I love having daughters. I do. I have two, and I’m crazy about them. Among other benefits, if you’re not sure whether the dress you’re wearing makes you look stunning or like something that’d set you up as a candidate for a “What Not To Wear” reunion episode, you call up those girls and they answer the question before you even ask it.
I particularly love having a teenage daughter. For one thing, she drives so I can stay home more and get out of my yoga pants less. Plus, when I take my younger daughter to the beach or to the movies with her friends, my teenager comes along with me as my friend.
But because my teenage daughter is also my oldest (read: learner) child, I’m feeling my way along figuring out what’s safe to say and what will earn me The Dreaded Look. This is not about tip-toeing around my child and acting as if she’s the authority and I am some lowly indentured servant trying not to get on her bad side. This is about the fact that wise moms know when and how to choose their battles–and sometimes, that means either shutting up or staying in the safe zone.
The list is pretty short so far, but here’s what seems to be at least neutral most of the time. (It goes without saying that 6 a.m. on a Monday morning is not “most of the time.”)
1. Do you need $20?
2. By the way, I ordered that dress you wanted.
3. Yes, I like your hair like that.
4. Yes, I like that outfit.
5. Yes, we like your boyfriend. (You might add “but if he breaks your heart, we’ll kill him” under your breath to test the waters. She might think this is protective and nice. Or she might jump all over you for insinuating they won’t be together forever. Case in point: my daughter is the first girlfriend her boyfriend has had. She told me he said, “I’m glad you’re my first and my last.” At which point I laughed. Yeah, I’m still digging out of that one. See item #1.)
6. I made some chocolate-chip cookies. Not that you have to eat them. But not that you shouldn’t eat them.
7. I just washed it. (Whatever “it” is.)
8. That’s too bad. (When empathy or sympathy seems to be called for.)
9. That’s fabulous. (When celebration or congratulation seems to be called for.)
10. I love you. Yes, this may be met with The Dreaded Look. And possibly an eye roll. But I’m putting it on the list and saying it anyway. Because it’s true and important, both of which are even better than safe.
Elizabeth Spencer is mom to one tween and one teen daughter. She’s been married for 20 years to a very patient husband who copes nicely as the lone male in a house full of girls. Elizabeth avoids working on her 100-year-old farmhouse by blogging about life as an imperfect mother at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and by spending time on Facebook.
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