One evening, my little girl and I decided to go to Target just for fun. My daughter has her 5th birthday coming up and she wanted to try on dresses for the occasion. My husband was working late and we needed a change of scenery so I said, “why not!”
She made her selections based on level of sparkle and potential twirliness, and we headed to the dressing rooms to pick a favorite (and, really, to make sure none of them were too itchy!). My daughter was spinning happily in the mirror trying on the first dress when I heard a conversation in the dressing room next door. Another mother and daughter, but this pair about a decade or so ahead of us.
Apparently a party was coming up and there was a disagreement over the appropriateness of the outfit the young lady was trying on. I stood listening to the mother explain that the shirt was too short and the skirt too tight. I could almost hear her daughter’s eyes rolling as she argued that this is what EVERYONE would be wearing…you can guess what happened next.
Mom stands firm. Daughter lets out an exasperated sigh and a quick “whatever” and they head out into the store: frustrated and annoyed.
My attention shifted back to my four year old daughter, and I began to think. How much more time do I have before her priorities go from “sparkly” to “popular”…from “twirly” to “hot”? I don’t know the number of years, but I’m confident the answer is “not enough”.
The thing is, I’m a young(ish?) 20 something. I relate so much to that mom’s maternal instinct to protect and guide my daughter, but I’m not SO far removed by time from being in her daughter’s shoes- going out and wanting to wear the latest trends. Everything in me wanted to take that girl out for ice cream- er, coffee?- and talk to her as a friend- as someone who has been there, but isn’t her mom.
I wanted to tell her that her body is strong and amazing and that she SHOULD feel proud of the beautiful way she was created.
I wanted to tell her that she doesn’t need to show off a few more inches of skin on that body to be noticed by anyone worth two seconds of her attention.
I wanted to tell her that her worth and value isn’t based on whether or not she can pull off a crop top in the eighth grade.
I wanted to tell her that even if EVERYONE is wearing the exact same outfit, she needs to first stop and ask herself if she even likes it.
I wanted her to think about how she can celebrate herself and her unique style through her clothing and accessories in an age appropriate way.
I wanted to tell her that 10 years from now, she will have to think long and hard before remembering the last names of the people she’s trying so hard to impress, but that, in those same 10 years, her mama will only become even MORE important to her.
I wanted to tell her that while I have always had a close relationship with my own mother, when I recall the few disagreements we had when I was a teenager, I can’t remember a single instance in which I was ever right.
I wanted to tell her that when she is “old enough” to buy her clothes alone- maybe even with money she earned from a job- she will miss these outings with a built in honest second opinion (who also happens to foot the bill), even when it isn’t an agreeable one.
I wanted to tell her that she has SO much life ahead of her to make BIG choices completely on her own, but that when she gets to that part, her first instinct will be to pick up a phone and call her mom.
I wanted to tell her that her mother loves her more than she can know with a love so fierce her heart aches for her well being and protection.
I wanted to tell her that, on the hard days of adulthood, she will long to just go back home and be taken care of the way she is in this season.
I wanted to tell her that someday she may have a daughter and she will feel the intense pull to keep her safe and protected. I want her to know that, if she does, she will blink and her baby will be 14 years old, standing in a dressing room rolling her eyes.
I mostly just wanted to remind both of them to cut each other some slack. It’s hard being a mom. It’s hard being a teenager. I want to remind them both of how much they have in common. I want to tell them to grab some ice cream, and enjoy each other’s company.
And then, I want to suggest that they try braving the dressing rooms again! I suggest she try on something she can twirl in, but, if twirling isn’t her thing- just find something that makes her SPARKLE.