Life and Laughter—Hold on Tight


By Peri Kinder

Toddlers are draining. They’re exhausting, demanding, messy and literally shaking with energy. When my kids were little, I was tired all the time. I’d fall asleep at stoplights and dream of the day I could sleep without someone’s little foot stuck in my ear.

The next decade passed by in a blur of softball games, dance recitals, science fairs, birthday parties and happy family activities. It’s a montage of smiling faces and sunshine.

Little did I know, our happy family time was waning. I didn’t realize I was stuck on a roller-coaster, slowly clicking my way to the first steep drop. A gentle “Clickity-clack, clickity-clack” starts to get louder as the coaster moves closer to the top of the hill until suddenly I’m up so high and afraid to look down.

Once a daughter turns 13, the coaster’s brakes release and you freefall into a death spiral, an upside-down loop, a backwards spin over the rails, and a straight-down drop that moves your stomach into your ribcage. You get whiplash from changing directions. There’s lots of screaming.

There might be some brief, quiet moments but only because you’re steadily climbing back to that first steep drop. Clickity-clack, clickity-clack.

You recognize the parent of a teenage daughter because their teeth are clenched and their fists so tightly clasped they’ve lost all blood flow to their fingers. They’re currently experiencing a 7 G-force thrill ride, Teenage Terror Tornado, and they can’t get off for at least six years.

Other than being an alligator midwife or snake milker, there’s no job more dangerous or thankless than being the mother of a teenage daughter. Moms and 14-year-old girls get embroiled in death-to-the-enemy exchanges on a daily basis. Everything becomes a battle and exclamation points abound.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Daughter: I was late for school again!!!

Harried Mother: You slept in.

TMND: Why didn’t you wake me up???!!!!

HM: I tried to wake you up for 30 minutes.

TMND: I was tired!!!!!

HM: You should go to bed earlier.

TMND: I’m not an old lady like you!!!

At this point, the mom stops talking because she’s ready to punch a hole in the refrigerator. She’s endured slammed doors, rolled eyes, super-black eyeliner, sulkiness, unexpected anger, crop tops and shrill yelling. I speak from experience, both as a former teenager and the mother of four teenage daughters.

As a teen, I wrote my mom a few letters explaining how much I hated her. She wrote me one right back. I lied, snuck out of the house, refused to attend church, yelled at my siblings and changed into sexy tops after I left the house for school. Somehow, my mom didn’t kill me, for which I am endlessly grateful.

My own daughters had their share of teenage drama. I’d often go to bed at night wishing for a lightning bolt to hit me in the head. I’d have been perfectly fine with that. Sudden death often felt easier than years of teenage moodiness.

Now, each of my daughters have a daughter of their own. I watch as they deal with the everyday calamities that must be dealt with when you have a daughter including mood swings, swearing and bathroom bawling, and the daughters have their issues, too.

But occasionally, a daughter would snuggle up to me, tell me she loved me and ask how my day was. She’d hold my hand and look interested for about 10 seconds before asking, “Can I have $50?”

Clickity-clack. Clickity-clack.

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