Sunday morning I exited my parked car grabbing the pile I threw on the floorboard and made my way to church hoping to make it on time. When I looked up I found I was walking behind a mother and daughter whose body language I knew all too well. Daughter in hoodie and mini skirt, mother walking four feet ahead of her precious-yet-defiant girl. The reason mother is walking in front of and not with her girl I am quite sure is that they spent the last 45 minutes arguing about the daughter’s clothing choice as they got ready for departure. She is still angry.
The daughter has indeed ramped up the defiance from the moment of clothing choice until arriving in the parking lot. Hoodie pulled down to her eyebrows, tee shirt emblem peeking from behind the zipped hoodie, mini skirt hiked. Well, that is until she begins to mount the church steps. Walking behind her I notice the discreet yanking of the hem. Downward that is. Suddenly she is wondering if it is too short, mom is in front of her and on this flight of steps she manages to gain a full three inches of length by pulling. I was doing a celebratory mom dance in my head! This mother didn’t know it but she had indeed won a mother-daughter victory.
In the middle of your daughters’ right of passage from sweet-faced little girl to defiant-teen she will still possess a conscience. Like this mother you may not always see the confirmation that supports this truth. Your daughter has absolutely no intention of letting you know. Don’t panic in those days of rebellion. All of the lessons taught, moral compass instilled, self-confidence so ingrained is still there. It’s just that your daughter does not want her mother to see any evidence that would provide much needed relief. Heaven forbid she ever volunteer that, it’s angst she wants to inflict!
Don’t panic in those days of rebellion.
So here are a few suggestions for those years.
Be their conscience, quietly in a way that they don’t even realize you are.Take them to a movie, their choice, and watch them squirm if undesirable content hits the screen. Things look so different sitting next to your mom. You don’t have to say a word- they are feeling it.
Turn on the car radio and as they sing along listen to the words. One of my favorite moments came in my daughter’s tween years. The Backstreet Boys tune “As Long As you Love Me” was played on every radio station, in the highest rotation possible. I felt like we heard it a million times a day. But most disconcerting were the lyrics. “I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you’ve done, as long as you love me.” I renamed that little ditty “the ex-con song” and with my daughters we played at rewriting the words. Like “I don’t care if you just got out of prison, robbed a bank, burned down a house, as long as you love me.” It became moments of unbelievable laughter as each of us belted out new phrases. What those entertaining moments really did teach was to consider the content of music, to think about what they are saying. Were they really willing to accept anything from a guy “as long as they loved them”?
Look for others that can positively influence their lives as well. We sometimes think that we are the only ones that will make the needed impact. This is so not true, especially in the defiant teen years. Both my daughters had teachers, some of my friends or ladies they worked with that they would listen to quicker than me. And I loved what they were learning. Don’t be afraid of those influences, embrace them. Create that opportunity, and be grateful for that relief work, because you will need it.
So when you are having those battles knowing they will push the clothing choices to your drop-dead departure time, just load them into the car and get them where you want them to go. Mom, you can get through the defiant, frustrating, sometimes scary teen years. Everything that was taught up ‘til this time is planted deeply and will be remembered. You may even have the pleasure of catching out of the corner of your eye that moment of mini skirt conscience and know all is really well. Don’t say a word just smile to yourself and say, “My daughter really will be fine.”