Sunday, July 10, 2011

When She Grows Up

I was just constructing a very very long comment in response to Mama R's latest post below, and I figured I would just turn it into an actual post because I have LOTS to say on this issue. I too have been thinking about when M grows up to be a young woman...

Recently I went to a family reunion for my husbands side of the family. In the 11 years I have been going to these events I have watched all his sibling's and cousin's kids grow up into teenagers, and young adults...some whose diapers I once changed! (Didn't you hate when people used to say that to you? I make it a point to say it to my favorite little boy at these events who is now 8 and he thinks it is so gross, which means hysterical to me :). Now, I am not used to being around teenagers by any means, and I was around A LOT of teenagers over these 2 days. Let me first say that we are blessed to have wonderfully polite and kind kids in our family, all of whom get along with each other swimmingly, and I find, as an adult, are very easy to talk to (which I don't feel like was the case for me when I was their age!). But to get to my point - holy hell what in the name of JC are teenage girls wearing these days!!

Like Mama R mentioned below, it seems to be the trend to wear VERY VERY short shorts, no matter what your body type. And not only are shorts short, but shirts are tight, and boobs are hanging out! The 13 year olds look like they are 18, and the 18 year olds? That is another story - I have one niece that dresses like she has been working it on the street corner. I remember when I was 14 it was trendy to wear big plaid button down shirts with very pleated baggy shorts! We did roll them up a bit, but I am talking like mid-thigh at the highest...these days the girls are practically showing some ass cheek. I am hoping that, like with most trends, my early 90s fashion of baggy menswear will be in full affect come M's teenage years. I highly doubt that though. I envision my daughter trying to leave the house just her underwear. God help me (and more so my husband).

Thinking about my fashion sense as a teenager got me thinking about other things I used to do...mostly concerning boys. While my friends in the in-crowd had boyfriends starting in practically nursery school, I didn't date at all (sure a kiss here and there) until I was a junior in high school. Let's just call my first boyfriend "Jim", and make a long story short by saying he was a terribly abusive (mostly verbally) and controlling person who was very popular amongst my school friends. He paid attention to me like no boy ever had in my life, and therefore I was smitten. I didn't care if he didn't want me to hang out with my friends (biggest mistake of my life), or lie to my parents (makes me sick to my stomach when I think about it). He made me feel special sometimes and I was someone's girlfriend, someone popular with a nice car who was older and cooler. I stupidly dated him for almost 4 years - into my junior year of college, which was 1000s of miles away from where he lived - and he still controlled me by threatening me over the phone if I was to go out to a club with my friends. My parents hated him, and I hated him, but he had some magic hold over me that I can't explain. Finally I gathered up the strength to break it off with him before my 20th birthday, which I still feel like is when my life truly began again. If you met me now, and knew me then, you would not even have known I was the same person. In some ways I am glad this whole situation happened to me, because I wouldn't have the friends I have, or took the job I took after college, where I met the perfect man (BTW he couldn't be more opposite in looks, behavior, intellegence, name it!), who I have made the perfect life with...yada yada yada. Everything happens for a reason...

I share this with you because thinking about M being older and this happening to her brings me to tears. Will she have the same self esteem issues that I did? Sure I was part of the "popular" group in high school, and had lots of friends, but I was never one that the boys looked at twice. I was always taller and more athletic (looking back at photos of myself I cannot even fathom why I thought my size 10 perfect body was fat!!). I didn't have the boobs the other girls had, or the skinny legs and flat stomach. And when this wolf in sheep's clothing came into my life and cast his spell on me I didn't know any better! Will she really listen to me when I tell her my stories about Jim? Will she understand that she should never let anyone treat her the way that Jim treated me? My parents tried countless times to get me to understand but I wouldn't listen...will M? I just hope and pray (and I don't pray) to never be in that situation with her. Ever.

The fact that M will be anything other than a toddler in the future scares the crap out of me. I finally have this parenting a toddler thing down, and now she is turning into a little kid. I know I will figure this next stage out just like I did before, but what happens when she is older and thinking for herself, and wanting freedom and talking back! Who am I kidding, that is already happening...

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, I can totally relate this to this post. I worry about all of this too, which basically boils down to hoping that your daughter will make good choices when you're not around. I have thought about this a lot, and what I have concluded is that the best I can do is to a) try to instil internal controls ("do the right thing even if other people are doing the wrong thing") and b) have her know that mommy always loves her no matter what. I also am prepared to set some strong boundaries around teenage behavior and communicate clearly that I expect her to behave in a certain way. Will that work? Probably about as well as it worked with me, but to be honest, when I "rebelled," it was pretty minor stuff. As for the dating and body image issues, I don't know what to say. It seems that the concept of female liberation has somehow been twisted around nowadays. In nature, of course, it's usually the male of the species that tries to attract the female, but now, it seems that it is girls trying to show themselves off in order to please and attract a boy; otherwise, they will be out of it. Thus the skimpy clothes, etc. I know we have tried to say that you should be able to dress any way you want without having strings attached, but it seems that it hasn't necessarily worked out that way in practice. Anyway, I don't really have a solution here - I'm not sure I've even defined the problem - but again, I think that the best way to inoculate your daughter against negative peer pressure is to enforce non-arbitrary boundaries and love her wholeheartedly.