Ornaments, Candles, Tees and More! Order Soon for Christmas Delivery!🎄 ➔

Right before I was married, my mom told me that she read a letter I sent to my college-aged brother when I was around 13-years-old. In a card with a Dilbert cartoon on the front, I wrote that it was hard being at home without him because our mom embarrassed me and wasn’t like “other moms”.

My mother told me she cried for three days after reading it. She made a tremendous effort to connect with me and provide the fun teenage years she never had, and even though she knew we were going through typical pains associated with teenagedom, she didn’t know how I truly felt.

As I listened to her words, I felt the heat of shame creep up on my cheeks. Of course, I apologized. I attempted a feeble apology for my behavior during those years and claimed that it must have been my hormones.

But even though decades have passed by and we have an amazing relationship now, I remember feeling that way. I remember feeling embarrassed by my mother and wishing I could be a little “cooler” than my family could manage.

Luckily, that was a short phase, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was acting like an idiot, and my mother was a living, breathing saint. God and karma had the last laugh, however, and blessed me with three daughters.

I think about that story a lot when I am in the weeds of parenting three teenage girls, which to be honest, is every day. I think about how I broke my mother’s heart, and how she told me she course-corrected a lot based upon my attitude with her.

If I was belligerent, she knew it was often something going on with my friends. She let me get away with a little bit more then.

If I was exceedingly obedient, she knew I was guilty of something, and she tightened the reigns.

When I lashed out at her, she knew she needed to reel me back in a little tighter.

But to think that I didn’t hurt her during these times, to think that she didn’t take it personally, well, I could tell by her face that she carries a little bit of that pain with her to this day.

It’s this knowledge that frustrates me sometimes when experts say, “Don’t take what your teen says or does personally.”

I mean, I understand it in theory. They will make bad choices that are not a reflection of your parenting. Sometimes they just want to get a rise out of you. It could just be hormones or “hanger” or simply them slowing breaking away.

But my relationship with my children is the most personal thing in this world to me, and during this tumultuous time, their words and actions often shatter my heart.

I tell myself that I’m too emotional, too invested, but I don’t know how to parent any other way. I’m not even sure if I would want to.

But instead of telling parents not to take it personally, let’s start acknowledging that there are going to be times your teen strikes you where it hurts, perhaps even where you are most vulnerable. Let’s start admitting that watching your teen make poor choices is gut-wrenching. Let’s start supporting each other through those times when our teens break our hearts.

Because every one of us is going through it, feeling it, trying to figure out what we’re doing wrong. And if you’re not, consider yourself lucky.

It’s all personal.

I’m not glad I hurt my sweet mom, but I’m glad she kept feeling my emotions. I’m glad she didn’t respond in kind, and instead parented the kid in front of her at any given moment. I’m glad she called me out when I acted like a brat and lost her temper because I pushed too hard and coddled me when I needed it most.

She simultaneously felt every emotion as I went through it, and loved me through it all. It was personal to her and part of our story.

I wish the experts would say, “Your teen will break your heart, but I promise you’ll survive. In fact, one day, if you’re lucky, your relationship will be stronger because you felt it all—the good times and the bad.”

Because I’m no expert on raising teens, but that’s the one thing I know.

Originally published on Playdates on Fridays by Whitney Fleming

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site parentingteensandtweens.com You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.

Will My Child Be Like I Was As a Teen?

In: Motherhood, Teen
Woman holding baby, color photo

The day my son turned 15, I was overcome by fear and anxiety. An impending doom like a little, black, raincloud hung over my head as I wondered . . . will he be like me as a teenager? The year that led up to his 15th birthday, I rewatched Dawson’s Creek. Perhaps that’s where I went wrong. I binge-watched the ’90s teen drama of these TV characters who grew up alongside me, but this time through the eyes of an adult—a mom—and not the eyes of a teenager. Episode after episode features teens talking about sex, having sex, drinking,...

Keep Reading

It’s Her Time To Fly

In: Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Woman staring out at lake, color photo

Memory ghosts dance in the periphery of my mind. Even though three weeks have passed since I dropped her off—my baby, the youngest of my children—two states and 400 miles away, I still find myself thinking and worrying and remembering and questioning. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.  On that last day, we’d gotten up early and grabbed coffee and road snacks. She drove us, just she and I and her old Ford Bronco on the open road. The wind whistled through rattling windows—old rigs are so loud. The totes packed in the back filled in a void of words...

