“I spent four minutes with my teenager yesterday while I straightened her hair, but now because of this, it's so different...” - Taylor Swift may have just saved this teen and mum relationship

 Girl at oncernt.
Girl at oncernt.

When your teenager no longer wants to be in the same room as you, it can feel like a dagger to the heart, so Alison Perry - mum-of-three - thoroughly recommends finding a shared love of something – like Taylor – to bring you closer together

Yesterday I spent a total of approximately four minutes with my 13-year-old daughter. Most of that time was spent with me straightening her hair before school. She made her own breakfast, took herself off to school and in the afternoon made her own way to a dance class while I finished work and did her younger sisters’ bath and bedtime before going out myself.

If you’d told me, ten years ago, when I was in the thick of pre-school parenting, that she’d be so independent from me, I’m not sure I’d have believed you. Back then, there were moments I felt suffocated. Having a small person Velcro’d to you, needing you for every little thing – from bum wiping to filling up their water bottle – can feel exhausting.

As much as it feels good to have my own space back (from her at least; the same can’t be said for her 5-year-old sisters…) there is a small part of me that misses the closeness we had. I miss her curling up next to me on the sofa, nestling her head into my chest. I miss her little hand reaching out for mine as we walk along. I miss hearing her say “Watch this Mummy!” ten times a day. I miss her thinking I’m amazing and cool and funny.

"I miss hearing her say “Watch this Mummy!” ten times a day. I miss her thinking I’m amazing and cool and funny."

Nowadays, in a move that is totally on track with child development, she likes to spend as little time with me as she can. She can usually be found in another room, watching TV shows on her tablet, Snapchatting her friends or scrolling TikTok on her phone. I’ll walk into the room that she’s in, and unless I say a very deliberate “HI!” she won’t notice or acknowledge me. Unless she is hungry, of course, when she will ask what she can have to eat or when dinner is.

We clash often – usually over her reluctance to empty the dishwasher (her ONE daily chore, I should add) or over my steadfast reluctance to allow her to use her phone or tablet in her bedroom. (and I'm not the only one who thinks teens can come across entitled or rude)

But one thing has brought us closer together again: Taylor Swift.

Our love of the Pennsylvanian pop star has given us ‘a thing’; something to talk about, listen to in the car; something to share.

I’ve been a low-level fan since Taylor’s Red album in 2012. I’d play the CD in the car while driving my toddler to playdates and park visits. Fast-forward ten years and I played the 1989 album on Spotify while my daughter helped me cook dinner. Unbeknownst to me, at the time, that moment was the beginning of her becoming a full-blown Swiftie.

It's created connection

A few weeks later, over dinner, she started telling me all of this in-depth Taylor Swift stuff she’d discovered after doing a deep dive on YouTube. “Did you know she has a thing about the number 13? She was born on 13th December and her first number one single had a 13 second intro. She puts hidden messages in her album CDs for fans using capital letters, did you know?”

At that moment, her eyes nearly popped out of her head, when I reached over and grabbed my CD copies of Red and 1989 from a shelf. “Can I have these?!” she asked. It was like handing a rare Beatles vinyl to an indie kid in the 90s, and gave me serious cool mum points.

Taylor Swift singing
Taylor Swift singing

Since then, our love of Taylor has grown together. We listen to her music, discuss what the lyrics of each song might be about, debate which songs are the best on each album and send each other TikTok videos and Reels about Taylor.

I even managed to secure my place as Best Mum Ever when I got us tickets to the Eras Tour at Wembley this summer. So now the concert preparation is real. We have been making friendship bracelets to take along and swap with other fans, we’re planning our outfits (lots of fans go dressed as one of Taylor’s Eras – I’m currently thinking of rocking a pastel, sparkly Lover style outfit) and, of course, regularly watching the Eras Tour on Disney+ together.

It's opened up conversations

As someone who grew up in the (pardon the pun) era of Take That and Boyzone fandom, I’m totally in my element. It’s an utter joy to introduce my daughter to the intense love of a recording artist. With Taylor Swift, there's a real community feel with her fans, and her special connection with them is something special. She drops clues and ‘Easter eggs’ about album and single releases, prompting fans to decode and decipher what she means.

"If we can keep finding things we both love, maybe we’ll be able to ride this stage..."

Just last week, I sent my daughter a TikTok of a Swiftie sharing a theory of when Reputation (Taylor’s Version) will be announced (apparently it will be when she is onstage in Dublin this summer, in case you wondered, because when you turn the Tortured Poet’s Department ‘TTPD’ logo upside down, it reads ‘cail’ which is Irish for ‘reputation’. I’m not even kidding.)

It also opened up conversations about body image, resilience, and politics after we watched the documentary about Miss Americana on Netflix. And I feel happy knowing my girl has such a good role model: someone who speaks out for LGBTQ rights, who speaks out against anti-abortion laws, who stood up and fought for herself in a sexual assault case.

Of course, I’m under no illusions that this shared love will keep us close through her teen years – teenagers are notoriously fickle, after all – but it gives me hope. If we can keep finding things we both love, maybe we’ll be able to ride this stage without too many bumps in the road.

Life with a teen can be tricky to navigate, what with them going on social media too much but a new study has found that it's also giving them these seven life skills. We also speak to the experts on what 'teen-ternity' leave is all about and why it's becoming a popular choice for parents with young adults, and also what to expect when your teenager starts dating.