Teen Wardrobe Controversy

Teen wardrobe controversy.

Recently, one of my favorite psychologists, Lisa Damour, the author of Untangled (see the book on Amazon here), posted something on Facebook about how to address your preteen/teen daughter’s wardrobe choices. And wow! It stirred up some controversy on her Facebook page! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because everything seems to stir up controversy these days. Below is what she posted. And you can listen to the relevant podcast here.

Courtesy of Lisa Damour’s Facebook page

If you have ever read anything I have written, you know I am the mother of a teenage daughter. She’s 18 now…almost 19…and a month into her freshman year of college. She has always been a “real” teenager. She likes to have fun. She likes to spend time with friends. She likes to laugh. She likes to go to parties. Somehow, between all the fun, she manages to do the things she is supposed to do too. Thank the Lord.

She’s the perfect daughter for me, but does that mean she’s perfect? No. I’m not the perfect mother or a perfect person, either. But somehow, we survived the middle and high school years. Does that mean we never disagree? Nope. We disagree. When she was younger, we even disagreed occasionally about wardrobe choices. And just like Lisa Damour, I tried to find a way to say things nicely. Was I always successful? No. Sometimes, I probably said things like, “You look like a hoochie mama.” I know. Not kind words, but they got the point across, and chances are, they probably started a “discussion.”

Even when she was four years old, she had a mind of her own. This is not a story of which I am proud, but it happened. One Sunday morning, as we were getting ready to go to church, I said to our daughter, “Pick out which dress you want to wear.” She argued, “I don’t want to wear a dress. Everyone else doesn’t wear dresses to church.” You know what I said next. “Well, I’m not everyone else’s mother, and we wear dresses to church. Now, go into your closet and pick which one you want to wear.” Her dresses were beautifully organized (back then) and hanging in an orderly fashion in her closet. I followed her into the closet, where she promptly and defiantly touched each dress with the tips of her fingers, while saying some things I won’t repeat. ***Here is where I need to tell you my husband had a brain tumor at the time and because of it, lacked judgment on when and where to say things. He had no filter.*** I’m not kidding. I was horrified (I knew where she had heard it), but I also found myself about to laugh. I made a quick decision to ignore the obvious ploy for attention. I turned my back for a moment before turning around and asking her, “Did you pick a dress?” She did, and I never mentioned the offensive language to her, because I didn’t want it to get any attention. I did, however, tell her preschool teacher (at our church!) the next morning when I dropped her off…gave her a heads up that my daughter, my sweet little 4-yr-old daughter, might teach her classmates some new words. Lord, help us.

We didn’t have much wardrobe controversy for several years after that. I had given up on ruffles and bows long before…when she, at 1 1/2 or 2, declared they were “for babies.” I did manage to get her to wear a hair bow for picture day in Transitional Kindergarten, but only because I told her she could take it out immediately after pictures, which she did. In third grade, on picture day, she didn’t want to look prissy. That was a bit of a battle. We finally agreed, much to my dismay, on a blue t-shirt with a sequined pocket. Sadly, it’s the picture that appeared in the school lunchroom on her checkout page every single day when she made a purchase…all the way through senior year…that damned blue shirt with the sequined pocket.

When she got to middle school, I’m sure I had to veto some ensembles, but not likely because they were skimpy…just not appropriate for the occasion, whatever it might have been.

Then along came high school. She got taller, and the clothes got smaller.

The shorts got shorter and tighter. The shirts got tighter and shorter. The heels got higher. It happens. Frankly, I probably would have been more worried about her if it hadn’t happened. And yes, there were times I had to stop her at the door and say, “You’re not wearing that.”

Some people think we shouldn’t expect our girls to be responsible for what other people think of how they dress. I get it, but I’m not one of those people. I think there is a time and place for everything.

When our daughter was in high school, if she wanted to wear short shorts and a crop top or tube top, that was fine…as long as she is just hanging out with her friends. She didn’t need to walk into better retail establishments dressed like that. She didn’t need to go out to dinner dressed like that. She didn’t need to meet parents of dates dressed like that. It’s simply not appropriate, and I don’t think it gives off the impression she wants to give in those situations.