Keep Reading

I Wasn’t Counting On You Growing Up So Fast

In: Motherhood, Teen
high school football player looking up at his mom after the game

I wasn’t counting. I was feeding you on the sofa in the dark, I was rereading the directions on a box of fish sticks. I was down the hall or high up in the bleachers, stranded in the pick-up line. I was listening in between dreams for a feverish cry or making another cup of coffee because the first one grew cold. I was trying to learn math again. I wasn’t counting that the years would blur the memories, that the big moments would be mostly too grand to hold. The first day of kindergarten. Your ruddy face beaming below...

Keep Reading

Hey Tweens and Teens—You Can Trick-or-Treat at My House

In: Kids, Living, Teen, Tween
Teen girl holding out pumpkin trick or treat bucket

When I was a kid, my parents had a definite cutoff age for trick-or-treating. As we entered the middle school years, we were told we were too old and this holiday was really for little kids. We graduated to handing out candy and I remember one year hosting a Halloween party for friends when I was in high school. If you wonder how rowdy of a party it was, I think we played cards, ate candy, and someone dressed as Mr. Bean. I imagine parenting is easier when your kids tend toward the nerdy side. At a certain age, trick-or-treating...

Keep Reading

5 Ways Senior Year Is Like Being Pregnant Again

In: Motherhood, Teen
Mom and teen son smiling

When my oldest son started his senior year of high school, I felt like I was back to being pregnant again. Not in the literal, physical sense—thank goodness—but in so many other areas, his senior year gave me a powerful, throwback pregnancy vibe.  Pregnancy and senior year share an eerily common timeline. Both are 40 weeks. For real. Look it up. They both claim to be nine months but somehow manage to actually last 10 months. Once you start to notice the similarities between being a mom to a senior and being pregnant, you almost can’t stop seeing them.  1....

Keep Reading

What a Gift It Is To Watch My Babies Grow Up

In: Motherhood, Teen
Mother in pool with teens in background

A few weeks ago I ran away and I brought my family with me. It’s become my favorite thing to do for my birthday week. Nestled neatly between the end of the school year and the beginning of the longest stretch of summer, for years that week has provided my family and I with the perfect freedom to get away. There are four simple rules for this escape from our normal lives and they are always the same. Our location must: 1. Be located in a climate with palm trees. 2. Require an airplane to get there. 3. Have a...

Keep Reading

It’s Okay to Say No to the Promposal

In: Kids, Teen
Boy holding pink sign saying "Prom with me?"

Promposals are cute.  But, even for the sweetest questions, it’s okay if the answer is not yes. I have more boys than girls at my house so the whole meet the boy asking your girl out with a gun posts don’t sit well with me. Boys and girls have an equally hard time negotiating friendships and relationships in high school, and I care equally for both. A young man spent some time, told his friends, made a cute sign, and planned to ask my daughter to a dance. A friend of my daughters mentioned he might ask (and even made...

Keep Reading

When You’re a Mom of Teens, You Never Pass up a Chance to Spend Time with Them

In: Motherhood, Teen
Football field

When your kids are little, nothing rings more true than the saying that the days are long but the years are short. You know the time is fleeting even as you struggle through some days that feel never-ending. As your kids begin to grow though, their (and your) days become filled with school, homework, sports, clubs, and friends, and suddenly the days start to fly by as well. RELATED: No One Told Me I’d Feel This Way When They Were Teenagers The irony of time in parenting is that the moment you become most acutely aware of how fleeting it...

Keep Reading

You’re Halfway Done With High School and I’m Trying Not To Blink

In: Motherhood, Teen
High school student looking back

It sounds trite to say it, but I am not sure how we got here.   It seems so short and yet so long ago that you started kindergarten, that first step into the outside world. I remember what a huge milestone it seemed at the time and how I obsessed over every detail, from your first backpack to your school shoes. You loved everything about school, and so I loved it too. Those first couple of school years were so sweet and simple, and their passing didn’t bother me. The middle years—3rd, 4th, and 5th grades—were so fun.  We were...

Keep Reading

I’m a Mom of a Teenager Now and Disney’s Inside Out 2 May Do Me In

In: News, Teen
Inside Out movie

I’m not much of a crier at movies. but Disney is responsible for three legitimate bouts of tears in recent years:  The montage of Carl and Ellie’s life in Up.  The scene in Toy Story 3 where Andy gives his toys to Bonnie and drives away.  Bing Bong’s voice trailing off as he disappears, saying “Take her to the moon for me” in Inside Out. It looks like that third one may get an encore soon—Disney just confirmed Inside Out 2 is officially a go.  The first Inside Out took us inside Riley’s 11-year-old mind, into that tween transition between...

Keep Reading