A Letter to My Teenage Daughter

An open letter to my teenage daughter expressing the monumental things I need you to know but can’t say to you today, and which will inevitably be lost in translation across the years. Things I feel today, while you’re still my baby, and want to get down on paper before the realities of life blurs them…

It’s so tempting to keep you undeniably safe, like a butterfly held captive in a glass jar; because in allowing the butterfly the freedom to dance, you are also allowing it to be vulnerable.

My sweet Angel,

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about you growing up. It’s silly really, but for some reason, while I was pregnant I couldn’t imagine beyond your first six months of life in this world. Call it petty superstition, but I think I was too terrified something awful would happen, and we’d become that statistic.

But then, in the blink of an eye you did reach that milestone and, of course, I had to consider the next six months. And now as I write you’re 19 months old, and the more life goes by and your dad and I continue to be lucky enough to have you in our lives, the more I’ve started to look forward…

The most precious things to pass onto your daughter: wisdom, advice, and the depth of your love. #teenagedaughter #letter #motherdaughter #parenting

 

A Letter to My Teenage Daughter

I decided to write this letter because I’m currently in the ideal position of being able to remember my own teens, but also being able to view your teenage years objectively, before they’re upon us. Naturally, as time marches on my own past angst will become (more of) a distant memory, while yours will begin to cloud my judgements.

This letter serves as a reminder to myself of why I must keep your needs in mind, when all I want to do is lovingly instal bars on your bedroom window, fasten the buckles on your strait jacket, and whip up your favourite dinner.

That may sound crazy, but being a mummy and feeling that kind of profound, vibrating love does crazy things to a woman.

If I had to do those unstable things to keep you safe, I’d struggle not to. But of course I know I need to keep that in check.

This missive is also designed to remind your teenage self that, though you may sometimes struggle to comprehend that an old fart like me was once your age – I get it. The lack of confidence; the feelings of isolation; the uncertainty and need to fit in. Right now, today, I do. I hope I never forget, so that I can empathise with you and be the mother you need me to be. But I am fallible, so if all my precious memories of you push out the less pleasant ones of my teenage years, then I’m sorry. But you will at least have this to refer to as a poor substitute. And so will I.

When I was a young woman, as you are now, I was stifled and suffocated. As I mentioned above, a mother’s love can do that. So can a dad’s, but mine wasn’t around to interfere; nor to be a sounding board for your nan’s parenting methods. It must have been very difficult trying to strike the appropriate balance alone. I hope more than anything that your dad and I are still very much a team by the time you read this.

Your nan had baggage from her own childhood, sadly – just as many of us do (I hope that won’t be true for you). And naturally, it influenced the way she brought me up. I think it also coloured her judgement; but that’s understandable. It’s also inevitable, and what gave me the idea for writing this.

 

Learning from Past Mistakes

I’ve heard it said that in becoming a parent, you gain a new insight to, and appreciation of, your own parents; a bit like putting your upbringing under a magnifying glass. But I find that to be over-simplified and prefer the analogy of a prism: to refract the interwoven threads of our relationship and pick through which to replicate, and which to refine.

As your mother, my inclination will always be to protect you from danger. But there’s another vital element to your health if you’re to blossom as you grow. I must not clip your feathers, for your true beauty will only be appreciated in the beating of your unfurled wings.

It’s so tempting to keep you undeniably safe, like a butterfly held captive in a glass jar; because in allowing the butterfly the freedom to dance, you are also allowing it to be vulnerable.

Of course, their beauty is in their vulnerability.

 

Letter to My Teenage Daughter

More than anything in the world, I want to be a good mum. I don’t want to be your best friend, so you’ll confide in me all the stupid things you do when you’re out of your mind and your depth, with stress or grief or drugs. I don’t want those things for you at all.

I certainly don’t want to be your adversary, who you are easily able to dismiss, discount and distress. I’ve no doubt these things will happen from time to time, despite both our best efforts. But if I have my way we will find a healthy equilibrium instead.

I want to be a good mum to you; for you.

I want to find the strength and wisdom to raise you to be balanced, decent and content. For me, that means openness, honesty, transparency; it also means privacy, trust and respect. They shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

 

Treading the Fine Line Between Protective and Stifling

Rather than have our relationship become tainted, as you cloak your exploits in secrecy, I want to find the courage to set you free. Besides which, it’s surely better to unravel the apron strings incrementally than to slash through them on your 18th birthday.

Teenagers are notoriously obnoxious, and I fear losing our close bond – but then children your age are not supposed to share, and already I am in awe of your kindness and generosity. I also believe respect inspires respect, which is something your dad and I intend to promote in our home.

When I think about my own teenage years, my memories are diluted, as if the colour has been bleached out of them. I don’t want that for you. I realise that what I want is secondary to what you need, but I hope that the two things will marry up if I keep my head.

My greatest hope is that I’m able to continue to be positive for you, and to foster all the good, and beautiful traits of which I see such promise in you. Not all people grow up to  be admirable adults; but some do. It is possible. And I attribute that largely to growing up in a stable, loving, healthy and content home.