She’s in college now, so I only get pictures after the fact. I have no say-so. I have no opportunity to nix an outfit choice, but so far, I’ve been pleased with the photos she has sent me. Generally speaking, she knows what is appropriate and what is not.

Come on. Let’s face it. What we wear does say something about us. Every time I get dressed to go somewhere, I am very aware of what I look like. Sometimes, I am dressed like a casual mom, and I know it. Sounds silly, but jeans and a gingham shirt are not going to a fine dining establishment. A comfy, cotton dress? That’s not going either. Sneakers? Nope. I can wear all of those to the grocery store, a sporting event, or for running erands, but if I’m going to a fine dining establishment, I want to dress like I know what I’m doing.

Even when I go to the doctor, I tend to try to dress up a little. It’s about respect, right? I don’t have to be a beauty queen, but don’t we all know people get treated with a little more respect when we look like we have made some effort to look our best? I can’t speak for everyone, but if I look good, I feel good. It’s just the way I roll. If I’m dressed sloppily, I tend to feel sloppy.

So yes, I have been known to stop my daughter from walking out the door dressed in certain ways…when she was younger. Don’t get me wrong…I’m pretty easy going. But if her date’s parents are coming over or picking her up for dinner, she needs to look like she wants their respect. I think this is what school dress codes are all about…teaching kids how to dress appropriately, but most schools don’t seem to care anymore. Later, when our daughter goes for a job interview, she needs to look like she has some self respect.

If you don’t respect yourself, how do you expect others to respect you?!?

If you don’t respect yourself, how do you expect others to respect you? That’s my message to her. Fortunately, this is not a conversation we have had much in the past couple of years…mostly when she was a young teen.

So yes, I agreed with Lisa Damour’s post. Not everyone did, and that’s OK. We all have our own opinions, and that’s what makes the world go ’round.

College Students/Adult Decisions

College students/adult decisions.

Oh, it’s the Facebook parent page for my daughter’s university again! A parent posted that her son stopped going to class after his computer broke. They are four weeks into the semester, and she is getting him a new computer, but he seems to have given up. The mom doesn’t know what to do to motivate him, and she wonders if maybe she should just cut the losses and bring him home.

Of course, there were lots of suggestions. Some said, “Rent a laptop from the library.” Others said, “Maybe he’s not really ready for college.” Quite a few said, “Maybe you should encourage him to get back in the game. It’s early.” And then, someone said, “When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?” That one made me think.

When do we let them start making their own adult decisions on their own?

That’s a tough question. Should we allow our college students to make their own adult decisions with no input from us, their parents?

The first thing that came to mind for me was, “I’m paying for it. I’m paying a lot of money for our daughter’s college education, so yes, I have input.“ I can have an opinion, and I can tell her what I expect from her. I make no bones about it. Our daughter is very social, so even before she went to college, I stressed to her that while her social life is very important, she has to take care of business first so she can stay in school to enjoy the social aspects. Does that mean she remembers that conversation? Not necessarily, but I ask regularly, “Are you taking care of business?”

Another thing that came to mind about “allowing her to make her own adult decisions on her own” is that I don’t always make adult decisions on my own…and I’m 55 years old! When I was in college, I regularly got my parents’ input about big decisions. Heck…until my parents were dead, I regularly got their input about adult decisions! And now that I don’t have my parents, I often turn to my spouse, other family members, or friends. I get lots of info and do my research before making big decisions. And you know what? I don’t want my college-age daughter getting all her advice or input from other college-aged people. I have always told her it’s good to get input from friends, but she needs to remember their brains aren’t fully developed either. They don’t have any more life experience than she does! I have stressed that she should come to me for advice, because I have a lot more life experience, and I always have her best interest at heart.

Think about it. What are college students like? There are some who do their schoolwork and work toward an educational goal with no distractions or interference. That’s not my child, and honestly, I don’t want her to be that student. There are college students who quickly find a good balance; they enjoy some social time while working hard in school. There are those who play a lot, and the academic part is secondary. And then there are all kinds of students in between.

