Your Teenage Daughter Really Does Love You

Danielle Dahl, MSML

Especially when she acts like she doesn’t.

Photo Credit: Paige Dahl Photo Taken by Avery Polen

There we were, my daughter and I, wandering around the dollar store. We had already searched Target. A trip to the party store happened a few minutes too late, as they had just closed. It was at this point she turned to me and said, “The dollar store is open, and my friend says they have some.”

I sighed, that long, “my soul is tired mom sigh.” The sigh that comes after a long day at work, dinner, a walk around the lake, and a shopping trip with a teenager is hunting for some particular items.

We had found the “Pink Floyd” shirt we needed for ‘decade day.’ The elusive item we were currently trying to track down was a lei for tourist day. It’s October in Montana. The weatherman claims we will see 8–10 inches of snow tomorrow. Let’s just say leis are not exactly a commonly stocked item.

Spirit week can be difficult when you wait until the last minute.

The dollar store employee kept telling us she thought they had some “in the corner.” My daughter looked. I looked again. There was not a single lei in view. There were, however, some Mardi Gras beads, a headband with some voodoo stuff on it, and other New Orleans like paraphernalia. I pipe up, thinking I have the solution, “I know you can be a New Orleans tourist!”

My comment is met with a miniature version of my steeliest stare.

Ok, or not…

She rants on and on about how she just won’t wear the aloha shirt (that she borrowed for this).

It doesn’t matter; spirit week is stupid.

I can hear the frustration in her voice, which is slightly reminiscent of her toddler days. I have yet another idea, and I drag her to the fake flower aisle. We bicker back and forth that I will not, in fact, be able to make a lei. Finally, I take the flowers to check out. The same lady, from earlier in this excursion, now incredulously states:

Are you going to MAKE one?

And I do! In about 30 minutes, my husband and I pluck the flowers from their plastic stems, poke out the little plastic stigmas, and meticulously thread the petals together. The result was glorious!

Photo Credit: Danielle Dahl

I hobble off to bed, pleased with my work. I doze off happily, anticipating how excited she will tomorrow.

That next day, they go off to school, and I’m unable to get out of bed. All the things from the day before have hit my fibromyalgic self hard. To make it through my day, I need to lay here a little longer. Hours later, at work, I realize I don’t have a picture of her tourist day get up and ask her to send me one.

There I am, just myself this time, at work. And there is my beautiful child…on the right…

And that is, most definitely, not the lei I painstakingly threaded together.

At this moment, it clear that my child DOESN’T LOVE ME. The tears well up behind my eyelids, and I try to hold them back. This is a futile exercise, and they roll down my cheeks. In my despair, I reach out to my husband. He already knows she wasn’t wearing it when he took her to school and told me how bad he felt because he knew I worked so hard on it. He reminds me she is “a teenager” and probably just didn’t want to look so different. That, my lei, was too nice looking.

I silently weep for about 10 minutes, thankful no one has noticed until I can no longer hold back the sounds of sadness and have to go to the bathroom and SOB.

I think about her complete lack of gratitude; making this thing literally hurt me, and she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care because she doesn’t love me.

In the back of my brain, my therapist is shouting:

Hey! This is a reaction to your own trauma! Stop! Abort! Please don’t say something to her you will regret later!

Fine. Just Fine. You win, lady.

I put it out of my mind, eagerly waiting until I see my therapist in a few days, so I can tell HER what I think about all this (especially about her new role as Jiminy Cricket).

A day goes by. One day closer to when I can unleash my feelings about this lei, onto the person I pay to help me muddle my way through these kinds of things. I have not uttered a thing to my daughter about this lei, other than my initial response to her text, that said:

That isn’t the lei I made you…

I am getting ready for bed last night when I stop by her room to put something away. I leave it on her nightstand. On my out, something catches my eye…

It was her birthday a few weeks ago, and she got all these little knick-knack things from her girlfriend. She wanted a place to display them, so I went out and bought her this small wall shelf with squares. She put all her new prized possessions on the shelf and was so happy with how it looked in her room.

On my way out of her room, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of purple on the wall. There, right in the center, was the lei I made for her. It said much more to me than her wearing it at school for something she told me multiple times was not that important to her. But this is a place of honor.

Photo Credit Danielle Dahl

And I said to myself:

Your teenage daughter really does love you, even when she acts like she doesn’t. The only reason you feel this way is because your trauma taught you that nothing you do is good enough. You have carried that around long enough. It is time to put it down.

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Words matter. Sharing the pain and evolution found in our life stories compels others to investigate, “How they came to be who they are?” Delving into the events that shaped us as children creates a level of self-awareness each of us can use to establish enduring and essential change. I use my personal history, education as a Management professional, and training as a Life Coach to write insightful articles about leadership and teams, personal development, and everything else that pertains to growth, both professionally and personally.


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