The Tween Years

Friday, April 11, 2008

Today is picture day at school, and late last night, I had the girls pick out what to wear. Middle daughter (from here out, D8) had little trouble finding something suitable to wear. Oldest daughter from here out, D11) ended up crying when I asked her if she had a pair of black pants.

Nonplussed, I asked her what could be so awful about black pants that made her cry. Come to find out, it wasn't the pants at all (I didn't figure it was, but you have to start somewhere). She was feeling like there was too much pressure about how she was going to look for the pictures. I wanted her to dress one way, and she felt that it was going to be very different from what other kids were doing. She said 'you can't understand how I feel'.

Well, we had a heart to heart on that one. I showed her pictures of me at her age - glasses, bad hair, the beginnings of teenage was painful for me, but I wanted her to see that I DO understand. I know a lot of parents seem to forget what it was like to be a kid, but I'm not one of them. Maybe it's because it was so rough for me. I don't know. But talking to her was a little funny, because I remember my Mom giving me some of those same pieces of advice. Things like "you might want the same haircut some other girl has, but it might not look as good on YOU as it does on her" and "fads are fine, but classics are timeless". And I laughed at myself and TOLD her that my mom had said some of those same things to me, and that, like D11, I wasn't willing to listen.

I think there's a difference, though, and I told D11 this, too. My mom would just deliver a statement and not discuss the reasoning behind it. So it always felt like she was making arbitrary statements rather than taking ME into consideration. But with D11, I made sure that I took the time to talk to her about how these things relate to HER - that while Skye has a cool haircut that looks great on her, getting the same cut wouldn't make D11 look like Skye. And I explained to her that while the Hannah Montana t-shirt is cool, it doesn't make for very good portraits. And I backed that up by showing her the section in my photography lessons on portraiture that deal with backdrops and subjects, and simplifying. She didn't have much to choose from in the way of solid color shirts without distracting graphics, but we came up with a black polo shirt and black pants. And when I did her hair this morning, she looked fabulous!

I hope this teaches her to trust me a bit more. I know kids think they know everything - I've been there, I remember. And being 11 is SO awkward for a girl. Not a little girl, not yet a teen...hence the name they've come up with for it - tween. I just want to get her through these years with some semblance of self-confidence. It will be my gift to her - and something I never had. Rather than hide wounds behind false apathy, I want her to be armored against them with a solid sense of who she is and what she's worth. I want her to be able to shake off comments from rude brats, and also be able to accept a compliment with grace. She deserves to be happy - I want SO badly for her to be a happy, confident young woman. Maybe I feel that something good will have come of my own messed up youth if I can use it to make things better for her. It kills me to see her suffer such's too much like looking back at myself at that age. I can't reach back and help that version of me, to tell her it will be okay, that she will survive even when she doesn't want to. But I can maybe head that all off for D11, and let her not only survive, but thrive.

I think maybe guiding her through this is helping to heal me a little. She is so terribly much like me in some bad ways, and if I can just steer her in a better direction....she can have a better life than me. I might be able to stop her from becoming bitter and shutting herself off from any real friendships or relationships. Maybe she won't be afraid to love, and won't suffer from a lack of it. Maybe she'll be confident enough not to marry the first (and second) man that comes along. Maybe she'll have the courage to be true to herself, and to speak up for what she needs or wants.

I was going to say you couldn't pay me to go through my tween years again...but through her, I am.


Post a Comment