January 25th, 2012

An Open Letter to My Teenage Daughter

Linda Kennard

My dear moody teen,

You’ve been part of this family for nearly two decades, and I love you now every bit as much as I did when you were laid on my chest as a greasy, wrinkly newborn. While I’m not as blind now as I was then to your imperfections, I’m every bit as sure that you are truly wonderful. I know now what I could not have known then: you are an intelligent, talented, kind-hearted, wise soul with endless potential. You can be whatever—whoever—you want to be, and I want nothing quite as adamantly as I want you to be happy.

Did you catch that last bit? I said that I want you to be happy. I suppose what I’m really trying to say is that I demand it. To that end, we need to get a few things straight around here:

• Much like a black hole, your foul moods mercilessly suck everyone in the immediate vicinity into deep and dark recesses, so please refrain from exuding tension. This will take practice, but I believe in you, and I’m afraid I have to insist on this point. You see, darling, there’s only room in this house for one resident bitch, and I hate to inform you, but I claimed that role long ago—before you were even born.

• Contrary to what you apparently believe, your siblings do in fact have a right to exist, breathe, and even speak. You’re not the only one to whom I must devote my attention, so take a number, get in line, and wipe that annoyed look off of your face.

• When the family is altogether in close quarters (e.g., the car, the living room, the state), you (like the rest of us) have an obligation to at least try to be nice. In these settings, innocent questions call for friendly responses. If posed with this question, “Hey, Mom says we’re going for a walk, so where do you want to go?” answering by jolting your body, gritting your teeth, and yelling, “I just woke up! Leave me alone!” is not a “friendly” response. A simple, “I don’t know” would suffice. “I don’t know, Buddy” would be better still, friendlier.

• My wallet is not a bank, so please refrain from randomly withdrawing funds without warning and accept the periodic “No”—with a smile please—as an answer to your demands for cash.

• I welcome visits from your alter ego, mind blowing as they are. When you plop down on the couch and start chatting away about your day amidst your own smirks and giggles, I’m thrilled—really I am. (Just ignore—and don’t trip over—my agape jaw.) While these visits are rare enough to be somewhat confusing, I nevertheless find it oh-so-nice to see that light-hearted, happy-go-lucky version of you come up for air every now and again; she’s welcome to pop in any time.

Hugs and kisses my darling,
Your Adoring Mother

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