An open letter to my adolescent daughter: Ask me, while it’s not too late

Dear beloved daughter,

Every once in a while, when I go to join you on the couch in the living room and find that YouTube has enraptured you, please don’t ignore me. Turn off the video and acknowledge me. And ask me questions. Sometimes – just sometimes, when we’re in the car driving to school, don’t ask if you can change the channel from NPR to a pop music station. Instead, look beyond the stop-and-go traffic and enjoy the ride with me. And ask me questions.  Every few nights, when I kiss you goodnight, don’t roll over grumbling about how tired you are the moment my lips part from your forehead. Rather, ask me questions.

Because the YouTube video will be there on the Web to view for years to come. And the music of your generation and even the news cycle will always be there to stimulate your mind. And though you may be tired, you will have a lifetime to catch up on sleep.

But you won’t always have me here on earth with you.

This morning on the way to school, we avoided what typically starts out as an argument and dared to go into very uncomfortable terrain. We agreed that, short of irreconcilable differences, we are indeed extremely un-alike in many ways. Though it’s more obvious these days as you enter your teen years, we’ve always been very different in how we operate – and I suspect this will always be the case. We acknowledged that you are like your father in how you process information, relate to others, and react to situations.

But you will always be my firstborn daughter. My baby girl. I will always long to protect you and guide you and cuddle with you. And listen to your deep thoughts and even your fleeting rants. I delight in the opportunity to watch you develop through adolescence and transition into a fully mature adult before my eyes. But if for some reason I am robbed of that, I don’t want you to have any regrets.

I realize that wondering about my life and my experiences is the furthest thing from your mind. You’ve already lamented the few stories you’ve heard about my childhood. That I was ever your age is almost inconceivable let alone interesting. I get that. But as you go through each phase of adult life, I guarantee that your curiosity about mine will grow. You will seek to know about my life before I was your mother, and my experiences. About my college days. My first job. Where I traveled and what I saw. You will be curious about how many men I dated. And who I loved before your father. And who broke my heart. You will want to know what it was like when I lived on my own and what inspired me to get my private pilot’s license. Join an amateur contemporary dance company. Run marathons. You’ll want to know why I went to graduate school. And why I chose the career path I chose, and why I didn’t take the one I should have.

You will have endless questions for me.

And I hope to be there to answer every one of them. Every step of the way. I want the answers you seek to be no further away than a text message. I want to be able to share my past experiences with you in the hopes of offering up some new perspective on yours. To provide some context to your unique situations.

But what if I’m not? What if something happens before you ask that burning question?

I know it is not possible to know in advance every question about my life that you will ever possibly want to know. As gifted as you are, a prophet you are not. I am also not suggesting that you worry unnecessarily about death. That is simply not healthy. And thankfully, I am in good health as I write you this missive.

But here’s what I am suggesting. Take the opportunity while you can to ask me questions. Even if you are not really interested or fully understand why you are asking.

Because if you don’t do it now, one day you will regret not having the answers.






One thought on “An open letter to my adolescent daughter: Ask me, while it’s not too late

  1. Excellent advice, Shana. I am a friend of your mom’s so we are about the same age. My mom passed 20 years ago. Countless times I now wish I had asked her more about her early years, about her mom, about how she felt as a young woman, middle-aged, senior, etc., but I didn’t think to do so. I regret this sincerely. But Shana, you now have to follow your own advice and ask your dear mom, Pat, these same questions.


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