Five Going on Fifteen

Abby puts her index finger lightly on her lips and says, “Hmmmm. I like…” as she wrenches an awful pink plaid number from the crowded clearance rack, “This one!” Suddenly I catch a glimpse of her at twelve, maybe thirteen, years old.

It absolutely terrifies me–the thought of her (a) eventually being a tween/ teen, (b) wearing a dress like this, and (c) what her friends will say to or about her when they see her in it.


If I say yes to the dress, I am spoiling her (again). This is bad mommy. This is mommy who went through so much to get pregnant and feels quite grateful, so she showers her daughters with stuff they don’t necessarily need. Stuff that helps me show them how much I love them. If I buy this hideous pink dress, I will surely win the “You are the Best Mommy Ever” award. And who doesn’t want that?

If I say no to the dress, she’ll get mad, throw a colossal fit and I’ll feel guilty. But I have to teach her that we don’t always get what we want. Just because I don’t buy this dress/those shoes/that Barbie doll doesn’t mean I don’t love her. She shouldn’t associate material things with love (right?). Love comes in other packages, like hugs, kisses, story time and an impromptu trip to Baskin Robbins.

This struggle is also tied into my own garbage, my own past I’ve been schlepping around needlessly (thank you, Amy Oscar, for helping me see this). The girls are growing up and will soon start kindergarten– bona fide school–and this mama bear has realized she can’t protect her cubs from the voracious wolves waiting to pounce. I worry that their personalities, their looks, what they wear, etc. will dictate their social status. Which is hard for me. How do I teach my girls to love and be themselves when I know that doesn’t always mean happiness?

Maybe I’m not teaching my daughters the right things, or I’m not adequately preparing them. But can we really even do that? As their mother, my job is to push them out into the world. So I have to separate myself from them–my experience will not necessarily be theirs. I watch them interact with others, and with every whine, tattle, tantrum or ugly dress, I worry.

They might not fit in. They might be taunted and teased, bullied like I was. And perhaps not. Hopefully not. I’m trying to think positively here.

And guess what? I bought Abby the damn dress. Because it’s so her and so not me. I’m nudging her towards being who she’s becoming. Letting her make her own choices. And if the mean girls don’t like it? I guess we’ll cross that bridge together when we come to it.