August 1, 2021

Dear Teenager, The answer is No.

Dear Teenager,

Sometimes, you are going to have to hear, “No.” And sometimes, you are going to have to say it.

I know you are fast becoming your own person. You have been for a long time. Now here you are, bridging into adulthood full of audacity and hope.

First off, let me say, I am here for you.

Not in some of the ways that you think I ought to be, like for every single ride, everywhere you want to go, all the time, or ready to approve your plans at the drop of a dime. But in all of the ways that really matter, I am here.

I am going to be here for your amazing wins and your biggest mistakes. I am going to cheer you on. I am going to help you figure out how to dust off your knees and start again.

I have so much wisdom to lend you, even if it’s through witnessing my mistakes.

One big lesson before another moment passes is this: No.

No, I can’t. No, you cannot. No, it’s not going to happen. No.

I cannot always articulate why I parent the way I do. I can’t always express why I feel certain ways about certain things. I imagine though if I simply bent to everyone else’s reasoning because I could not articulate my own, I’d hardly have a boundary in my world.

My love for you does not minimize my parenting boundaries. Not all of motherhood is soft. If anything, it is more important that I enforce boundaries because that is what you will need going forward.

You will need to understand that the world will not bend at your will, despite how you think it ought to.

You also need to know that when you say, “No,” it matters—regardless of your ability to articulate any reasoning. No matter what questions or arguments your peers, bosses, or lovers throw your way, you don’t ever have to justify your “No.”

You may need to repeat it, say it louder, and may need to be downright hostile with it. It is likely to come with uncomfortable consequences, but you don’t have to justify it.

I will hold boundaries with you.

I will have hopes and expectations for your behavior in and outside of my presence. I will say yes and no according to decades of life experience that have shown me what I think are good parenting choices. I won’t be emotionally manipulated because you have more mental energy than I do.

Frankly, I believe holding my ground is worth the aggravation to both you and I. I will gladly piss you off, knowing you are highly likely to mirror this behavior as you grow. That alone is reason enough for me to end the conversation with “because I said no.

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