Published on May 6th, 2015 | by Heather Jackson1
Thanks, Dude: HEATHER JACKSON, A (Formerly) Teen Mom, On Raising A Teenager
I had my daughter when I was a teenager. Now my daughter is a teenager.
It’s fucking weird. Most of my friends still don’t have their first child yet. Here I am, with a kid, who is close to being a legal adult and moving out. She’s going to leave me and start her own life. I will still be in my 30s.
This has been some of the toughest shit I’ve ever done. When I was pregnant and gave birth, I honestly just kinda swung it. I let things happen as they did. I didn’t have a lot of support. I was a pregnant high-school student who was pregnant by another teenager who was about to go to jail for selling drugs. I was the epitome of society’s view of failure.
Here I am again: not prepared. I’m not ready to raise a teenager. But at least, this time, I tried to prepare for it. I have read books, talked to other parents of teenagers, talked to my therapists, done internal prevention work. But my feelings get in the way. I miss the hugs from my toddler, reading books to her in my lap, the nightly “I love yous.” I mean, she used to like me. Maybe she’ll like me again. Someday. I’m sure of it. At least, that’s what I can hope for to keep me going.
I thought that being a teenage and single mom was hard. Or when I left her abusive father when she was a toddler. Or when I decided to go into treatment for an eating disorder while in graduate school, working two jobs, and being a single parent.
But raising a teenager is really hard. It’s difficult, demanding, and challenging. It’s painful and confusing. It’s full of confusing contradictions, eye rolls, fits of giggles, then random outbursts, door slams, drastically changing moods, random obsessions. It’s constantly wondering if my choices are good enough. Am I fucking her up? When she (probably) thinks I’m ruining her life, is she right? I’ll get excited when she calls me after school to tell me something great that happened during the day. Then when I get home from work, she’s hidden in her room. I knock, ask permission to come in, and respect her wishes. If allowed to come in, I ask her how her day was. “FINE,” she says, looking at me with complete disgust and annoyance. Then she adds, “Are you going somewhere tonight? I hope so. I want to be alone. I love when you’re not here.”
She tells me my friends are cooler than me, even that my gentleman friend/guy I’m seeing is cooler than me. In fact, he asked her how school was going the other day and she told him more about school than she’s ever told me.
Sometimes I want to scream at her: “I didn’t fucking do ANYTHING to you! Your life could be like, WAY worse than it is and most of my choices I’ve made were so you could have a decent life.”
I can’t expect that understanding from a teen. I want to respect her autonomy and rights. She is her own person. That’s one of the hardest things, to admit it. Mother and daughter relationships change so much when they become a teen. It is difficult to pull back and accept that.
On the positive side, she borrows clothes from me. Cool mom points? She also shared some intense personal issues she’s been having, and I feel grateful she can still come to me when it’s really important. I can’t save her from feeling sad or experiencing hurt. I know what it’s like to be a teenager, even though she doesn’t see it. I wasn’t a teenager THAT LONG ago. I remember. It was HARD AS FUCK. It was some of the worst years of my life. I was depressed, had an eating disorder, I got pregnant, I did drugs, I drank, I lied to my parents all the time, I struggled in school, I went to parties, I wrote shitty poetry, I self-harmed. It’s rough. It’s really rough. I want to listen to her. I can’t make her understand or feel anything. All I can do is be here for her and make sure she knows that.
I did not have a lot of support. I only hope the work I’ve done as a parent, the years of counseling sessions, as my daughter has been growing, works.
When she moves out, I will probably miss her snarky comments and eyes rolls … no, I won’t. I cannot wait for that shit to be done with. Raising a teenager is this inevitable feeling of impatiently waiting for her to move out. I spent my late teens and 20s, and now early 30s raising her. I just started my first professional “big person” job. I am finally getting off of government assistance and my job offers excellent benefits! These are first-times for me. I’ve been raising my daughter while I’ve been poor, on housing assistance, Medicaid, and EBT. I am looking forward to being an adult on my own. I know that I’ll miss her being in my life as the center of my life. I know that I will feel all this intense, weird mom guilt when my baby will be “grown up.” Maybe I am growing up along with her, too.