The most precious things to pass onto your daughter: wisdom, advice, and the depth of your love. #teenagedaughter #letter #motherdaughter #parenting

 

A letter to my teenage daughterwhile she's still a baby. To pass on all the things I want her to know before the reality of life gets in the way of telling her.

I know I will make mistakes. Your dad will too. And so will you, my sweet girl. I hope there’s a sibling also, who will be making his or her own errors of judgement; and in so doing will provide you with a little understanding of what it is to love someone so dearly that you wish to see them learn from your mistakes, rather than repeat them.

Of course our little family will not be perfect. We will face our own trials and have to find a way through.

Naturally, I hope to limit those hardships, and instead nurture memories you will cherish and one day share with your own children.

It took for me to reach and pass that six month milestone to comprehend something else, of utmost significance. (How odd that sometimes the simplest realisations can truly be the most profoundly intense.)

 

My Pledge to You, My Beloved Daughter

I had the epiphany that it’s not too late to work towards making your teenage years different from mine; it’s not inevitable that history will repeat itself and we will grow apart for that difficult, transcendental phase. You won’t necessarily become unhappy and disdainful and secretive and aloof. I can keep working on making sure that doesn’t happen. Mostly, I need to work on letting go of the reins, of allowing you to feel your feet and find your balance.

You may let go of my hand, but my arms will always be there to break your fall. And you may wander away from me to explore your horizons – I wish that for you – but I hope you will never be distant.

You have heard my heartbeat from the inside, and I have cradled yours within my body. You carry a piece of my heart with you wherever you go, and I’m as vulnerable as if that were literal rather than figurative.

Remember always, my precious girl, you are the brightest star in my sky (and yours dad’s too). And with every passing day, you become more fabulous in your own right. We are so very, very proud of you.

My hope is that in writing this letter to my teenage daughter, she has something tangible to look back on and revisit when she may need comfort from her mother, but is unable or unwilling to reach out to me. I want to always be there, even through moments of conflict or miles of distance.

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Motherhood, Positivity

An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is an experienced breastfeeding advocate, and expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

61 Comments

  1. What a wonderful letter, believe me it will come around far too quickly. My Daughter is 12 and it only seems like yesterday she was a newborn. It is hard starting to give that freedom but also something they need x

  2. Leoniiamber Reply

    Beautiful letter you can tell you truly adore your daughter. My oldest is only 5 but even that has flown by!!

  3. That is a lovely letter and great to look back on. As a parent of teens nothing quite prepares you for how they can and do behave. It is certainly more challenging than when they are little

  4. This is a beautiful letter. My son was 7 last week and it’s flying by. Can’t imagine how I’m going to deal with teenagers in my life! X

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      I feel the same, but I’m sure we’ll weather the storm – I’m not sure we have much choice! X

  5. Glenda Kruse Reply

    I’m sure she is going to love and appreciate this letter!

  6. This is so beautiful – my eldest daughter is 19 and I just don’t know where the time has gone. Cherish every single moment. Kaz x

  7. laughing mum Reply

    This is beautiful! My teen is probably a little ‘smothered’ but it is so hard to let go when quite frankly the world is a bit of a harsh place! I do realise she needs her own space and having read this, it had reminded me that I do need to try and back off a little more.. I just want to keep her safe FOREVER! Its hard. #bloggerclubuk

  8. justsayingmum Reply

    Oh this is so beautiful – so many beautiful lines -love the one about not clipping her wings. Mine are teens now and it is such a fragile time but I’m so proud of them – I can only watch on in wonderment and pride and I’m certain you will too #BloggerClubUK

  9. This is a wonderful piece of writing, so honest and beautiful. I am a little teary now. What a treasure for you little one to have when she is older. #bloggerclubuk

  10. I just cried my eye out! Firstly, I cannot even fathom my daughter being a teenager, it scares me! And secondly, the part about the baggage from Nans childhood that affected the way she raised you, really hit home with me! What an honest and breathtakingly beautiful post! You daughter will be proud! x #bloggerclubuk

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      Sorry for making you cry, hopefully it was the good kind! I was cuddling my daughter this morning and thinking about how in a few years time she won’t want it anymore. That nearly had me in tears!

      I try to be understanding of the reasons behind the things I didn’t like in my own childhood. It’s not always easy though, is it? Bit the best we can do is learn from our own experiences; I hope when the time comes I will listen to my own advice, however difficult that may prove.

      Thank you for your lovely comment – I truly put my heart and soul into writing this, so it’s lovely to receive such wonderful feedback x

  11. My Mum gave me a letter on my wedding day filled with all her thoughts on being my Mother. It will always be one of my most treasured moments – this post really reminded me of that . xxx
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      How wonderfully special! Thanks for your lovely comment xx

  12. The Mum Project Reply

    Oh my goodness this letter is so lovely, thank you sharing. I am in the first 6 months with my son and like you I cannot imagine him being any older! Your daughter is going to love this letter so much. : ) #coolmumclub

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      Aw, thank you very much! I hope you’re right. ?

