We have four daughters. It isn’t just a matter of four kids who are girls but an entire lifestyle! Raising women is no small feat!
When they were small it was a cuteness miracle. Hard yes, exhausting yes, but looking back it was just so CUTE. And pink. There were pigtails, barbies, and a whole load of pink washing every week. They helped hang it all up on racks low enough for them to reach! There were fairy gardens, and a tree house spy-club, up in the tree. Their bedrooms were full of dress-ups, teddies, Polly Pockets and beanie bears. The floor got covered. Texta’s, craft and glitter. And hairbands. Hairbands could be found everywhere. In EVERY room (on the floor of course) and even in the car and the garden. After a while I did not stop for them when I vacuumed. They had infiltrated every part of our life. There were also legos and I gave up stopping for them too.
Our kids also had a cubby house with a mini kitchen. We did the pony phase, puppies, cats, birds, fish, and a LOT of small funerals. They all had their favourite colour and they each had their favourite animal. The oldest had horses, the next one tigers and they dictated to sister number 3 that her favourite animal would be bunnies (not horses or tigers). We all baked cupcakes and cinnamon scrolls and they had tea parties with dolls. Of course we got tired and cranky at times and there were girls fights. But there there were also hugs and cuddles and so many cute notes they wrote to us. Our fourth daughter had one mum and 3 mini mums. She was SO doted on.
When they turned 14 however something mysterious happened. Mysteriously bad, not good. I had been the awesomest mum forever and yet now I became the annoying-est mum. (Apparantly.) So, perplexed, I had to literally google ‘raising 14 year olds’. I found a million articles on how hard it is to parent 14 year olds. One article said it was the hardest age to parent. I felt massively relieved to read that I was not alone. (Maybe there are articles that say that about every age but I never could bear to check…)
14 year olds don’t come out of their room much, their life seems to have a great deal of woe, and they are moody. There are many friend dramas and much self doubt. In these phases I was SO glad I had the other less complicated, non-14 daughters to hug and chat with. My husband and I almost threw our own parent party each time one turned 15 as we were SO relieved to crawl over the finish line of the 14th year. 15 was quite ok in comparison.
But then came the second hard teen phase. 16-19. Yes it was loads of fun with their friends coming over and much cooking and chatting and beach trips. There were sports and homework, and school balls, and driving lessons. There were every food phase you can think of. Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Vegan, I quit sugar. I got healthier. We parents stuck together through times of dealing out rules and tough love and times of being too soft. We did some good stuff and of course made mistakes too.
The 16-19 window is stretching…. Each of our kids seemed to lose their mind for a while. Prefrontal cortex = under contruction. Parent sanity = under deconstruction.
That was like the terrible two’s again but with much more serious issues. I will have to write a whole blog post just on the teen stage alone some time, but for now I can say we have survived way, way more than I thought we had to ability to survive. I know that some of my friends have angelic daughters but not so in our house. Our kids seemed to go off track and into the wilderness. Our stress levels reached untold new heights. Due to multiples we have had teen daughters for 12 years non stop now…
We have experienced a LOT in 12 years of teens… We have dealt with parties, sat by one unconscious in the hospital who tried out spirits at another time driven through the night looking for another one who was AWOL, texting all their friends to get info. There’s been piercings, a tattoo, various boyfriends and then various ex-boyfriends. There have been phases with a couple of them when my husband banned them from speaking to me because they were a bit like pirahnas who wanted to eat their mum. There were many times I can honestly say I longed for death as I thought that being alive and dealing with my teen felt beyond my ability. I went away to my mums many weekends to de-stress and that helped me get perspective. Reading teen books helped a lot in that stage to get strategies and know we were not the first ones to go through it. I could write an entire book myself now on getting through crisis times with teenagers. These phases felt like forever and just as we’d survive one, the next one would hit 16. We did take some drastic (expensive) far away holidays at times just to get them away from the scene, and have some family time.
During these years we were held together by sheer will to survive, by our kids who were not in a bad stage, by our friends, and by God. Every now and again God would speak into my heart this same message ‘love them where they are at’.
LOVE THEM WHERE THEY ARE AT. Alcohol, tattoo, piercing, whatever. Friends that drive you crazy. Choices that drive you crazy. Whatever. Just love them where they are at. The friends too. Especially the friends. Coz they will then help look after your kids and will be unwittingly on your team!
And then one day we woke up and the sea was calm again.
Oh. My. Goodness.
It is like a miracle. We made it through the storm. I can hardly believe how calm it is. I don’t have a ton of energy leftover but it is awesome. No dramas, no major stresses going on.
We go out with the girls for coffees, we message all the time. And they tell me they love me and that I’m the best mum in the world. We swap recipes. They are among my closest and best friends in the world. I absolutely adore them. They are studying, they are caring, they help each other. They are responsible human beings.
We have survived thus far. Fourth daughter turned 16 this week and we hold our breath a little but that kid has seen so much that she says she does not plan on taking the same road. We hope. We know there may be a patch of crazy at some point but we are gaining strength from coming out the other end with the others. By the time our last daughter turns 20 we will have been parenting teen daughters non stop for about 16 years. (Then we can write a best seller on it and become millionaires and lay on a beach in Thailand from then on. Which we will need….)
But seriously, wherever you are in the daughter phase just don’t give up. if you are in the sweet stage enjoy it. LOVE IT! If you are in the sour stage PRESS ON. Sweetness should come again. I promise. Just model saying sorry and any bridge can be rebuilt. No matter how many grenades may have landed on it.
I wish I could hug you with the biggest hug because it is not an easy road… but it is so worth it. Just keep loving and also keep taking care of yourself. Put on your own oxygen mask first. Maybe it is time to go treat yourself to a few treats – new clothes or the hairdresser! You deserve it because you are AMAZING! You are PRECIOUS!
Lots of love from a ‘sister’ on the journey of motherhood.
Header photo: Much photo credit to Courtney B. A photo of our four precious girls taken in West Australia some years back.