Santas, nail polish, nail files, etc.
The sweet woman who checked me out noticed that I had three of everything and politely asked: “You must have daughters?”
I laughed, but inside I was on the verge of tears. My twin daughters are 16 and my baby will be turning 15 in just three short months. I was in the thick of parenting three teenagers, and it was a difficult week in our House of Hormones.

I tried to make conversation with her. “Easy to tell, huh? Yes, three teenage girls. For the stockings I just get everything the same. It’s hard because they’re all roughly the same age.”

And she sighed. “Oh, I only had two and they were a handful. I remember that time. It was hard. Sometimes I would just cry in my bed at night wondering where I went wrong….why wouldn’t they talk to me, why were they so mean?”

I nodded my head emphatically. Her comments hit close to home with me and some of my most recent interactions with my kids.

“But you know what?” she went on with a big smile on her face. “They are 23 and 25 now and live in the city, and each of them calls me every morning and they call me every night, and I think we go through these hard times because the next part is so sweet.”

I almost started to cry right at the #6 checkout stand.

Because those words are the ones all mothers need during these challenging teenage years. We need to remember the end game.

We need to have courage to say the hard no to things we know are too risky and the courage to let go even when we’re scared. We need to be secure in ourselves when those adolescents lash out at us and not take it so personally, and give them grace when they don’t know how to handle the stress of this world. We need to hold them accountable and then be their safe space to land.
And the payoff is a relationship, a friendship, a mutual-level of respect that you can enjoy for many years to come.
I finished my holiday shopping today, but that Target check out lady gave me the true gift.
May we all believe that there are better days to come, and remember the hope that teenagers will come back to us, and it may be the sweetest spot of parenting of all.
This article was originally published on Playdates on Fridays with Whitney Fleming
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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.