  13. Psychic Nest Reply

    Hi Kate,

    Such heartwarming letter! It is true that parents are afraid of letting their children explore the world. Although the fears are logical, there is no other way that the children can gain experience from their mistakes. Your daughter is so lucky having such a wonderful mom like you!

    Zaria

  14. Some fabulous thoughts here. My youngest is about on the eve of being a teenager and thinks it is the most exciting time of her life. I am excited and nervous in equal measure as you want to keep them safe and protect them for as long as possible and that somehow naturally dissipates as they become a teenager. Your post gave me food for thought. #coolmumclub

    • I suppose it probably is one of the most exciting times in life. Good luck navigating that as the parent – I’m dreading it! X

  15. My boy is 13-months-old, and I honestly cannot imagine what he’ll be like as a teenager. I’m sure it’ll come faster than I realize though, and that scares the crap out of me! I want him to remain my baby forever.

    It’s so sad how your childhood can affect your parenting techniques and choices. I definitely can relate to you there, and I would go to the ends of the earth to make sure my little boy doesn’t have baggage from his childhood.

    • It’s terrifying, isn’t it! Part of me wishes I could just freeze time for a while, or maybe forever…

      And yes, I’m doing my best to ensure my daughter has a stable and happy childhood. I hope I succeed…

  16. What a lovely, heartfelt post. It can be so emotional & worrying as a parent!! I don’t know what I will do when mine hit the teen years but I have the same hopes & concerns that you do. I agree that as parents we gain so much insight into our own parents! You really don’t understand until you are one yourself. And yes we will all make mistakes we just have to do the best we can. Thanks so much for joining us at #bloggerclubuk x

  17. What a beautiful letter, and such a great idea. I often think of my own and what they’ll be like as teenagers and adults and there is so much I’d like to tell them. I might just write them a letter, its a lovely idea xxx

  18. Such a beautiful letter and a lovely idea to write to your daughter in the future. The prospect of my two-year-old becoming a teenager is quite scary and I don’t want time to pass as quickly as it does. I suppose we all carry baggage from our own upbringings, but we can choose how to let it influence how we bring up our own children. And they are their own people, too, with personalities that may be quite different from ours, so there’s a lot of room for our relationship with our children to be different from the one we have with our parents. Thought-provoking post! #BloggerClubUK

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      You make some very good points! Thanks for your lovely comment.

  19. Fiona Cambouropoulos Reply

    What a wonderful letter and one to reflect back on in time. Teenage years can be tricky but hopefully they come out the other side as well rounded people. I know my boys have, I’ve yet to see with my daughter. #KCACOLS

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      Thanks Fiona. When I think back to my own teenage years I have a sense of foreboding! But handled with compassion and sensitivity, I hope we’ll navigate the difficulties without too many traumas on either side… We’ll see! Thanks for commenting x

  20. The Tale of Mummyhood Reply

    What a beautiful post, it’s frightening how fast the time goes. I can really relate to how you felt in those first few months, my daughter is nearly one and I am finding it much easier now to look to what the future may hold!

    #KCACOLS

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      Isn’t it strange how that works! My daughter is not far off two now and I struggle to remember her as a tiny baby now, which breaks my heart – and yet I’m so proud of the little girl she’s becoming. Every milestone brings new joys (and stresses!), I just try to embrace and appreciate every day x

  21. The Speed Bump Reply

    Beautiful letter and a wonderful idea. The teenage years are distant for my daughter but only two years ago for me – knowing what I got up to and how I felt, I do worry for her!

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      I feel the same. Being a parent is not easy, it’s it?! Thanks for commenting x

  22. Rebecca | AAUBlog Reply

    aw this is lovely. i can’t imagine having a teenager! Thanks so much for linking up to #KCACOLS hope to see you again next week

  23. What a beautiful letter. I am sure she will treasure this when she is older, happy with the thought of how much you love her.
    #KCACOLS

  24. This is absolutely lovely, touching and thoughtful. My baby girl is not a year old yet but I look at her and imagine her as a teen, how she’ll be, what she’ll be interested in. Once she arrived that the only thing that mattered from now on was her being happy and I would support her and love her whatever path she takes. This is easy to say when she’s a (fairly) compliant baby but I’m sure will be more challenging as she grows 😉 #KCACOLS

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      Haha, I dare say you’re right! Thanks for your lovely comment x

  25. This is so beautiful and has made me think about taking the time to write letters and document things more. Thanks so much for sharing. Your daughter is truly lucky to have you. #KCACOLS

  26. Jen @Practical, By Default Reply

    What a great idea. I wish I had thought of it as I sit here with my teenagers. Lovely letter! #KCACOLS

  27. My nephew is about to turn 13, sometimes I can’t believe it, sometimes I can’t believe he’s only 13!
    #kcacols

    • Kate Tunstall Reply

      It’s funny how they have the ability to at once seem wise beyond their years, yet also entirely innocent. ?

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