It’s a Wednesday evening, and as my daughters and I drive home from the evening’s church activities (youth games and worship for my teen, aerobics for me, and aerobics and handbells for my younger), we talk about our time apart and share what the experience was like. I might say something like, “Tina about killed us tonight! I’ll be good until tomorrow when I try to laugh.” Or, “Dang! Celeste still has her soccer moves!” My youngest will talk about how they’re supposed to play and sing for the Hanging of the Greens service, and she hopes she remembers her part. My teen is more reflective as she talks about her peers, some of whom have moms in aerobics with me.
“I really feel sorry for Bethany*,” she might say. “Her mom is so hard on her!”
“How do you mean?” I ask, knowing her mom.
“She doesn’t let her do anything. When we went on that trip, while the rest of us ate the awesome cooking, her mom made her eat salads. And when we stopped for breakfast, there was this grill, and the breakfast sandwiches smelled to-die-for. I could tell Bethany wanted one, but her mom wouldn’t let her have it.” I know Bethany, and she’s a trim, athletic, healthy teenager, certainly not one who needs to worry about her weight.
“She was talking about how her mom is making her do cheerleading. Bethany used to run track, and she really misses it. She didn’t want to be a cheerleader, but her mom insisted on it.”
It sounds an awful lot like Bethany’s mom wants her daughter to be like her for whatever reason.
My teen goes on to the next person, a lovely young lady who tears it up on the basketball court but who feels forced to one day don crinoline and parasol for an annual event – all because her mom wants her to follow in her footsteps and do it. This girl is tanks, ponytails, and Jordans; not lace gloves, sausage curls, and hoop skirts.
At this point, I tell my teen to let me know if she ever feels like I’m pushing her to do something she doesn’t want to do. She assures me she will and expresses gratitude that I am happy to let her be her own person and do her own thing.
So this message is for all you moms of teen girls out there: Your daughter doesn’t want to be you. Your daughter is a separate, unique person, and if you’ve done your job as her mother well, she owns that. Daughters of healthy mothers are free to embrace their wishes, wants, dreams, and desires and feel accepted in following them.
Healthy mom-daughter relationships don’t have a mother creating a her-clone in her daughter. They have stages of accountability (Mom is still Mom, after all) and through the teen years, friendship begins to overlap the parenting responsibilities. But parent, a mother always will be, even after her daughter has grown into this really wonderful, likable adult.
Healthy mom-daughter relationships create space for both to grow. They create room for the daughter in particular to become the person she wishes to be. Sure, it’s cool seeing your daughter doing things you did as a teen. Mine dances, so we talk about how our experiences are different and similar. And, certainly, I get certain emotions when she mentions toying with minoring in Psychology (my major). (Usually, those emotions are along the line of, “Don’t,” but I don’t voice that.) When I was receiving my second Master’s hood, my teen was an infant, and the dean who was placing it across my shoulders predicted I’d be sharing it one day. The idea thrilled me at the time, but given my daughter’s talents and gifts, I want her to pursue her interests. My feelings don’t come into play here; my role is simply to support and encourage.
So, fellow moms of teen girls, lay off your daughters. They are wonderful beings created by a loving, wise Creator who gave them gifts, skills, and talents. They have their own knowledge bases, their own ways of looking at the world, and their own ideas of what they wish their lives to be like next year, three years from now, and five years from now. What God did not create them to be are clones of their mothers. God did not create our teenage girls to be the fulfillment of the best and most-wished of our own teen years. As well and as intimately as you know your daughter, God still knows her better. Stop trying to play God with your daughter’s life. Wait. That’s not what you’re doing, because even God allows them to exercise free will.
*Not her real name.