Your Image of Her Life

All mothers visualize the girl (and even woman) their daughter will be, from the day of conception and sometimes even before that. You see her as a star athlete, long braids bouncing along as she attacks a ski trail or completes a lay up on the basketball court. Or she's the star of all the school plays. You know she'll be an artist, like her grandmother was. Whatever your dream of who she will be, it is important to remember that while your dreams are not forbidden, neither are they a sure thing.

Piece of Clay

Marvin Gaye sang it just right in one of his early tunes, “Everybody's got somebody, to be their own piece of clay.” All daughters start out, parents believe, as putty in their hands. Parents expose them to what they want to — be it music, books, sports or all of the above — and hope they latch onto the characteristics and interests that parents dream them to.

It is important for a mother to work hard at (and this is not always simple) separating her image of her daughter's life from what her daughter eventually decides she wants her life to be.

Let's say you were class president. Being active and outspoken was a part of your adolescence, one you hope your daughter emulates. So, from a young age, you expose her to volunteerism, civic duty, and speaking out for herself and for others.

But what if your daughter is, pure and simply, shy? It is important in these growing years that you listen to what your child wants and make sure she never feels obligated to act like someone or something she is not comfortable being. It's her skin, not yours.

Alert

Pushy youth-sport parents can do more harm for adolescent girls than good. Sports should be about fun, not about future scholarships or your unfulfilled dreams. Always leave it up to your daughter if she participates or not.

Don't be surprised if you find your daughter wanting to not be exactly like you. Being totally connected to her mother as part of her image was a part of her youth; pushing away from it is a step toward independence. Some liberal Democrat mothers find their daughters leaning at a young age toward Republicanism. Other mothers notice their daughters wanting to dress differently from them for a time. But don't think she's not paying attention, and even secretly respecting, what you say, do, and feel. In the end, the values you've instilled should shine through.

Physical Image

Does your daughter look just like you? Sound just like you? Even in the case of adopted children, family traits can show through. As your daughter develops, look for her to want to push away from your image and be her own person.

Some girls do this with clothing (although most moms find that fashion is cyclical; if you wore it 25 years ago, chances are your teen is calling it new and hip today). Encourage your daughter to express herself with style, within reason.

If you have weight issues, be sure to be open with your daughter about them. Let her see photos of you at her age, whether you were thin or overweight, and talk to her about a healthy way to look the way she wants. You don't want your daughter fearing weight gain if you gained it after having children, or struggling to be thinner when her bone structure is smaller than yours.

Enlist your health care provider to help her understand what is healthy for her body rather than for yours or anyone else's. Even if you imagine her to be a perfect size four, show her how she can dress well at any size. And make sure she knows she's loved for who she is, not what she looks like.

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