The truth about parenting teenagers, for me at least, is it involves a lot of hurt.

Hurt feelings because the relationship I want to have with my daughters isn’t always the same one they want to have with me.

Hurt from them pushing away.

Hurt because they sometimes lie and deceive and break trust.

Hurt because I make a lot of mistakes, and I wish I could do better.

Hurt because sometimes others hurt them, and that may be the most painful of all.

Sometimes it hurts so much that I just want to throw in the towel. I wish I didn’t care so much, wish I could step away for a bit, wish I didn’t love so hard.

I hear people say to not take it personally. I haven’t figured out how to do this yet. I don’t think I ever will.

But parenting doesn’t work like a light switch. And there’s no way to turn off my heart.

So, I take blow after blow from these young girls who seem to try on a different personality each day. I try new ways to get through to them, sometimes stepping way back into the shadows, sometimes sitting next to them for hours on end.

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I try to listen more than I speak, I try to coach not judge, I try to make sure no matter what they know they are valued and loved.

And I fight the urge to instate more rules, more boundaries, more me into their already crowded lives. 

Instead, I try to just let them BE.

I am trying to give them space to figure out who they are, space to fail, space to fill their lives with people and places and things that have no connection to me. I am trying to ensure they understand I accept them exactly as they are. I am trying to wait patiently in the wings so they know I am there when they need me.

There is a reason they say kids break free from their parents, as I know little pieces of my heart often crumble away in these moments they push me away. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare yourself or know that it is coming. To know that part of your life is over, to know that they need you less, even to know you’ve done a good job—it only makes you crave them more.

And when there is joy—because there is so also so much joy in raising these kids—it is the most extraordinary form of happiness to watch your kids explode into good people.

There are moments I feel so close to my daughters I can see the friendships we’ll have in the future. There are times I feel like we’ve crossed a hurdle in this challenging time. There are long periods where I feel confident we’re on the right track.

But to say it doesn’t hurt to be a parent of teenagers, well, that’s just not the way the game is played.

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So, I carry the heavy weight of this painful transition around with me like a wet blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I carry it with the hope one day I can drop it to the floor, and walk more peacefully through life with my three teenage daughters.

But today, I’ll sit in the hurt of parenting teenagers—because I don’t know how to love any other way.

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.