Monday, November 21, 2011

Honey, I Get It. Really.

"Enough about me. What do you think about me?"

When you're a fourteen-year-old girl, the universe pretty much revolves around you. Feeling popular, secure and pretty? All is right with the world. Feeling tired, left out and a little bit blemishy? There is a dark shadow over everything and everyone, everywhere. It can feel like an adolescent apocalypse of biblical proportions.

My daughter firmly believes that I don't get it. But, here's a little secret that she doesn't know. I was a fourteen-year-old girl once too. Really.

Now, of course she realizes that I was fourteen at some point; it happened in between the years I was thirteen and fifteen. (Well, duh!) What I mean is that she really, truly, sincerely, honestly does not believe that I was ever in her shoes. That I could possibly understand — and appreciate — all that she has to deal with at that age, in this day and age.

Here are some examples:

She's in eighth grade. She has homework assignments and tests to prepare for. In fact, there are evenings when she has to study for — gasp! — two different quizzes in two different subjects for two different teachers. Apparently, there is no way I can make a suggestion, sympathize, or even relate. Because, apparently, when I was in junior high (way back when), we never had multiple exams on the same day. Hmm. I wish someone had explained that to my teachers.

She sometimes feels left out. Of course, I can't possibly know what that's like. I was never ignored, overlooked or had my feelings hurt. I was never excluded from a birthday party, teased in a gym class. I was never "the last one picked for basketball." Ha, dream on. I only wish my teen years were the halcyon days my daughter seems to think they were.

She worries about fitting in. She desperately needs the clothes, the accessories, the school supplies that all the other eighth graders have. Yours truly wouldn't understand. After all, I never begged my mom to buy me a pair of overpriced Calvin Klein jeans, Frye boots, Adidas sneakers, or a down vest. (That down vest was really really cool, now that I think about it.)

She is living in the minute. This minute, this very specific exact minute. It's hard for her to plan ahead — or to trust me when I promise that things will work out. But, you see, unbeknownst to her, I remember what that's like as well. I did my share of crying myself to sleep over tragic tragedies that became trivial trifles a week later. Patience is not an easily accessible virtue for tweens and teens. "This too shall pass," I tell her. She rolls her swollen eyes.

A few nights ago, we were having a typical family dinner (picture The Waltons, but with iPhones and eating microwaved leftovers and rushing to finish so we could watch the new episode of Glee). The meal fractured as it often does into a father-daughter argument. I can't remember what the dispute was about, but I was struck by something my daughter said ...

"Dad! Stay out of it! You were never a fourteen-year-old girl!"

He couldn't really argue with that one.

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