Theresa Garner has always thought of herself as a fighter. But last year, when her daughter Amy traded in American Girl dolls for swaths of long-haired skate rats named Jared, Garner started panicking whenever she would pass by her daughter’s room.
“A lot of my friends will say they’re ‘scared for’ their daughter, but I think I’m the only one who’s scared of my daughter,” says Garner, speaking in hushed tones behind the shed in her side yard. “Do you think she can hear us?”
Garner remembers the first time it happened like it was yesterday. “She laughed at me because I didn’t know who Harry Styles was, and I felt my chest get tight. And then my throat. And then my jeans. But I think that’s because I was stress-eating string cheese,” Garner said. “If there’s anything more terrifying that a confident pubescent girl child, I don’t know what it is.”
She’s even sought therapy for her struggle.
“My therapist suggested a technique called flooding, which is essentially surrounding yourself with your fear—so I told my daughter she could throw a party,” Garner explained. “Everything was going okay until Tiffany R. and Madison B. convinced me to drink the Bacardi 151 they’d snuck into my basement.” Garner shakes her head. “I guess I’m a lightweight.”
When Garner came to the next morning, she was surrounded by cans, cigarette butts, and several citations for furnishing alcohol to minors. “Amy has been cyber-bullying me about my court date,” says Garner, “but I can tell she does it because she knows I can take it. I think of it as a step forward in our parent-child relationship.”
Although the party was a massive failure, a plan to overcome her fear of her daughter came to Garner in the form of a pair of booty shorts.
“I was folding her clothes and I realized that she puts her frayed, two-inch shorts on one leg at a time, just like I do. Except that mine are slacks from Target. But other than that, we’re not so different,” explains Garner.
With her newfound confidence, Garner approached her daughter’s bedroom to put away the aforementioned shorts and maybe have a brief conversation.
“My heart was beating out of my chest,” confessed Garner. “I finally knocked on the door and she said ‘Hey’ and I said ‘Here’s your shorts’ and she said ‘Thanks.’ I think it was a massive breakthrough for me. I feel on top of the world. I talked to my kid!”
Garner hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other parents of teenagers.
“You may think, ‘My kid is full of sex and alcohol and internet,’ and you’re right, but don’t let that hold you back from being the least-terrified parent you can be.”