My daughter falls somewhere in the balance/having fun category. The first semester of college is quite an adjustment! And since she is at an SEC school, football season is a big deal, and she pledged a sorority, which does take some time. I want her to have fun. That’s why I encouraged her to take the easiest classes she could this first semester, so she can learn to manage her time and become accustomed to college. It can take a while for them to learn how it all works! I remember! By my sophomore year, I knew how college worked, and I had a system for “taking care of business” while still having a good time. I think some kids jump in with the hardest classes they can take freshman year, and for some of them, it causes problems/stress. They need some guidance. Mine’s not taking the hardest classes, and she might not even need my guidance, but I “check in” regularly, and I always remind her that I am always ready to help.

She’s almost 19 years old. That means she has less than one year of adulthood experience. Would you hire a lawyer who had one year of experience and no mentors? No. Would you want a surgeon who had one year of experience and no assistance? No. I’m not expecting my almost-19-yr-old to make all her own decisions. In fact, she’s going to get my input whether she wants it or not right now.

So when will I allow her to make adult decisions on her own? She makes some of them on her own every single day. But the big decisions? Personally, I don’t think she really wants to. As long as my husband and I are on this planet, she can come to us. And if it’s something I know nothing about, I will encourage her to go to someone with more knowledge…no doubt. Will I make all her decisions for her? No way. But if I think she is making a bad decision or needs my help, I will let her know it…even from 450 miles away.

I’ve said it a million times…no matter how old they are, their still our “babies.”

My College Advice to My Daughter

My college advice to my daughter.

It has been a long time since I was in college. In fact, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree 33 years ago…hard to believe! It’s especially hard to believe, because I have so many great memories from college, and when I see friends from college, we fall right in step…as if we have been hanging out together every day for the past 33 years. But I remember…I remember college. And because of that, I have some advice for my daughter, who is leaving for college in five weeks. Yes! Five weeks! My “wisdom” might not be wise…I’m the first to admit that, but I can only base my advice on my own experiences or things I witnessed in college. Here we go:

