By Heidi Stevens Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Heidi Stevens shares how her experiences parenting her 13 year old daughter are giving her a fresh perspective on life.
I know a lot about Ariana Grande's new tattoo.
I know it was supposed to say "7 Rings" in Japanese. I know "7 Rings" is the name of her new album. I know the tattoo says, instead, "small charcoal grill."
I know a company that removes tattoos offered her more than a million dollars to have her tattoo removed and then serve as the company's spokeswoman. I know she turned the offer down.
Each of these developments was relayed to me in real time by my 13-year-old daughter, who read about them in real time on Instagram.
Speaking of Instagram, I also know a lot about that little brown egg whose identity was revealed right after the Super Bowl.
I know a Kylie Jenner post announcing the birth of her baby had, until a few weeks ago, the most Instagram likes ever (18 million). (I know Kylie Jenner has a baby!)
I know someone created an Instagram photo of a single brown egg with the express purpose of getting more likes than Kylie Jenner's baby.
I know the egg took off quickly, because my daughter gave us hourly updates of its rise to Insta fame. I know that egg eventually got more than 52 million likes.
I know that egg starred in a post-Super Bowl ad on Hulu, revealing itself as a conduit to mental health awareness.
"Recently I've started to crack," the egg, which now shows cracks, says in the ad. "The pressure of social media is getting to me."
"If you're struggling too," the egg pleads, "talk to someone." It directs people to the site of Mental Health America (mentalhealthamerica.net), a more than century old nonprofit that operates in 41 states.
It's kind of a fitting metaphor for raising a teenager, this egg. Things that seem trivial aren't.
Things that seem light and airy are full of weight.
It's important to listen, I'm finding, to every last bit of it.
My daughter and I were driving home from an errand the other day when she asked me if I'd ever heard of "theybies."
I told her I had not.
It's when parents choose to raise their babies without an assigned gender, she told me. They use gender-neutral pronouns and clothing and language for their children until the children are old enough to decide their own gender. "Theybies," she said, instead of "babies."
I have heard of that, I told her. I have a friend who does that. I didn't know it was called "theybies."
She told me some celebrities are doing it, and that's what they call it. She told me she and her friends were discussing it in a group chat. She read some of the texts to me.
They were incredibly thoughtful and gentle, both with the topic and each other.
Some of her friends thought it was a terrible idea, confusing to the children, in conflict with their faith, just weird. Others thought it was a terrific way for children to feel accepted for exactly who they are, from gender on up.
I said, "I wonder if your friends who say it will be confusing worry about stuff like the child getting to school and not knowing where to line up when the teacher says, 'Boys over here, and girls over here.'"
My daughter said, "Yeah, but you shouldn't do things just because that's how they've always been done." That's an excellent point.
Parenting teenagers is supposed to be awful. Everyone warns you. You're supposed to butt heads and egos and priorities and generally sort of resent each other until they leave for college, and then you're supposed to mourn their departure and the gaping hole it leaves in your heart and your laundry.
So far it's my favorite parenting phase of all. I know, I know: She's 13. Just wait. It gets worse. Wait until she can drive. Wait until she's dating. Wait, wait, wait. Whatever. We'll see.
For now, I'm extraordinarily grateful for this time. I'm learning a tremendous amount about the world and love and progress and friendship and celebrities, and I'm learning it all through her. It's magic.
"Teenagers today are thoughtful and kind and amazing," my pal John Duffy wrote on Facebook, after I posted something over the weekend about enjoying this parenting chapter. "Take a little judgment out of the picture, and just listen. You learn a lot. To my thinking, this is the generation that can fix what's broken."
I'm holding those words close to my heart as I figure out this bewildering, beautiful chapter. __ Join the Heidi Stevens' Balancing Act Facebook group, where she hosts live chats every Wednesday at noon.