My blonde-haired daughter flicks her hair out of her eyes and grabs my hand to pull me onto the dance floor. What is going on? I ask myself, as I prepare to wiggle my hips and click my fingers. Usually my bust a move antics aren’t encouraged, but this time my 15-year-old puts her hands in the air laughing while I do the same. Our palms are turned skywards to the strobing lights and pumping in time to something rap, not reminiscent of anything on my ’80s dance hits playlist.
The darkened room is full of glorious young women, dancing with their elated mums, spinning around in a moment of time together between lockdowns, meltdowns and hormones. How I want to hold on to this sweaty bubble of joy while I marvel at the resilience and wisdom of these fledgling women on the cusp of their own lives.
We’ve been brought together by a mother-daughter school dance. And there are other mums with similar looks on their faces to mine; we can’t believe our good fortune at spending the evening together. There’s no TikTok synchronicity in our steps, just laughter, silliness and love.
Later that evening at home, while my girl watches Euphoria on her laptop, I wonder who’d want to be a teenager now. Not me. Their peer group has grown beyond the school gates and any misstep or indiscretion is amplified by screenshots and views on devices. Our extraordinary daughters are dealing with far more angst with far more grace than I ever could have mustered during my own high school years.
Why do we give teenage girls such a hard time? By we, I mean society, with its expectations about how they should behave and its pressure to look a certain way, not to mention the avalanche of social media images and nagging from well-intentioned parents who want to protect them from the wider world.
I’ve always been partial to a chat but I’m learning the power of zipping it and listening to my daughters instead. This approach is a work in progress as it goes against every cell of my helicopter-parent soul. What I’m doing is transferring my journalistic skill of nodding at the people I interview to nodding at my teenagers while keeping my face calm and my mouth firmly shut. And oh, the wisdom my girls have displayed because I’m quiet. Little did I realise initially how much these young women would be teaching me. Here is just a sprinkling of the lessons I’ve learnt from them.
The first is how to be brave and speak up. It’s something that took me many years to learn, but my girls have no qualms speaking their minds. My eldest shared how she and her friend were walking past a group of men at an outdoor cafe. They could feel their leering eyes as they walked past. Hello sexy! one of the men yelled out. F… off! I’m only 15, you pervert! my daughter replied. There wasn’t another word from this group, who now wouldn’t look up from their Aperol spritzes while the rest of the cafe stared at them. Although I’m not a fan of swearing, I’m in awe of my daughter’s chutzpah.
Another time, my youngest and I were accosted by an intense woman who was furious about our supposed lack of social distancing near a bin. Before I could say a word, Giselle was calmly telling this woman how rude she was and there was no need to speak to anyone in that way.
Secondly, my girls have taught me to be more forgiving. If anyone wrongs my daughters, I give death stares and have been known to yell out in shopping centres at the guilty party. Immature behaviour for a 51-year-old woman. My eldest has taken me aside on many occasions and told me to grow up and get over it, sage advice which has helped me let go of long-held bitterness.
Thirdly, my youngest daughter has turned me into an eco warrior. I’d always thought I was an environmentalist but it turns out I wasn’t doing enough. She has made me vigilant about recycling, keep cups, soft plastics, compost and vintage clothing. The world is in safe hands with this next generation of trailblazers.
There are still many lessons these young women will teach me. Among the white noise of bringing up teenagers, I’m determined not to be hijacked by moral panic.
Sure, we can all lose our way sometimes as we wrestle with the push and pull of growing up and letting go. What’s keeping me going is knowing that another dance floor awaits that I can share with my girls, who will teach me different ways to move under the glittering disco ball of life.
To read more from Sunday Life magazine, .
Make the most of your health, relationships, fitness and nutrition with our Live Well newsletter. every Monday.