The family is all gathered on the couch on a weekend evening in the summer. I glance over at my 17-year-old staring at the television and suddenly I realize that my little girl is little no more. Her bouncy ponytail is no longer carefree; she’d rather wear clips or a hair bun. Her excited, gleeful joy has become more cynical and analytical. Before I know it, fall will arrive and she will start her senior year of high school.
She has been quick to inform me that by the end of her school year she’ll turn 18 and no longer require any parental consent or signatures—that my little girl will transform into an independent woman. Soon, she’ll be a woman who has to make life-altering decisions like what college she wants to attend, what she wants to study, and who she wants to become.
It’s the summer before my teenage daughter’s senior year, and I have decided to make it count. I’ve decided to date her while I still can. I want to relish these days by making meaningful connections with her. I want to get to know this woman who is on the cusp of riding into the horizon with a lighthouse called destiny guiding her steps forward, breaking away from me. Read on to learn more about How I’m Dating My Teenage Daughter (HIDMTD).
HIDMTD: Late Nights
One of the best ways to get our one-on-one time is to stay up together, just the two of us. This summer we’ve stayed up watching girly movies like it’s a ’90s slumber party. We ate more sugar than my stomach can handle (don’t know how Lorelai Gilmore does it!) and laughed over the most overly-dramatic scenes that would make even a Hallmark movie gag. Some of our favorite movies have been:
We still have a few on our list before the summer is over:
- Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
- Little Women
- My Sister’s Keeper (because crying is good!)
Staying up late after everyone is asleep and watching something together gives us the chance to connect. We aren’t interrupted by little ones or life’s busy schedules. We laugh over the same things and pick up on the same minute details, like women often do. And then there are the snacks we plan ahead of time and bring out once everyone is gone. We love popcorn, chips with dip, pretzel rods dipped in peanut butter, chocolate or candy, and a nice root beer float.
We missed out on our alone time while she was growing up because I had other small children who needed me as well. But now that they are also independent, I am availing this opportunity to build strong connections with my teenage daughter before she begins her senior year.
HIDMTD: Going Out
We have loved our weekly going-out dates so much! On Thursdays, after my husband comes home, the two of us get ready and head out. Usually, we get one sweet treat (our favorite is the Baskin Robbins Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundae) and two spoons. We park our car somewhere a little distant and indulge! For me, it’s not really about the treat—it’s about getting something new off of a menu we have looked over a million times before and sharing it with someone who still gets excited about it. We sit in our car and talk and laugh over the craziest things.
There’s something uniquely bonding about chasing little cookie dough nuggets one spoon at a time. If this was the pre-COVID era, we would’ve sat inside the restaurant but personally, I love sitting in our own private bubble and just chilling with each other without a filter. We have had some deeply personal talks in that car, sharing both tears and laughter, and learning something new each time.
Aside from ice cream, my teenage daughter and I have also enjoyed grabbing a cup of coffee from Tim Hortons, or, if evenings are busy, we’ve even gone out for lunch.
HIDMTD: Let’s Talk
One of my main objectives has been to have meaningful conversations with my teenage daughter. Somewhere along the way, she has grown up to become her own person: a person who has her own likes and dislikes; her own emotional and personal baggage; and, her own experiences. She has lived a life away from my eyes that has helped shape her into who she is today. I want to know that person more. I want to know her, beyond being my daughter. So, while we are up late watching a movie or out eating our ice cream, we talk.
I have shared with her my own personal struggles and she has shared hers. We have given each other advice and feedback, told each other what we admire about one another. I’ve shared my childhood memories and stories, and she has shared her own stories from school and with friends.
We have also made amends, apologized and forgiven each other for mistakes and heartaches. Life is too busy sometimes to slow down and reflect, but spending time with other has presented the opportunity for us to do that.
Of course, being a mom, I have also imparted wisdom upon her—wisdom from a book of my own life of both dark and triumphant chapters. Whether my teenage daughter admits it or not, I know she looks at my life as a standard of normalcy. I want her to know that I am human first and mother second. I want her to understand that mistakes are okay, and learning never ends—not even for an adult. In many ways, we may be in our own ships, but we are traveling the same waters.
HIDMTD: Teaching Life Skills
This summer, my teenage daughter and I are spending alone time together. We are dating. One of the ways we are dating is by spending time together practicing and learning various life skills. Life skills like cooking are important for a teenager to learn before she becomes an independent woman. We have set certain days she cooks dinner for the family.
I have taught her to make various Indian foods like Chicken Curry, Roti, Qeema, Vegetable Curry, etc. She has also learned to make pasta, fried rice, and homemade pizza. She started writing down traditional recipes from me and searched online for new ones. Teaching her to cook and giving her the confidence to make her own mistakes along the way has definitely been an interesting experience. I will always remember learning to cook with my own mother. Sure, the stove wasn’t the only thing heating up in the kitchen, but I still remember her words when I cook certain dishes. I hope to pass the tradition to my own daughter.
Aside from cooking, we are also organizing our house together. She has changed the system I have used in my linen closet for many years, and though I winced at first, I have made peace with it. She has taught me to be flexible and that my way may not be the best way—gasp! Together, we have organized our kitchen more efficiently and are in the process of creating a virtual-classroom space for the kids to use during this coming school year.
My teenage daughter and I are dating this summer by learning a new skill. We are putting together a website and the different components that go with it, by investing time, effort, and confidence in each other. We are trusting each other’s voice and opinion in creating this site together. She edits my work and gives me feedback, while I trust her judgment and allow her to create without micromanaging her decisions.
She has been a mentor and editor for me. I have been a client in her learning process. She has no prior experience except for what she’s learned at school. I learned that, even though I thought I was pretty hip knowing everything about IG and TikTok, the fact that I used a floppy disk in high school solidifies my status as a dinosaur.
Aside from these skills, we have spent time together talking and practicing mindfulness, journaling, baking, makeup, and applying henna.
HIDMTD: Realizing Our Blessings
Dating my teenage daughter before the start of her senior year has been a great blessing this summer. We have created a stronger connection and learned new things about each other. The person my daughter is growing up to be is making me love and respect her even more. She is a highly independent young woman who is wiser and smarter than I have given her credit for. Going out together and spending late nights up laughing and talking has allowed us to understand that the human experience is not too different for the young and the “mature”; we are all learning and striving.
As the world remembers the summer of 2020 as a time of COVID-inspired debates, I hope that my teenage daughter remembers it as the summer before her senior year—when she and her mother fell in love with each other all over again, as women.