Thursday, October 11, 2012

a reminder for moms.

i am a strong, confident woman.

& i have opinions that are equally as strong & confident.

but. i'm also a mom, navigating the rather stormy seas of
raising a teenage daughter for the first time.

& so, as waves of teen-girl issues rise around me,
i'm sometimes unsure of the best way to ride them out.

so i solicit advice from my fellow sailors —
girlfriend-moms of other teen girls.

& so it was that i recently found myself at a drinks-&-dinner gathering
of like-minded moms, & seized a conversational lull to bring up
an issue currently brewing with my 13yo daughter.

over the past couple of months, she has been "altering" her clothing
to show more skin — nothing inappropriate, just things like
rolling up her shorts-legs to make them shorter [but not daisy-dukes short],
rolling up her shirt-sleeves to make them look sleeveless, etc.

i've observed this behavior without comment,
wanting to "choose my battles," & understanding
what she's currently doing is completely harmless . . .
though clearly, this trend has captured my attention.

during the late summer months, i noticed her doing the same thing
with her tankini top — rolling & tucking up the bottom of it,
so that with every trip to the pool, it was looking more & more like a bikini top.

so at a friend's labor day family pool party,
i finally called her on it — noting this wasn't a proper venue for that
& requesting she untuck her top to its original length.

"ok, but next time, will you buy me a swimsuit appropriate for my age?"
she hissed.
"you're wearing a swimsuit appropriate for your age," i flatly responded.

so meanwhile, back at moms' night out, i tell this story & wonder aloud:
should i be concerned about this trend? & isn't a tankini a good choice for a 13yo?

well, i got dog-piled.

the other two moms with daughters the same age
had already bought their daughters bikinis,
essentially because that's what all their peers were wearing.

they lectured me about the difference between a "bikini" & a "two-piece."
they implied i may be damaging my daughter emotionally
by not letting her do what it takes to fit in socially.

another mom, with whom i had discussed this issue earlier,
brought up one of the ideas i had mentioned to her for dealing with it
as a point of ridicule, laughing to the table about how wrong-minded it was.

when i continued to express my worries about potentially perpetuating
the sexualization of my 13yo daughter, the mom sitting next to me
took my hand in hers & patted it, saying in a gently patronizing tone —
as if i were an 108yo granny, expecting my girl to wear a
turn-of-the-last-century "bathing costume," complete with bloomers —

"she's not a little girl anymore, kristen."

which i'm well aware of, thank you very much.
but while she may not be a little girl, she is still very much a girl —
not a woman, not a sexual being just yet, & still very much my child.

& her childhood, while naturally waning, isn't over just yet.
nor should it be. & i do see it as part of my job not to give it the bum's rush,
& to try to ensure nothing else does, either.

for the record, i listened to & considered their points,
& next spring, as swimsuit season approaches once again,
i will likely agree to shop for a two-piece my teen girl & i can agree upon.

but here's the reminder for moms part:

when another mom asks for your advice,
remember she is showing her most vulnerable self to you.

remember what she is saying beneath the question
is, "i'm feeling unsure about myself as a mom.
i'm afraid i may be screwing up & i don't want to fail my child."

remember she is asking not only for your opinion.
she is asking for your listening, your understanding,
your support & your encouragement.

she wants to know what your experience is,
& she needs to know whatever she chooses to do will be ok,
because she is the best mom for her child.

just like you are the best mother for your children.
just like we all are the best moms for our kids,
every one of us doing our very best, every minute of every day.

[though naturally, our best looks better at some points than at others.]

tell her she is a good mom.
tell her this mothering stuff is tough.
tell her you struggle with it, too.
tell her she is doing a fabulous job raising terrific kids.
tell her to make sure she listens to herself.
tell her she will make the best choice.

because it's all true. & she needs to hear it.

& because if she leaves the conversation feeling like
she is indeed screwing up & failing her child,
then we are failing each other as women.

breaking each other down rather than building each other up.

reply with your opinion, explain your experience, state your case.
then remember, my mamas-in-solidarity, to
encourage. encourage. encourage.

as a favorite fellow blogger recently wrote:
it's the grace element of motherhood.
we all need it. we all need to extend it.

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