The following story was originally my “about” tab here. It is such a significant story for me, but as Sparrow & Lilies has evolved, and its purpose is becoming more clear, I realize that this story is no longer my “about.” So, I’ve decided to record it as a post. Our “abouts” change sometimes, and that’s okay. Grace + Peace, friends.
“You know that teenage girls don’t listen to their mothers, right?”
It was just a simple parent/teacher conference. She was a really cool mom, one of those moms who doesn’t put too much pressure on her daughter and is always supportive and loving. And that’s why, I told myself, her daughter was so great.
Caught slightly off guard, I responded with a quick, “I don’t believe that. You two have such a good relationship … actually, one of the best I’ve seen.”
“You’re right. We do.” And she pointed at my growing belly, then-residence to my second daughter. “You’ll find out someday,” she shrugged. “Even when you have a great relationship; they don’t listen to their moms. That’s why I’m glad she has a teacher like you.”
Of course, she meant it as a compliment. But for years I had been reading the personal essays and journal entries of teenage girls, and something I found there worried me. Being a teenage girl has always been hard—but the world has changed—and our female youth are now braving uncharted territories.
It simultaneously terrifies and amazes me. These girls are navigating situations, expectations, and opportunities of which previous generations never dreamed.
Maybe I am more sensitive about this than are many parents, but when our profession provides a lens into a real concern, we take notice. My father was an ER doctor, and after seeing dozens of fatal car accidents, he made a list of cars I wasn’t allowed to drive when I turned sixteen.
I was a high school English teacher for almost a decade, and for seven of those years, I taught teenage girls exclusively. That’s somewhere around 600 girls total. As do most teachers, I not only graded papers and taught content, I also served the role of “mentor” for many. I listened to their problems and complaints about everything from grades, friends, and parents … to boyfriends, prom dresses, and college decisions. Often all I did was listen, try to make them feel valued and validated. Sometimes I did offer advice, but I was cautious to not over-advise. That’s not what they wanted anyway. They wanted to be heard.
I taught them to write with an authentic voice, and as a result, it was in their writing that they exposed their hearts. And while those hearts were strong and brave and beautiful, many of them were also breaking. What they didn’t know was how often I cried with them while reading their words and how much I admired their courage. Their stories challenged me, softened me, and ultimately, changed me—as authentic heart-stories tend to do.
And then, I had daughters.
Shortly after my second daughter was born, I realized that although I still loved my job, the hectic pace of teaching high school no longer worked for my family. At least not for this season. It was a difficult and tearful goodbye, but if I’ve come understand anything about myself, it’s that I’m an “all or nothing” person. I just couldn’t keep the two in balance. Many women maintain a beautiful balance for years, but for me, something had to give.
So here I am figuring out how to slow down, savor life with my littles, and sow seeds of love. Right now, while the soil is still soft and rich. That way, down the road—when they too face the harsh pressures of our changed world—my girls will be able stand strong because deeply rooted truths will guide them. They will know that their hearts are courageous, their minds keen, their spirits beautiful, and their souls compassionate.
But most importantly, they’ll know that they are loved.