On Charming My Teen…

Sep 22 2011

A thousand years ago, I became a woman.  You know, in the traditional, “Mom, do not tell Dad!” sense.  In the “are you kidding me?” sense.  And in the “what is going to come from where?” sense.

I’m sure you get it.  I became a woman.  My mom did tell my dad.  It was awful.  And wonderful.  Embarrassing.  And empowering.

Growing up girl is tricky business.  I would know, because I’ve spent at least 28 years trying to figure it out.

But I’ll tell ya… helping my daughters grow up girl is even trickier.

Which of my hard-won lessons can I teach them?  And which must they slog through themselves?

Several years ago, during an epic gabfest with girlfriends that involved scrapbooking, wine, and an untoward story here and there that might or might not have involved a few bananas (ahem… sorry, Greg), we stumbled upon the subject of womanhood.  We talked about first bras.  We talked about first boyfriends.  We talked about fears and fantasies and friends.  We talked about mothers and men.

And then we talked about our daughters and how in the world to help them navigate a maze whose end we haven’t discovered.

We realized, in the course of our long conversation, that we had managed to create a remarkable community of wise and strong women.  And then we understood what we wanted for our daughters’ imminent womanhood; to gift them with the knowledge that they are walking the maze in concert with us — to help them understand that we’ve littered the maze already, seeding it with our prayers and our hopes for their present and their future.

We put our heads together, and we created a plan.  A wonderful, terrible plan.  (Not really terrible.  It just sounds more dramatic that way.)

Then, three years ago, when the oldest of our daughters turned 13, we made her our first victim.  In the time since, we’ve had Charm Parties for many more.

And last Sunday, it was my daughter’s turn.

Because, somehow, when I wasn’t looking, Abby turned 13.  She didn’t ask my permission.  She didn’t make an announcement.  She just went and did it.

Which is strange because, when I close my eyes, I still see this:

Hang on.

Give me a sec.

**deep breath IN…**

Aaaaannnndddd… ppppffffffff…

OK.  I’m good.

When our daughters turn 13, and I suppose I must bravely face the fact that mine did, we honor their entry into womanhood with a gathering of the women who play a significant role in their lives.


(No, I don’t know why Elsie is eating Abby’s head while her mama kisses the other side, but I love this pic too much not to share.)

From grandmothers to babes in arms…

…from mamas and aunts to sisters and friends,

we all come together to share what we love about the baby she was, what we celebrate about the girl she is, and what we hope for the woman she is becoming.

Each person who attends the party brings a bracelet charm that symbolizes, in whatever way the giver chooses, their prayers and wishes for this particular girl.

And we ladies who are, oh, say, 20 and above… we weep.  I’m not much of a crier, so it makes me achingly uncomfortable, but we – and I am sadly no exception – can’t seem to help ourselves.

The girls all giggle, waiting to see which mama or aunt or cousin will start the next round of waterworks.  They gleefully bring ’round the tissues, and we joke about waterproof mascara.


But they don’t know.  Not yet.  They don’t know why we weep.

They don’t know that we weep because we know.  We know… oh, not the specific turns she’ll take in the maze or the route she’ll pursue or the obstacles she’ll face… but we know the human condition, and we know in our experience what she will feel.  We know that she will learn about pain and grief.  We know that her heart will break.  We know that she will love and lose.  And we know that she will love and win.  We know that, at times, she will settle and sell herself short.  And we’re certain that she will reach higher and achieve more than she ever imagined.

We weep because we’ve learned that the bitter is oh-so-worth the sweet.  And we weep because we know she’ll have to learn to hold them both in her heart at once.

But, most of all, we weep because we know, for one afternoon, in one crowded room with our best women at our sides, that she will not have to stumble through the maze blind and alone.  No.  Our daughters are blessed with a crowd of women who’ve gone ahead and before… and many who are coming behind.  And around every corner, she’ll find a friend.

Because we’re here.  Waiting in the maze for you, baby.  We’re reaching our hands out to hold yours.  To pull you through when you need help.  To prop you up from behind.  To guide you in the dark.  And to simply walk alongside in companionable silence when the way is smooth and bright.

I love you, Abby girl.

Your Mama