Raquel was considering the purchase of a tank top at the store when her daughter Olivia indignantly exclaimed, "Mom, you are not shopping at Hollister! Moms don't shop at Hollister. You are too old for this store. OMG, I can't believe you are buying something here."
Oh the outrage! The horror! The "I think I will die of embarrassment" overreaction that can only come from the suddenly self-centered, in the throes of hormone-driven waves of disgust, once sweet, now rotten, fruit of my loins. I feel you Raquel, and your hurt-filled state of bewilderment.
Being the mother of a tween/teen girl is probably the emotional equivalent to being thrown on an out-of-control roller coaster, where the rider is forced to hang on in sheer terror. Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
Our daughter, who is almost 12 going on 17, has taken us on a wild ride of terror over the last six months. One minute she's still the sweet-as-can-be cherub we've known for 11 1/2 years, only to be the replaced the next by something akin to a wolverine: all screeches, snarls, claws and baring of teeth. To be honest, it is utterly terrifying to us, her parents, and to be fair, just as frightening for her. She's had the "health class," she knows the basics, she realizes she is wandering through the vast wasteland of child-to-adult transition and we are just the tour guides in this lengthy process.
This is a big year for her, she's heading to middle school, and we all know how that can make or break a child's social life. Long gone are the days of innocence; this is when the "judging" starts. Kids at this age are judged on their clothes, their bodies, friends, grades, and of course, "popularity."
When I was growing up, my parents did NOT understand the importance of dressing like your peers, or at least an approximate equivalent. I was often forced to wear out-of-style, uncool, sometimes homemade clothes, which invariably made me stand out like a sore thumb. It's an emotional scar I carry with me to this day, and I vowed that when I became a parent, I would NOT subject my child to the same humiliation.
Shallow? Yes. Projecting? Probably. Necessary? Perhaps not. Doing it anyway? Absolutely.
If my kid is going to be ridiculed, it won't be for her clothes.
So it was with excitement and hopefulness we headed out to the mall a couple of weeks ago. I regaled my daughter with tales of my teen years, being forced to forge my own style (a cross between punk and preppy) due to a lack of funds and all the perils and pitfalls of fitting in. Oh yes, I was going to a cool mom, a hip mom who understood the importance of fashion.
As we walked into Nordstrom, I turned to my daughter and said, "Hey let's head upstairs to the kids clothes," thinking how generous I was for taking her to an upscale store to find the latest fashions. Instead of being washed in warm feelings of gratitude, I turned to see my daughter, stopped dead in her tracks, hands on her hips, glaring hatefully at me.
"What?" I asked. Her reply, "Seriously? Are you serious? You can't be serious. NO! No way! Nope. We are NOT shopping here. I will be laughed out of school. No one will be my friend. Gawd, you are just awful."
Crestfallen, ready to head home, wretched with dashed expectations, I exasperatedly replied, "Ok then, where do YOU want to shop?"
Her reply, "Well not here and DEFINITELY not Justice, so lame. Let's go to Abercrombie and Fitch, and then maybe over to Hollister, and I think American Eagle is close too."
I sighed, composed myself, and said, "Fine, but we're heading straight to the sale racks, and I have veto power over anything too revealing."
"Ok, sure Mom, sounds good!" Suddenly, my fun-sized spawn of Satan transformed into a happy little angel again, skipping merrily with child-like wonder in her eyes. All in all, we mostly had a fun day, though I did get two eyerolls and a couple of sneers when I eyed some cute half-shirts. I wasn't going to buy them, I was just looking... geez!!