When Girls Demonstrate Self-Respect …
As risky as it is to admit, there’s a small part of me eagerly waiting for the day that my daughter and I are just friends.
And I say, “just friends,” because the carpooling to play practices, voice lessons, piano, discussions about Instagram, iPods, limits, grades, homework, boys, clothes, and God take precedence over the longing of my heart, which is to just enjoy her as a person. I know I’ll always be her mom…
Honestly, I do see motherhood as a privilege. But it’s fraught with too many identity-building decisions about boys, skirt lengths, music, media, what God thinks, who He really is and who He’s not, who we are, and who we wish to be. And as we navigate these delicate waters, our girls are bombarded with images of female celebrities projecting and defining the culture’s unattainable standards. I’d rather just talk about how He loves us.
But there are blessings – bright moments in the midst of the toughest of parenting years. There are brief glimmers of hope that they won’t need too much therapy to undo or build what you messed up or missed…
And because like you, I need some encouragement now and again, some hope that sometimes we get this gig called mothering right, I want to share something He did.
I love that it was one of those moments where I could see His glory in my kid.
And lest you think I’m being prideful, know I’m recognizing something He did well in one of His followers – who also happens to be a sinner, just like me, just like you. Please know I’d love t0 share one of your stories, too – so share!
I don’t claim to be a perfect parent, nor do I have perfect kids. (try letting go of all that perfectionism striving biz… you’ll see glory & experience freedom!)
I took my daughter clothes shopping, and when we bought the clothes, we’d decided to share some of them. Mainly because we’d save money. I had no intention of wearing about half or more of what she got. But there were a few cool sweaters that I thought I could still pull off, given we wore the same size (although she’s already taller than me…).
When it came to actually borrowing a sweater, however, when I asked to wear it out one night, I was met with a, “I don’t want you to.”
Her friend was there, so I chose not to embarrass her. I said, “I thought we had an understanding…” She said, “I know. I changed my mind. I don’t want you to wear it.”
Confession time: part of me cringed, thinking, “Seriously? I paid for that!” But knowing that teen hormones flood, spike, peak, and diminish in about 90 seconds, I decided to deal with it later, when she might be in a different mood. So what I said instead was, “We can talk about this later. You can choose not to share them, but that will end up meaning fewer items for us both.”
I went out to my thing wearing something else. The next morning, she came downstairs and said, “I want to talk to you about the sweaters.”
Immediately, I was proud of her. She wasn’t running away from conflict. She wasn’t hiding from me, but facing issues head-on. I loved the interaction already.
“I know we agreed that we’d share, but when you wanted to borrow it, I felt odd, and then when you wanted to wear it I just didn’t like the sharing idea. I spent a bunch of time thinking about what I was going to buy and wear to school this year and what my style is… I know it’s just clothes, but it feels like you want to be me when you want to borrow them – especially since they’re new. I don’t mind you wearing my other clothes, and I know I borrow your stuff, too, but this just doesn’t feel right – I probably won’t mind in a few months, but I have changed my mind about wanting to share them with you.”
(this was the long, “So when you did abc, I felt xyz, can we talk about it?”)
And here’s where the rubber meets the road…
Because I had two emotions going – one, a little hurt that she thought I was trying to be like her (which I wasn’t – I literally was just trying to save money and we already shared some of our clothes); and two, thrilled that she felt like she could set a boundary with me, have a difference of opinion, and be her own person.
I know, it’s a little crazy that I get excited about some differences of opinion. It delighted me that she felt comfortable to talk about it. And even more so, that she did it respectfully.
Here’s the absolute best part: God kept me from messing this whole thing up by what He gave me that morning in my QT with Him. “Coincidentally” I was doing a study that launched into the stages of development. Bonding from birth to 2 years, Separateness from 2-11 years and up, Adolescence 12-18, and Maturity 18+. We learn to give and receive love in the first two years of our lives, and then we learn boundaries and how we are separate individuals from those arounds us – we learn what’s ours to own, what I and others are responsible for, etc.
So here she was, demonstrating a piece of her separateness, a piece of her identity, which thankfully wasn’t so consumed with people pleasing that she was willing to calmly set a boundary and explain herself.
I chose to respect her and her choice in the middle of all that.
I also chose to coach her. And give her praise.
Reinforcing self-respect reinforces healthy identity.
“So I respect the way you are speaking to me about this. I appreciate that you brought it up and decided to handle this. That’s mature. I’m guessing that you didn’t say anything at the store because you didn’t know what to say. In the future when you feel that way, let’s talk about things instead of waiting till later when it can be an issue, okay? And understand, please, I’m not trying to be you. You are cute, but you’re 14, and the last thing I want to be perceived as is trying to dress like a teenager.”
I am thankful. If I hadn’t been paying attention, I might have chosen “keeping an agreement” or “saving money” over an opportunity to reinforce her sense of individuality. Kids struggle less with their identity when family members show respect – and this respect also fosters a strong sense of family commitment with teens.
Today we see everything from uber-conservativism to promiscuity. These are tough waters to navigate. My heart’s desire for all women, is that we’d find a way to be in the world, but not of it. That we would rise out of the mire of mediocrity into the arms of the One Who loves, adores, pursues, and promises us eternal life.
What about you? What thoughts do you have on this topic today? Can’t wait to interact with you about them!
Love to you,
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