Why Your Relationship With Your Teenage Daughter is Like a Blackberry Bush
I just got back from seeing some of my life-long friends in Novato, CA, which is about an hour north of San Francisco. We started visiting their family when my daughter was in second grade and made this a yearly ritual. This was a win-win because our daughters are the same age and well—it’s northern California. Now our daughters are nineteen and even though the girls couldn’t get together this year, I wasn’t going to miss the trip.
One of our traditions is every year we go blackberry picking and then my friend cooks the best blackberry cobbler in the world. I was a little worried that I had missed the blackberry season because it was so late in the summer.
We were driving back after walking along the beach on Point Reyes national seashore. It was a beautiful day, seventy degrees and a deep blue sky. And since I had just left 105-degree weather and 100% humidity in Houston, I was looking for any excuse to be outside. We decided to make a detour and look for the wild blackberry bushes on the side of the road in a little town called Olema.
We stopped and “yes!” there were plenty of perfect ripe blackberries that were calling my name. And most importantly, there were enough blackberries to make a good-sized cobbler.
If any of you have picked fresh blackberries, you know there are some challenges. These bushes have twisted vines that are full of thorns. You can’t blindly grab a few berries or you will get pricked by hundreds of thorns. Another factor to face is Murphy’s Law of blackberry picking, where the perfect berry is always a little out of reach. Your tempted to keep reaching for that one juicy blackberry, but you have to be careful, because the last thing you want to do is to fall into those bushes.
And then I thought— building a connection with your teenage daughter is a lot like picking blackberries.
Three Lessons From the Blackberry Bush
1. Keep Looking
You need to look for the opportunity, and be persistent. My friend and I could have given up on finding fresh blackberries. But we went on a quest expecting to find them. And even when we did find the bushes, we had to keep looking because many of the blackberries were hidden under leaves and thorns. However the more we looked, the more ripe blackberries we would see.
Here’s the point!
The ripe blackberries are a metaphor for the good moments you can have with your daughter. You have to believe that it’s possible to have good experiences with her, and then you have to look for them. You can’t say to yourself that it’s too late. You have to be persistent to look for these golden moments. At first, you many not see any of these ripe opportunities, but if you keep looking, you start to discover the hidden treasure that is lying underneath the thorns.
2. Stay Grounded
Yes, there are beautiful blackberries for the picking, but there are also twisted branches full of thorns that you have to reckon with. Because of this, it’s important to stay grounded when picking blackberries. You want to make sure both of your feet are firmly planted, so that you don’t lose your balance. Though the perfect blackberry is just out of reach, you must be careful to not extend yourself too much, or you can lose your balance and land face first in the thorny blackberry bush.
Here’s the point!
Yes, you can have amazing experiences with your daughter, and your daughter is biologically hard-wired for drama. Her logic can seem twisted like the vines and her words can prick you like the thorns. It’s important that you stay emotionally balanced, and that you take care of your emotional, physical, and spiritual health. This will keep you grounded when interacting with your daughter. If you overextend yourself and give too much, you are at risk of falling face first into the thorny situation.
3. Develop a Strategy
These bushes may be full of ripe blackberries, but you have to deal with the twisted vines and thorns. It’s not the blackberry bushes fault. It’s made that way. You can’t argue the thorns away. You have to accept that the thorns are there and then come up with a strategy. When picking blackberries I am not going to just grab a blackberry. I’m going to have my eyes wide opened and move carefully. I’m cognizant that these vines and thorns could fly in my face. This awareness helps minimize getting pricked. However, the truth is that you can’t always avoid this altogether. If you are picking blackberries, you will get pricked at some time.
Here’s the point!
You can have good experiences with your daughter but you need a strategy. You need to look for the good moments to connect with your daughter. This is when she is relaxed and calm. But you also have to be aware of the thorns. If your daughter is super stressed or upset you don’t want to blindly stick your hand in a thorny situation. You want to carefully approach the scenario with awareness and clarity. This can only happen when you are fully grounded in your healthy, well-rested self. Even when you have the best of intentions and strategy, you can still get pricked when pursuing good experiences with your daughter.
4. You’ll Forget About the Thorns
We walked away from the bushes with a large bag filled with ripe blackberries. You can put up with the thorns, because the blackberries are so delicious. In other words, it’s totally worth it. My reward and focus was on enjoying the warm blackberry cobbler and I savored each bite. Believe me I wasn’t thinking about the thorns any more. In fact, I forgot about them.
Here’s the point!
You want to gather the good experiences with your daughter and remember them. One way you can do this is by writing them down in your “blackberry” journal. You don’t want to gather the bad experiences (thorns) by obsessing on them. You want to let go of the prickly experiences and remember the good times you’ve shared with your daughter. You want to savor each experience with her and revisit it often in your memory. And over time when she grows into adulthood the thorns will go away and you will forget that the thorns were ever there.