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This week marked a milestone in my daughters life that I have dreaded from the moment she was born. Her first break-up. To some it may seem trivial, and God knows that relationships for many teens are extremely superficial and short-lived. Yes, they bounce from “relationship” to relationship seeking everything from attention, approval, self-worth, identity, independence, and experience. Yes, they often come with tons of drama that plays out like bad reality tv; with their peers determining their approval ratings based off how juicy and shocking the gossip potential becomes.
Regardless of how frivolous it may seem, the matter of trusting another person with your vulnerability should be approached with delicacy. And the heart-wrenching ordeal of having that trust ripped to shreds and that person becoming a silent mixed bag of memories is one of the most soul crushing experiences a human being can have. Dealing with this for the first time, and as a teen whose emotions are a runaway train 85% of time anyway, is magnified by somewhere around a gazillion degrees! Which is why I believe that allowing this heartbreak, and guiding her through it, will equip her for healthy relationships in the future.
Why allow a teenage girl to date so young?
Now, I’m sure some of you are wondering why I would even let my 13 year old daughter date to begin with. I’ve certainly had this argument with my fiancé, my mother, and my co-worker/work-wife/best-friend, among others. The answer isn’t simple enough to explain in just a few sentences, but in a nutshell? As human beings, we learn through experience; and as children, we learn by a combination of those experiences and sound guidance through the consequences – good or bad.
When it comes to dating, I believe this to be especially true. I believe a girl’s first heartbreak, her reaction to it and her healing process, set a precedence for how she handles relationships in the future. Unfortunately, it also tends to determine her own self worth, particularly when that heartbreak includes betrayal. And I believe that it not just my choice, but my responsibility to allow her to experience these harsh but inevitable feelings with a steady hand that she can rely on to help her walk through it. She needs to hear a voice she knows she can trust to combat all of the lies she will want to believe about herself. It may just be the difference between her succumbing to a life trying to always be who others tell her she should be, and being empowered to stand tall and proud of who she is; believing in herself as the strong, beautiful, smart, and yes, flawed individual whose strengths and weaknesses make her uniquely capable to accomplish anything she wants.
Every teenage girl stands at a crossroads at one point or another. What she believes about herself will determine the path she ends up following.Tweet
And it is it very important to me that my daughter doesn’t stand at those crossroads scared and alone, afraid to ask for my advice or feeling too uncomfortable or embarrassed to approach the subject.
The break-up story
So yes, I allowed my 13 year old daughter to date, under very carefully guarded boundaries and with a safety net of rules that would allow her to have the experience without falling prey to it. Her boyfriend is a sweet kid who comes from a somewhat unstable background. He was in foster care at the time she met him, was separated from his siblings and had been bounced around between a few different homes. His father is in prison, his mom was struggling with addiction. He has some attachment issues, understandably, and just from my experiences with our home becoming a safe haven for many a hurting child over the years, I knew he would also likely tout some fairly manipulative behaviors. But then again, so does my daughter. She has had some equally intense experiences of abuse and abandonment; and has similar behavioral responses and a boat load of trust issues to go along with it. But they had the foundational ingredients necessary for healthy relationship.
They built each other up, at least in the beginning. Encouraged each other to bring up their grades, to try new activities and follow the rules of their respective households. They talked to each other about things that they each felt like no one in the world could understand. It was positive, though not perfect, and honestly healthier than some of my relationships- even as an adult! This boy, who I’ll call The Boyfriend for privacy purposes, spent a lot of time at our house, and we loved having him! My son doesn’t like any of my daughter (The Girl’s) friends, especially boys! He is extremely protective of her, and even he liked him! They miraculously got along famously. It was as close to an ideal first relationship any mother could hope for. But he is after all, a 14 year old boy.
