So. This blog. This here blog is where I write about my most current goings on...when I DO write. You may want to thank me for being a bit quiet around here because, truth be told, a whole lotta my goings on these days is about one thing:
Navigating being a mom to teenagers.
I seek no sympathy. I'm fully aware that "this too shall pass". And yes, I will most definitely hang in there. It's sink or swim.
I just have to get this out..this whole obstacle course of this version of parenting. I have to preface it all by saying, unabashadly, that I have really great girls. Amazing girls. No question. They are intelligent, witty, extremely hardworking, polite, considerate, patient, aware of the beauty of nature around them (Just the other day pony #1 said "mom, have you noticed that little line of muscari along the fence down the road?" Seriously! What teenager notices...let alone knows the name of MUSCARI?!?!). I have never heard them utter the words "I hate you" to anyone. Not even me. The worst the name calling gets is "you're acting like a brat!". They have wonderful bedside manners, have no qualms about cleaning the birthing sac off a new born pig, will dig packed manure out of a horse hoof with bare hands if no tools are handy, and are pretty darn good at saving their money. They gravitate towards food grown in a garden, know the difference between the smell of rain and the smell of freshly cut grass, and often look on in astonishment when some peer is acting like she's "all that". They have refreshing sense of style and wear makeup and hair do's like pros, can organize a junk drawer more sensibly than most adults, and know when to use a flat nose shovel or when a square nose shovel would be more suited for the job at hand. They do well in school, want the best for their friends, are tenderhearted and any living creature gets their utmost respect and always a moment of their attention (to a spider: "Hi little guy! where you going?").
Yes. I am their mom. I'm supposed to think all these things. But I'm largely informed by their worlds outside of me. I'm informed by what others tell me about my girls. The feedback is always positive.
So what's the problem? The problem is that there is so much out there specifially designed to win the attention and adoration of their age bracket that gives messages that, in my opinion, are contradictory to their most honorable selves. Damaging, in fact. And I can't shield them from that. At best I can put a big ol' scratch in my record and put on repeat the effects on them, as an individual, of what they are seeing. At best I can try to help them see that what they see in an advertisment is not what the world will see in them if they try to BE that advertisement. They see a perfectly spray tanned bikini model on the poster but if they were to dress in that same get up and parade around the public pool, most sensible folks will see a girl who needs to get a better fitting swim suit. Or worse.
There is a well established company that originally marketed their underwear to married women. Now, they have a line of clothing for teenagers. Fine enough...except for the fact that to purchase that clothing in a live store or online, those teenagers must squeeze through the tightly packed aisled of lace and strings and life sized eye level photos of barely covered ahems to get to the perfectly acceptable hoodie. This, in my opinion, is no accident.
Desensitize is the name of the game. Walk them past the ribbons-disquised-as-underwear enough times and eventually they will seem normal. Bland even. Perfectly acceptable. When just a month or two earlier those same girls felt awkward just looking at them - they would avert their eyes. Now, not only do they look...but they pick up and hold up and have no clue that some guy shopping with his girlfriend (not wife) is there taking a gander at the young girls as well. He may not have any bad intentions. Even he is caught in the trap.
I have nothing against sexy. You will not find a pair of granny underwear in my drawers (aren't you so glad to know). I like trendy fashion and feminine cuts as much as the next girl. Chances are, when I am better proportioned, I will likely even rock a fitted pencil skirt and figure flattering top. But you wont see my upper thighs and will not have the priveldge of being able to take a gander at my cleavage without having have walked through fire for me, given me your vulnerabilities and your loyalty...and given me two amazing children.
When I am rocking that skirt and that top, you will see confidence and comfort. You will see someone who can stand up and sit down a dozen times without having to worry if anything that should be covered isn't. I will not tell the world my whole story by showing it my whole body. It is not the world's story to know. I will not try to capture the world's attention with my flesh but with my femininity. I will intrigue the world not with lust, but with art. Not with appetite but with my capabilities. Not with carnality but with compassion.
And this is what I want for my girls and if I were their only influence, it might be possible. But they go to the mall and they watch tv and they have peers who's family values are fine enough but don't seem to include any standards around modesty. I'm not talking about puritanism or long sleeve-high neck dowdiness. Not at all. I'm merely refering to a standard of dress that promotes barely-there "its' the style" clothing over the sanctity of the feminine figure. The cost of standing my ground on this matter is high. I temporarily loose friends within my own home but the alternative comes at much too high a price for my conscience. I am willing to be a stranger in my own home for a time if necessary.
Somewhere in all of this comes the essential transition of remembering that my daughters have their own agency independent of my values and that there is a phase of this transition that may very well include the influences that are not me, seeming to have a greater effect than I do.
Which brings me to now.
It's torture. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. I kept waiting for the time to come for my girls to see my point of view, to emphatically profess a devotion to presenting a version of themselves to the world that says "I value myself, my body, and my mind and the way I dress reflects that. You're going to have to prove yourself a valiant and worthy man to be able to see more." I've realized that day may never come and if it does, it will likely be when I am the grandmother to a sixteen year old girl and my daughter is in the tender and treacherous role of mother.
In a world where the man gets blamed for objectifying the woman, the woman needs to make damn sure she's not objectifying herself or the blame is half misplaced. I saw a singer once, on stage with he breasts and crotch barely covered by her skin tight dress ranting about the objectification of women. I wondered if I was the only one who saw the contradiction. Teenage boys are fighting their own intense battles of hormones, identy, and what integrity and honor mean for them. It would be amazing if every young lady could honor both the boy and herself by honoring her body and not making the road they both travel doubly hard by confusing true beauty with premature sexuality. Winning his desire is not the same as winning his honorable adoration.
I see the choices of clothing in stores and I feel the angst of being a mother with what seems like everything stacked against you in the efforts of modesty. Even with mad sewing and alteration skills, I am tempted at times to just give up the fight. Not only the fight with my daughter about what is appropriate but also the fight with the world about what is available. I let them try on anything they want. I know they are mostly innocent in all this (the market is doing it's job well). But I won't pay for anything that doesn't support my values. They are earning their own money, however, and want to spend it how they want...and the transition hits turbulence. I have one foot in the traditional "you are not setting foot out of this house in that" and "you are a free agent capable of making your own choices that I may or may not agree with".
It's hard. Really hard. And not for the reasons you may think. I'm not afraid of my girls getting dragged into some dark alley and raped by a stranger who's lust has displaced goodwill. I'm not afraid of some big city rave where a drink might get laced with some drug. Those big news horror stories don't quite fit in this picture. What scares me most is what this small town will think of my girls if they prance around in skin tight shirts that they call dresses. I'm afraid that other parents will think I don't care, will think I'm letting the tail wag the dog. I'm afraid that the wrong impressions that will be made. I'm afraid that the message of "I'm dressed like a slut" will overpower who they REALLY are. And this...this scares me more than anything else in my world right now. I have noticed that my most crippling fear in all this is not just that others will be blind to the amazing human beings my girls are if they dressed imodestly in the name of trend, but even more by the reality that my girls may be blind to their own real beauty if they start identifying themselves with clothes that don't honor their sacred mystery, feminity, and divine beauty.
I hope to find peace with all of this soon. But I'm no fool. I know it will likely come after the fact.
Until then, I'm peddling like mad to make sure I fall in love with every joke my girls tell me, every act of service around the house they offer, and every thought they are thinking for themselves - even if it's not the same as mine. I want them to feel so beloved that they are less inclined to look to the confusing parts of the world for adoration. I'll mess it up regularly. But I've got to keep trying.