“The Whatever Girls Story” has been published in the July 2012 edition of the “Mermaids of the Lake” e-magazine.
“Please, let me be homeschooled, please! I promise I’ll do a good job” I begged and pleaded to my parents. The feelings of being trapped and alone, by-products of teenage pressures and stresses, overwhelmed me constantly. No one understood the magnitude of my anxiety over school. I was desperate for a way out.
I wake up. I’ve been having this reoccurring dream for the last couple of years. Post-traumatic stress disorder from the teenage years? That’s a new one for me, but from my own experience, the teen years certainly can put undue stress on a kid.
My middle and high school years were less than stellar. I was painfully shy – your textbook introvert. I never really felt a part of any one group. I was timid about friendships, and rightfully so, because next to the weather here in Spokane, I’ve never seen anything change overnight so rapidly. And not much has changed in the friendship game since I was a kid, or so I hear and have observed. One day you’re BFF’s and the next day, not so much.
“Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt.”
I beg to differ – word wounds are the worst. (photo: Pinterest)
Fast forward 20+ years and I’m a mom of a teenage girl – a double whammy. As every parent does, I want to protect her (my husband calls me “Mafia Mommy”) from some of the experiences I had at her age. Because the school system hasn’t embraced the “Take your Mommy to School Day” and I really need for my daughter to experience life on her own, I knew I needed to come up with a way I could help her navigate through these next few years, while giving her a reasonable amount of independence. My objective was clear – I wanted her to make it through middle and high school without compromising or losing herself or her values under the guise of “fitting in.” I knew that road firsthand. I had emptiness in my heart and a longing to be accepted. I looked for that validation in boys and by pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I sold myself out so I could be part of something and feel like I belonged. That “something” was always temporary.
The words of Ecclesiastes 4:12 inspired me into action:
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
There was no way I was going to drop my daughter off at school and wish her luck. I refused to buy into “status quo” and the “kids will be kids” mentality. I’m about empowering and equipping kids and so, the year before my daughter started 7th grade, I founded “The Whatever Girls.” This is a life group for teen girls, where moms are welcome and encouraged to participate with their daughters. We exist to empower girls to choose God’s best for their lives by exemplifying the pillars of Philippians 4:8 – “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”
Our group consists of like-minded moms and daughters who want to stay true to their faith and values, while swimming upstream against the pressures of their teen years. We meet twice a month and talk about things such as: peer pressure, sex, girl drama, modesty, goals, addictions, friendships, school, our faith in Jesus, and more. Within this group we have developed deep bonds through which we support and encourage each other along the way.
We held our first retreat last fall and this spring we raised funds to bring Proverbs 31 author and speaker Lynn Cowell to Spokane for a community conference for teen girls and their moms. More events are on our horizon such as: a father-daughter dance in the fall of 2013, another big conference in the fall of 2013, and several things in between.
We’re in our second year of the teen years and I’m happy to report that so far, so good. It truly has made all the difference to be involved in my daughter’s life and to provide opportunities for her and her friends to participate in some life-giving activities and discussions. Through Whatever Girls, I find that my daughter learns about the responsibilities that come with independence. As we grow in relationship with each other, I am able to give her much needed guidance and structure, coupled with lots of love and grace. Be encouraged parents. It’s never too late to start plugging in and being intentional with your kids. These years can be stressful at times, but they can also be very enjoyable. Don’t let the rough spots overshadow these precious last few years you have them at home.
Tips for Growing Closer to Your Teen
Spend time with them. Find out what they like to do and make a date.
Talk to them often, but most importantly, listen to them. Find out what’s going on and how their hearts are doing.
Welcome their friends into your home. By making your home a fun and safe place to hang out you’re actually creating an environment they prefer to be.
Know your kids friends and their parents. You simply must know and manage who is being allowed to influence your kids. Period.