On Charming My Teen…

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

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29 responses to “On Charming My Teen…”

  1. I love this so much. I’m a lifetime away from coming of age parties, but I LOVE the idea of doing something like this. Watching my little one unroll the toilet paper and sneak chocolate chips and growl at her brother (yes, growl – and I congratulated her, because she was growling back instead of being intimidated by the big boys), it’s so hard to imagine this moment is down the pike.

  2. Just wondering what you did for your son when he turned 13? I have all boys and would love some ideas!

  3. If my parents had thrown a party, or even announced to ANYONE, my first period, I would have been utterly mortified.

    Your idea-of celebrating entry into womanhood at thirteen, menarche or no, is brilliant and makes me wish I had a daughter. (Not really, cause I adore my big hairy-legged boys, and I never ever have to deal with teenage pms.

  4. love this Beth and all those young faces. So question do you wait till 13 or around the time there cycles start?

  5. What a beautiful idea! I hope you don’t mind, but I would love to borrow this idea. I have a beautiful group of friends and we all have daughters (only daughters actually) so this would be such a beautiful way of celebrating their womanhood. Thank-you for sharing something so special with us all.

  6. I love love LOVE this! I have only one girl burdened (she would say) by brothers. She is forever being dragged to baseball games she doesn’t want to go to, football practice she hates watching and is unable to say the word “balls” in the house, under any context, ever because of the reaction it will elicit. I want to do special girl things for her. This is perfect! Now, how do I make myself remember this in 18 months?

  7. We are in the same boat. My oldest baby turned 13 last September and became a “woman” two weeks ago. I handled it fairly well, but inside I wanted to scream and cry and wondered where my little red tomato went to, and why it was replaced by this beautiful, mature and-dare I say- shapely young lady. Did I just say “young lady”. I thought turning 30 was difficult. I think that this is far more difficult still. What a wonderful way to honor your daughters and nieces and granddaughters. I wish our society had more of these transition ceremonies.

      • Yes, please! I’ll be right over… and in 8 years, too. 😉

        Don’t take offense at my lack of swift commentary. I a) had a busy few days getting ready to send Greg away for a week and a half (yikes!), and b) I’m a big, giant baby when it comes to compliments and everyone was just so lovely about this post that I had no idea what to say. How embarrassing!

        Sending love…


  8. I LOVE this!!! I wish Gabe was a girl so we could totally do this. (OK, I am so lying, I lovelovelove little boys, and mine is the best!)
    Seriously, I wish my girls were still little……….
    What an awesome thing.
    I’m gushing.

  9. Seriously Beth, these should come with warnings! I was laughing and being silly with the kids. I stop for a moment to read up and I am bawling. So not fair! Thank you though. I really needed that cry.

  10. Thank you for including me in this wonderful experience. I too have had a wonderful army of strong women supporting, encouraging and influencing me throughout my life: mom, grandmas, aunts, sister and sis-in-laws, and dear friends. But it was simply understood. A given. No one really articulated this to me, and I think it is wonderful that you and others are helping us put words to what we are all trying to do for our girls.

  11. Thank you for letting us into your life! This is such a neat idea. I love that you are celebrating your teens! I hope that I can develop a community of women with whom I can bond and, even if it’s not in this way, find a way to celebrate our daughters!

  12. Darn you Beth, again I make the mistake of reading your blog at work and am forced to blink back tears. Now usually those tears are the result of laughter, but this post is so sweet and poignant that even this non-crier has a hard time holding those tears back. Thank you for writing what is on your heart. Your Abby is indeed very fortunate to have a mama and a larger group of women who love her so much.

  13. Oh Beth, this is just a beautiful way to honor your daughter. What a precious experience for her, to know how much she is loved and adored. Just to know that she is not alone and that she has so many women that will hold her up when she needs it. I love this idea.

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