Nina Mohadjer lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut with her two teenage daughters, Lili, 17, and Yasmin, 16. She is the author of “This Mother’s Life, an account of a year in her life as a multicultural mother and professional woman. Born in Iran, she was raised in Germany and has lived in the U.S. since 1993. Nina, who is French-Persian speaks five languages, has practiced law and has an MBA. For more details, see http://www.ninamohadjer.com/.
Dear Lili and Yasmin,
Today I told Yasmin to clean up her things. Just the look on your face was worth millions: raised eyebrow, smirky stubborn expression, half a grin. Okay at least you didn’t scream at me. Then I told you to pull down your shirt. Who invented those mid-riff-showing tops anyway? And what’s with the low-cut necklines? All of your assets are hanging out. I still can’t believe that you two have boobs, which is a concern of mine. Of course, you, my rebellious girl, didn’t give me the silent treatment; you started yelling as if you were practicing an aria for the next opera.
“Why are you examining my body?” you snapped. “You have the dirtiest mind. Why are you looking at my belly anyway? Are you trying to tell me that I’m fat?”
I had no chance to respond as the accusations flew at me without pause.
When I’m in front of you, Lili and Yasmin, I have to act the tough but loving mother. But when you, Lili, behave like this, it truly breaks my heart. I feel fragile. As I’m looking at the screaming creature before me, I have flashbacks to your baby years. Sure, you screamed at that time, but only because you had no other method of communication. But then you would calm down when I held you and rubbed your back. I just imagine holding you and Yasmin now and rubbing your back while you are screaming.
Bad idea, right?
Sometimes I think you might act like this because you are bicultural and stand out. I’m trying to teach you the value of your heritage, but maybe you two get completely mixed up. I mean when I was growing up, I had no idea to which group I belonged. Maybe you are going through the same dilemma.
I mean that as a teen you are stuck between childhood and adulthood, and when you add in that you are French-Persian, you have four quarters to configure into your whole. My parents used the “good Persian girl” slogan on me, always telling me about expectations a Persian girl from a good Persian family had to live up to; but that image has no relevance to you. Through the Internet, you know about the rest of the world and, in a way, it makes all the differences between teenagers smaller.
I always ask myself, and now I am asking you, my girls, “What happens when kids become teenagers?”
I know I was a teenager once, but my parents are still alive, so I couldn’t have been that bad. Sometimes I truly wonder if I’ll survive your teenage years. Don’t get me wrong, I love both of you dearly, even though you each have such different personalities. But regardless of having the same parents, you have something else in common: Teenage life and hormonal roller-coasters.
Trust me: one day when you have your own children, you will know what I mean. You will know how it feels to see your babies grow up in front of you. To give them wings to fly away while making sure they know the roots where they can always land.