How to Love Your Teenage Daughter

How to Love Your Teenage Daughter















By Jennifer L. Freed

Start early, while she is still too young to pull
back from your touch.  Teach her
the language of your eyes, your arms,
your wordless hand brushing along her hair
as she slips past you in the morning
bustle of the kitchen.

Kiss her with the breath of onions.
Close your eyes, if you need to, while she leaps.
Hold your tongue.  Bite it,
if necessary.
Cut her food for her, if
necessary.  Know
that it may be necessary,
even though her teeth are strong.

Let her try on your clothes.  Let her wear them
for an hour, or a day, then shrug them off
with a disdainful gaze. Tell her
why they suit you, and
that they did not always.

Tell her you once tried
to make a fairy’s home of forest moss
and garden flowers, and tell her
that you failed.  Look her in the eyes.

Get two pairs of work gloves, two
shovels.  Ask her where to build
a mountain.  Ask her to help.
When you are tired, climb the mountain
with her.  Destroy it with her. Get
the shovels, and build with her

Give her a Swiss Army knife, and
sturdy shoes, an ocean
stone to fit into the center
of her fisted palm.
These will serve her when she leaves
you. Know that she will leave you. Know
that your job is to teach her how,
and to want her to stay.


Jennifer L. Freed’s poems have appeared in Poetry East, Literary Mama, The Worcester Review, The Christian Science Monitor and others.  Her first chapbook, These Hands Still Holding,  (Finishing Line Press, 2014) was a finalist in the 2013 New Women’s Voices contest. 

photo: the winding road |

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