The pandemic tested our teens relationships
The trouble started well before the pandemic hit; but when they could no longer see each other in person, all the pent up anxiety they harbored exploded. They both rely a little too much on each others company to feel happy…and I wasn’t sure they would make it through; especially because there was no way of knowing when or if they would ever get to see each other again. For middle-schoolers, 2 and a half months with no real end in sight is like an eternity. They started fighting a lot. The jealousy they both seemed to let steer their emotions was getting more intense.
He gave in to temptation
Unfortunately, The Boyfriend made the mistake of letting himself be swayed by some very racy pics sent to him by one of the many girls who are in love in with him. There was a very flirtatious conversation with some pretty inappropriate points of discussion, as I’m sure you can imagine. And from my sub-par eavesdropping skills, I have concluded that this happened at least 3 times. The Girl of course, found out about each incident before he even had time to exit SnapChat. She subsequently tore him a new asshole, but this time broke up with him; and tried desperately to bury her feelings and act as though nothing had ever happened. Apparently she doesn’t realize that anyone within a mile of our home can hear her screaming and sobbing, very much so including us! As she is terrifying when approached with questions about her well-being, we let her have her space.
Around 2 am (when else?) she broke. She wandered out of her room with a dazed look on her face, walked over to The Fiancé, who was of course, up playing video games (eye roll), and squeaked out a rather pitiful, “We broke up.”
She blamed herself
That’s when the tears began to flow unrestricted, the sobs came out un-stifled. I jumped out of bed to pretend I had no idea what was going on, and she just wrapped her arms around me and sobbed over and over “Mommy I love him, I love him”. Dramatic? Yes. Hard to watch? Also yes. But not as hard as hearing the words, “Mommy what’s wrong with me? How come I wasn’t good enough? What did I do? Why am I not good enough?”
Oh. Ohhhh no. No no. No 14 year old little asshole is going to make my beautiful little girl ask those questions about her self! I could feel the anger just surging through my veins. But I pulled it together and told her what she needed to hear. First, I love you and I’m sorry you have to go through this. Second, this is not a you problem, this is a him problem. You did nothing wrong, and he did not talk to that little ho because you aren’t good enough. He talked to her because he made a mistake. He let his hormones and emotions win over his self control. YOU did not make that choice, HE did.
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I reminded her how beautiful she is inside and out. I told her how happy she makes me and everyone else who is lucky enough to have her in their life – including The Boyfriend. Ex-Boyfriend. I made sure she understood how grateful he was for her friendship and for all the hurdles she had helped him overcome. I made sure she knew without a doubt that she was the prize; and he was going to regret fucking it up. Because she is the prize!!! And she will need to hear that over and over again in the next couple of weeks. She is the prize, and he lost her. He didn’t dismiss her. He didn’t gain something better or remove himself from her toxicity. A bad choice was made, and he will have to deal with the guilt and the regret of knowing what that choice cost him.
Combating the lies our teen girls believe about their worth
Moms of teenage girls – I cannot stress enough how important it is to constantly reiterate this to our daughters! It is so easy to dismiss these events as being over-dramatic and assume the pain is unwarranted. For some of us, it’s even easier to ignore these relationship struggles. Maybe we’re not sure how to deal with it, or maybe we think these beginning relationships are insignificant. Some of us try to protect them from the emotional roller coaster by not allowing the relationship to begin with.
And if that’s you, I just want you to remember yourself at that age. Pull out your old diary if need be. I promise you, whether you allow it or not, whether you ever know about it or not, and even if she actually listens to you and doesn’t do the dating thing; your daughter is absolutely dealing with the concept that I want so badly to change! That concept is what turns so many strong beautiful girls into insecure, vulnerable, and mentally, emotionally and physically dominated women.
It’s the concept that they are not good enough. It’s the idea that something is wrong with them because they are rejected in one way or another by the boy they want so badly to choose them. Boys want to be needed and respected. Girls want to be chosen and cherished. So a girl will choose a boy and cherish him; and when those feelings aren’t reciprocated (or worse, if they feel chosen and cherished, then tossed aside for something “better”) the response right away is, what did I do, why am I no longer considered the prize?
