The two most important, character-defining—and difficult—relationships we women will have in our lives are our relationship with our mothers and with our own children. However, once the teen years start drawing nearer, mother-child relationships become fragile and strained. This is especially true in the often turbulent (and estrogen-enriched) mother-daughter relationship. Author Lauren Kessler explores this connection—as a daughter and a mother—in her nonfiction book My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, a Daughter, a Journey Through the Thicket of Adolescence.
Kessler’s story is a play-by-play of her woes and mini-triumphs as the mother of Lizzie—a spunky and original 12-year-old who is on the cusp of teenhood. During Kessler’s 18-month research project, she attempted to separate her roles as a mother and a journalist/anthropologist—which proved to be very difficult—and to discover how to move forward as the mother of a teen girl.
“If I could figure out what makes her tick—and especially what makes her tick when I tock,” Kessler writes. “Maybe together we could build the kind of relationship I dream of having, maybe I could stop crying in the closet…and start enjoying these last years of intimate motherhood.”
Long gone were the days of giggling and playing dress-up together as Lizzie entered the years of ridiculous tantrums and the I-hate-yous that children so often throw at their mothers. These times are easily recognizable. Children and mothers, as well as potential first boyfriends and girlfriends, notice changes in their bodies—which, if you’re me, your mother will embarrassingly point out while in the dressing room at J.C. Penny—high school is nearing and insecurities are overwhelming. These are also the times, as Kessler found out, a parent needs to adapt their parenting skills to the kind of child they have.
At some point all women, including Kessler, experience a very scary moment: We realize we did something “just like” our mother. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, just wait. Kessler often compares her relationship with Lizzie to that Kessler had with her own mother, a relationship that was distant and uncomfortable. Kessler fears if she doesn’t connect with Lizzie during this teen transition, the cycle of awkward mother-daughter relationships will continue. Although she’ll always worry, Kessler ultimately realized she was doing at least a few things right.
This book of mistakes, misspoken words and lessons-learned is hilarious, and at times, a window into some of our own memories and experiences.
“I’m just me,” Lizzie says. After all, isn’t that all that any mother can really hope for her daughter?