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We all know about mean girls. They’re in the movies we go to see, the television shows we watch, and the books we read. These fictional divas are usually exaggerated versions of the real thing: troubled cheerleaders with a couple of sidekicks following in their faux-fabulous footsteps. The truth about mean girls is more complex. Sometimes, they aren’t kids you would expect to be mean at all: the quiet girls, sweet and innocent. Maybe she’s your kid. Maybe she’s mine.

As our daughters approach their teen years, we can’t help but reflect on our own. The turmoil. The heartbreak. The drama. The painful lessons. Maybe we unwittingly live vicariously through our girls because we never fit in, or perhaps we yearn to pass on our homecoming crowns to our mini-mes. Whatever our stories, our girls are embarking on their unique journeys. As moms, we must accept our places on the passenger side. But we still have an important part to play.

RELATED: I Refuse To Raise a Mean Girl

Amidst the eye rolls and attitude, our daughters absorb how we conduct ourselves in the world. Are we rude to the overwhelmed waiter who brought out the wrong meal? Do we empathize with the embarrassed mother of a tantruming child at Target? Are we gossiping about what might have led to the Thompson’s divorce? Whether we are members of exclusive mom cliques, happy loners, or bitter that we don’t fit in at all, our girls take notice. Observing our attitudes and social interactions influences how our daughters form and navigate their own. If we treat others with kindness and respect, if we acknowledge and learn from our mistakeshopefully, they will do the same.

Parenting adolescent girls is like trying to solve an impossible riddle. Our minds run wild with endless theories while we attempt to interpret facial expressions and silence. As our daughters become more independent, how involved should we be? We can show we care, but not so much that our kids feel smothered. We become detectives on a mission to decipher whether bad moods are hormones, exhaustion, or something more serious. We tip-toe on eggshells, carefully curating every word so we don’t exacerbate our little monster’s misery. We discover patience we never knew we had, hoping they’ll eventually confide in us.

RELATED: When Your Tween Brings Out the Worst Mom in You

Moms desperately want our daughters to grow up to be decent humans, so we walk the tightrope of supporting them and holding them accountable. We ask the hard questions, reject the mentality that “my kid would never do that,” and accept that our daughters will make mistakes, just as we did. Just as we do. It takes courage to express our truths, to apologize and ask for forgiveness, to know when to forgive and when to walk away. These are hard lessons, but ones we all learn sooner or later.

Today, my daughter is struggling. Tomorrow, it will be yours. We can’t shield our children from heartache, and we can’t always be there to ensure they do the right thing. But we can teach them resilience and compassion. We can encourage them to do better. To be better. And we can try to be better ourselves.

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Lori Jarrett

Lori Jarrett is a forty-something wife and mom of two wildly different girls who are her world. She's passionate about normalizing mental health and credits writing as her best antidote to overthinking.

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