We, as women, model this behavior
I say “they”, but this absolutely true for us women too. Even as adults, even as confident, independent women, our initial response to rejection is to question our worth.
It’s why boys, and men, often don’t seem anywhere near as broken up about losing us right after a break-up. Because at first, they still feel needed and respected by us. We beg, we plead, we ask them what’s wrong with us. We place all that disrespect and loathing onto ourselves, instead of where it belongs.
Assuming we bounce back after a few weeks and convince ourselves we’re better off without them, rest assured; there is a high likelihood that the dude will recognize that we no longer need or respect him. At all. And if cheating was the issue, that bitch certainly isn’t likely have any respect for him. But he’ll sure as hell remember that YOU did. And after we’ve pulled ourselves together, they suddenly realize the mistake they made and how much they love us and beg us to forgive them and blah blah blah – you know the routine.
But what I find more often then not, is either,
A) we don’t bounce back after a couple of weeks; instead spend the next few weeks or months doing anything and everything we can to regain the guys affection. We change anything about ourselves that we believe is the problem, throwing ourselves at them with all the feminine wiles we can muster; or
B) We do bounce back after those first few weeks, but our confidence is shaken. The moment ex-boo decides he needs us back and throws some lame ass apology at us, we bend right over and let him fuck us in the ass again. Sometimes literally…
🙄 Bitch please, like you’ve never?!
The impact of how society views women
Why do we do this to ourselves? Because it is ingrained in our minds that our self worth is dependent on the male species opinion of us.
Some of it is biological
Women are wired to look for men who will protect and provide for them during pregnancy, birth, and as they raise his children. Men are wired to look for certain physical attributes in women that increase the likelihood of healthy procreation. Because of threats that made survival and successful pregnancies much more difficult to attain previously, men are also wired to spread their seed as much as possible; it was really a numbers game that needed to be played for humanity to endure. And these mindsets have continued to drive the sexual attractions and cultural behavior of both genders.
This isn’t to say men can’t help themselves. Their brains and emotions have evolved just as much as everything else. It’s also not a dump on the male gender. Not all men are pigs. They don’t all cheat, and they don’t all think with their dick. Since they are human, they may love and cherish a woman beyond comprehension and still make a mistake. That’s why as moms, it’s super important to raise our boys to have self control, to respect women and treat them like a precious gift – not a cum dumpster whose sole purpose on earth is to please them.
More on that in another post…
Some of it is generational
Years and years of patriarchy ingrained in the fabric of our culture. We can change the idea that we are only worth as much as our beauty and sensuality can buy us. And we are definitely headed in the right direction. But we have to be diligent. We have to be present in our kids lives. Be the dominant voice of reason in a world full of chaos. We have to let go, but be available. Speak truth and positivity when they hear harsh distortions. As moms of teens, it’s not our job to cut their apples into slices or decide who they can have a play date with. Now it’s time to teach our little birdies to fly, and that will likely be a painful process; and I mean that for you, not for them (their pain is a given).
Let her fly, but be there to pick her up when she falls
Just remember moms, they can’t fly just yet, and we’re not kicking them out of the nest for a while. So we let them experience the painful falls, and we encourage the fuck out of them. We don’t blow sunshine up their asses – that never helped anyone fly successfully. Instead, we are honest with them about where they need to improve, and we encourage them to do so. We listen, we give advice, and we help them pick themselves up do better next time, because we BELIEVE in them.
Yes, The Girl has made her mistakes. She will have to learn that her need for strength and control doesn’t give her the power she thinks it does. She will have to learn to trust and let go. But I will sit up all night with her as she experiences her first break-up, and I will be there speaking truth and leading her safely through those crossroads. Because she also needs to learn that she is the prize.
And it is up to me to be there to remind her.