Adolescence and menopause. Who's responsible for This cosmic scheduling blunder? Just too many hormones under one roof at one time. Acne and wrinkles. Diets and eating disorders. Liposuction and face-lifts. Cultural standards of beauty mangle the confidence of both daughters and mothers. The degrees of destructiveness vary wildly, from passing insecurities to life-threatening depression.
For many mothers, watching daughters debut on a womanly stage awakens flashbacks. We reflect our own youthful body images and remember focusing on our blemishes. Seeing the folly of looking for flaws under the harsh glare of a magnifying glass, we hope our daughters will instead look in the mirror and recognize their fresh beauty.
Some of us admit that it's hard to comfort our daughters when we haven't learned to accept our own inevitable changes. It seems unfair that the permanent five, ten, twenty pounds or more that slide onto our hips and butts with our slowing metabolism arrive at the same moment that our daughters are revving up and becoming their most nubile.
In time, occasionally under pressure from a rude awakening or two, mothers put the importance of the body in perspective. In the end, most find maturity well worth the wrinkles.
Reflecting on Influence
Rachel sat with a small group of friends, leafing through the pages of a picture album. Her shining young face stared out from the photographs. Long black hair with flowers entwined. A vivid peasant blouse. She remarked, "When I look at these pictures, I think, 'I was so beautiful.' But at the time, I didn't feel beautiful. I felt so insecure about my looks. I was so self-conscious. Now I look at my daughter and I'm in awe of her beauty. I hope she appreciates how incredibly beautiful she is right now, at this age"
Some mothers are taken aback by how suddenly their little girls metamorphose into beautiful young women. A friend described walking down a city street with her daughter, who ran ahead to greet a neighborhood dog. As the mother walked by two young men, she saw them checking her daughter out. One of them said to the other, "Get a load of the ass on that one." She stopped in her tracks, detoured back to the young men, and said, "That girl is eleven. And I'm her mother." She told me, "I could have murdered them then and there. And no jury would have convicted me."
Mothers do their best to guide their daughters clear of the familiar pitfalls. Debbie Gaffney sees herself in her daughter's body. She hopes Amelia will never straggle with the same discomfort.
"I have always been awkward and uncomfortable with my body. My large breasts have been a source of much embarrassment to me. Finally, this past year, I had breast reduction surgery. What a difference!
"Like me, Amelia has large breasts. Even though I had surgery, I try to let her know that having large breasts isn't a bad thing. She developed in fifth grade. She's a very pretty girl. With her body, she has already received a lot of attention-jealousy from other girls, wanted and unwanted advances from males. Luckily, she has a very positive image of her body."
Not all daughters fit into the same developmental pattern as mothers.
Some bloom on an entirely different schedule. When spring comes early, moms can miss the entire season.
Missing The First Buds
by Rita Harris
I wasn't prepared for hormonal changes in my daughter's body. Neither was she.
I expected her body to work just like mine. It didn't. I was almost fifteen before I got my period. Everyone, every single one of my friends, menstruated before me. By the time my period came, I was plagued with paranoid thoughts that something was terribly wrong with my body. My body never developed. Not really. For most of my life, I was five feet three and weighed ninety-six pounds. It was like I was always prepubescent. Except, of course, I had an eleven-year-old daughter and raging PMS.
Thoughts from Ling Winston
"I look at my husband's family, and some of them are like Jabba the Hut. I'm worried my daughter will turn out that way. Without question, given the hereditary loaded gun and my own distorted view of body types, the fear is there.
"My dad said terrible, cutting things to me. He'd tell me routinely, 'You're fat.' 'Move your fat butt.' 'Get off that fat butt of yours.' My mom said only positive things to me about how I looked. I was never fat. But guess which parent I believed? Two or three years ago, I was wearing a sleeveless dress, and he said, 'Whoa, that makes your arms look beefy.'
"I've been so focused on staying thinner than I need to be. But I've always tried to curb what I say to my daughter about the body I began with and the body I have as it runs into the wall of forty. I'm sure she's heard me say things. Certainly the ubiquitous 'Does this make me look fat?'
"Lia has a very different body type from mine. I got over my disappointment over my small bust by thinking, 'Well, at least I don't have fat ankles.' But Lia has her dad's family's body type-sturdy legs, not-thin ankles. I've found myself caught in this place where I hope she gets the compensation-the big bust that goes with that family.
"Right now she's just a little bit on the chunky side. I know she's going to grow more, and she'll lose the weight. But still, I keep thinking about it.
"This is bat mitzvah year. Most of Lia's girlfriends are Jewish. So here we are shopping for much more dressy clothes than she's used to having, which equals clingy clothes. I'm with her in this store. She's trying on this great cool nylon outfit. The clerk is telling her, 'Everyone wants this one.' I look at Lia, and God strike me down, but I'm thinking, 'You need to cut back a bit, babe.' Am I evil? I did bite my tongue. I don't think it even showed on my face. The clerk was great. She said, 'Here's some things you can do with this shirt so it doesn't look ... stuffy.'
"We have never said, 'You're fat.' We haven't restricted her in terms of treats. But you can't be a parent and think something and not have that something leak out to your kids, even if you've zipped your lips. This bothers me."
While Ling hopes that her silent judgments won't seep into her daughter's subconscious, Trish wishes her daughters could read her mind. In her thoughts, she bathes her girls with appreciation of their extraordinary beauty and washes away every self-loathing impulse.
Tags: Parenting and Families
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