As our daughters were growing up, my husband and I decided early on that we were willing to make some difficult decisions about parenting. All the drama, boyfriends, sassiness, and some fashion trends were not what we wanted for our girls. So, we decided to get on the same page and do our best to help our girls stand out from the crowd.
It isn’t easy being “those” parents! I remember riding in the car with my daughters and another young girl who, at around six years old, was talking non-stop about boys. After a few minutes of listening to her talk about how she hoped this boy liked her and how she liked him and on and on, I decided to turn the conversation to something less boy-focused. I later told my girls that while they should have friends that were boys, they really didn’t need to worry about boyfriends for many years to come.
As the girls grew older, they watched as many of their friends began having “serious” boyfriends, going on dates, and dealing with the pain that comes from having your heart broken. After seeing the effects on some of their friends, my daughters were actually glad that they had learned to keep their focus on developing themselves as individuals and not always worrying about guys. Of course they wanted to date and experience being someone’s sweetheart, but they were happy to avoid the jealousy, pettiness, and emotional roller coaster that came with the territory. Thankfully, they avoided a lot of that drama throughout high school. Once they were in college they both dated several boys, which led to varying degrees of joy and heartache, before finding the young men they would eventually marry.
…we decided to get on the same page and do our best to help our girls stand out from the crowd.
My husband and I also had guidelines about dress that put us at odds with our daughters from time to time. When the pants and shorts came out that had words across the backside, I decided that we weren’t buying those. I wasn’t exactly the cool mom because of that decision, but that’s how it goes in parenting. We weren’t overly strict about short and skirt lengths, because when your daughters are tall it’s not easy finding longer shorts and skirts that don’t look totally mom-like. They had to keep everything covered (no Daisy Dukes!), and they looked beautiful in their strapless, yet modest prom dresses.
The decisions that actually caused the most stir in our home were about entertainment. If a movie was PG-13, then watching it when they were younger than 13 was usually not a good idea. I was careful about some PG-13 movies even as my girls entered their teen years. They were not allowed to watch Titanic until they were older, even though Hollywood apparently thinks the nudity and “thematic elements” in that movie are acceptable for children. I disagree.
Before you get the impression that I was a total killjoy as a parent to my young daughters, you should know that the rationale behind each of these decisions, as well as others, was discussed with our daughters. I never cared for the “because I said so” approach to parenting. I preferred to explain myself so that the girls would understand the why and learn how to make decisions on their own. As parents we didn’t fret over hair color, ear piercing (remember the ear cartilage piercing craze in the late 90s?), celebrity watching, and those sorts of things. In my opinion, those things were minor to the more important aspect of living with principles and conviction.
I preferred to explain myself so that the girls would understand the why and learn how to make decisions on their own.
Over the years as my daughters came into adulthood, I watched with great curiosity how they would handle certain situations. I remember after my youngest daughter turned 18 she asked me about going to see a rated R movie. I told her that while I appreciated her asking for my permission, she had to develop her own opinions and convictions. She chose to see the movie, and I respected her decision as an adult.
It’s been enjoyable watching my daughters come into their own as adults. They don’t have all the same convictions I have, and that’s fine. I want them to grow into who they were created to be, not clones of who I am. It is encouraging to see how they have matured into young ladies who have solid opinions on matters and know how to articulate them well. They still try to avoid the drama that some of their friends continue to thrive on, instead choosing to focus on their families and careers. They have also become confidants and sounding boards for some of their friends because of their maturity.
While there were times when my daughters were frustrated and embarrassed by our parenting decisions, they learned that it’s ok to stand out from the crowd. They learned the give-and-take of the parent-child relationship. Taking the same paths as everyone else isn’t always the best option, and learning early on that you can live life differently from the crowd and still be loved, accepted, and have fun is a beautiful way to empower your daughters to be themselves.
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