  • Make your college/university your home. Wait at least six weeks before going home. You might be homesick, but you want to become a part of your college/university community. That won’t happen if you’re running home every weekend. We are encouraging our daughter to stay at her university (450 miles away) until Thanksgiving week. Sure, we will attend some football games and see her then, but she needs to stay there. As long as she has one foot in her hometown, she’ll never become a part of the school community.
  • Butt in seat. First and foremost, go to class. If your butt is in the seat in classes, you are more likely to have success. You can’t succeed if you don’t go to class. It has been proven time and time again. I know I was most successful when I never missed classes.
  • Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket. This is something my husband shared with our daughter recently, and wow…it’s wise. Whether it’s a friend or a love interest, no matter what, do not let your happiness be dependent on another person. You need to make yourself happy. It’s a difficult lesson, but your happiness is your own responsibility. I have told friends and family for years, “You can’t make someone love you.” But you can create your own happiness.
  • Make as many friends as you possibly can. Become friends with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, different geographic areas, and different ethnicities. College is the perfect time to make lifelong friendships. And it’s also important to make at least one friend in each class you take; you never know when y’all will need each other.
  • Attend sporting events, even if they don’t sound interesting at the time. I always went to football games in college, but I didn’t always go to other sporting events. In my junior year, I realized how much fun basketball games and baseball games were at my university. And track meets too! All those sporting events made for some fun memories, and they were great opportunities to make new friends!
  • Keep a planner. Keeping a planner is the easiest way to manage your time. This was something our school taught students starting in third grade. Each year, they learned more organizational skills. Because of all the newfound freedom, time management can be a big problem in college. It’s crucial that students find a way to keep time from getting away from them.
  • Get to know your teachers. I’ve told this story a million times: when I was a second semester freshman in college, I took a math class that was tough for me. I got to know my teacher and met with him two or three times a week to make it through the class. Going into the final, I had a high B or low A, but then I failed the final. The next day, I went to meet with my teacher to find out my grade, and after he told me what I had made on the final, he asked what grade I thought I deserved. I turned it to him and asked the same thing. That’s when he said, in broken English, “I give you B. You do good in long journey.” I was grateful. And this is a perfect example of how a teacher who knows you have worked hard might give you the benefit of the doubt.
  • Get involved. Find activities you love and try new things. Participate in some leadership opportunities. Enjoy some outdoor activities. Learn a new sport! It will enrich your college experience and your life.
  • Exercise. Always get plenty of exercise for your physical health and for your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins, the hormones that relieve stress and create a feeling of well-being. Work out regularly…whether it’s walking, running, playing tennis, rowing, hiking, racquetball…just exercise.
  • Don’t burn bridges. This is crucial life advice. I am a forgiver, so I know the importance of forgiveness. Why do I forgive? Because it’s easier than carrying the burden of a grudge or anger. Plus, it just feels better. My daughter has heard me say it her whole life…don’t burn bridges. You never know when a friendship can be mended, but it will never be mended if you burn the bridge behind you.
  • Do what you need to do so you can do what you want to do. Take care of business…or as I always say to my daughter, “TCB.” When I was in college, I saw lots of people having “too much” fun. Trust me, I liked to have as much fun as the next person, but I knew I had to make my grades to be able to stay there to have the fun. And I did. But I knew people who didn’t, and they failed out of college. Take care of business.
  • Have a budget (or at least be aware of your spending). This is a life skill. Know how much you can/can’t spend on different things. If you know you have $100 to spend on food but spend $120, you’ll need to take that $20 from another part of your budget. Truly…life lessons.
  • Keep the laundry under control. Whether you do your own laundry, have a service, or pay a friend to do it, keep it under control. You don’t want to run out of clean clothes. Make sure it gets done one way or another.
  • Change your sheets once a week. Just do it.
  • No friend left behind. This one is especially important for girls. Going out with friends? Do not let one friend linger alone somewhere (a bar, a party, anywhere) after everyone else leaves. And don’t let your friend leave with someone she doesn’t know. Be a good friend.
  • Be careful where you park. Girls generally know this, but it’s OK to remind them. I also tell my daughter not to use the parking deck alone. If she drives into the parking deck, and it appears there are no other people there, call a friend to meet you…safety in numbers.
  • If you think you need to call 911, you probably do. Dorm living means our kids might witness or have medical situations they have never encountered before…or never had to deal with on their own before: seizures, choking, injuries, illness, etc. It is important that they understand how crucial it is to get medical help. If you think you might need to call 911, go ahead and do it. You won’t regret calling, but you might regret not calling. On a side note, make sure they know not to mix alcohol and acetaminophen/Tylenol, as it can cause liver toxicity. Don’t even take Tylenol the day after drinking. If they’re hungover, the best thing to do is hydrate. Make sure they have plenty of Drip Drop or Liquid IV on hand in their room. You can purchase Drip Drop in your local Walgreen’s, or you can order it here. You can order Liquid IV here. Or you can order from Amazon.
  • Never leave your drink unattended. Why? Because people will drug your drink. They can even do it when you’re holding the drink; and bartenders have been known to do it when preparing drinks. Always watch your drink being prepared. Or better yet, just order beer. But always keep it with you, and don’t make it easily accessible to anyone.
  • Don’t abandon your friends for a boyfriend/girlfriend. I know falling in love is fun. I know people enjoy spending time with their significant others. But if you abandon your friends for a boy/girl, you will regret it, without a doubt. How do I know? Because I have seen it happen time and time again. You need friends. And college is when you want to make lifelong friends. Don’t let having a significant other mess that up for you.
  • Take some classes that will broaden your horizons. When I was in college, I took an art history class. I was majoring in journalism. I didn’t need art history. However, I learned a lot about 19th century art, and that knowledge has been useful for me in lots of conversations in different settings over the years since. I even surprise myself sometimes with my knowledge of 19th century art!
  • Call your parents! We are part of your support system. We always have your best interest at heart. You’re our favorite.

I know I’m leaving out some things, so this piece will likely be fluid and ever-growing. Let’s equip our college students with knowledge and wisdom they need…and send up lots of prayers.