Our fourth daughter was born this summer. We now have four girls, aged five, four, two, and three months.
Which means that in thirteen years, we will have four teenage girls.
I didn’t consider that scenario when we were planning our family, for the very simple reason that we didn’t plan our family. It all just happened, fast and furious, and when the dust settled this past July we suddenly had four daughters staring at us.
But I’m reminded of our teenage future almost daily now, because whenever I venture into public with my daughters, someone will inevitably look at us and say, “Four daughters?!? Wow, that’s going to be interesting when they’re all teenagers!” And instead of “interesting,” they sometimes use words like “challenging”, “crazy” or “horrible”.
The people saying this are usually other women a decade or two older than me; women who look like they’ve had firsthand experience with teenage daughters. Which makes me a little nervous.
I’m assuming that when people comment about the teenage years, they’re mostly talking about hormones. I’ve been reading a library book to my daughters this week that defines hormones as “things that buzz around in your body, causing pimples and making you find your family embarrassing.” The girls have asked what pimples are about forty-three times, but they seem satisfied with the overall definition of hormones. So I haven’t been forced to tell them, “Hormones make you CRAZY. They amplify your emotions beyond your control and turn you into the worst version of yourself.”
My poor husband, like most men, has no understanding of female hormones. We were discussing them the other night, because we have a few pregnant friends at the moment who are feeling anxious and emotional. My opinion was: “They’re entitled to feel as anxious and emotional as they want. Do you have any IDEA what their hormones are doing right now? They’re crazy!”
To which my husband replied, “But you’re three months postpartum right now, and you’re still crazy.”
“That’s right,” I said, “And I’ll remain crazy for approximately a year.”
“And then you’ll just be crazy for half of every month?” he asked.
“So female hormones basically give you license to be crazy all the time?!?”
He may be starting to get it. But I refrained from pointing out to him that before too long, there will be five sets of crazy-making ovaries under his roof. (Thankfully the dog — also female — is spayed). And hormones are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the teenage years, as anybody knows who’s ever been a teenager. There are the friends they’ll have, the boyfriends they’ll want and the boyfriends they may get, the parties they may or may not tell us about, the driving. (We recently learned that you don’t even need a driver’s license to operate farm equipment. Here in Vermont, it’s pretty common to share the road with large, lumbering tractors. So we’re considering sending our daughters to high school in a combine; you can’t drive them too fast, and they seem pretty safe).
To be honest, I try to avoid thinking about the hormone-laden teenage years that await. It’s hard enough just to make it through today, isn’t it?!? It’s not as if my daughters are sweet and docile now; my five-year-old is showing a disturbing predilection for pairing shorts with cowgirl boots, my four-year-old wants to know when she can dye her hair purple, and my two-year-old recently protested my announcement that we were leaving a birthday party by saying, “But I want to stay and get this party started!”
So whenever someone makes a crack about what life will be like with four teenaged daughters, part of me wants to say, “Listen sister, I’ll be lucky to survive that long!”
But the better part of me (probably the non-hormonal part) smiles politely and is quietly grateful for my faith. One of the things I love most about faith is how it’s helped me — over a long, tortuous history — to understand that there are certain things that are just not in my control. My daughters, both now and in their future hormonal incarnations, fall into that “not in my control” category. They are, and always have been, sweetly baffling gifts entrusted into our hands for a limited time. I can give them the best of my imperfect love, teach them the behaviors and values our family embraces, and raise them in a community where they’ll find support and amazing female role models during the years when they won’t be speaking to me.
And then I have to let the craziness play out. My models for this kind of peace are three Babylonian administrators from 600 B.C. named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who told King Nebuchadnezzar: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”*
Only God can guide our family unscathed through the blazing furnace of teenage hormones; but even if he does not — even if we emerge sizzling like bacon — I still want God to be there on the other side.
[NOTE: It’s not my intention to imply here — as some have — that crazy hormones make females unable to cope with life or to hold leadership positions. Females are amazingly able to cope with life and should absolutely hold leadership positions. Men are crazy, too, just in different ways and on a less predictable schedule.]