1. Your inner child is allowed to flourish.
Let’s face it–daughters are the ultimate Barbie dolls. Having grown up with a Barbie house, a travel Barbie wardrobe, countless numbers of Barbie outfits, ranging from casual ” sorority girl” chic to “Princess Di” fabulous formal, a Ken doll, and enough Barbie accessories to keep a vacuum cowering in fear for decades, I am well-versed in that girlhood rite of passage known as “dress up.” Having daughters has allowed me to continue playing dress up well into my adulthood. And, I must admit, the shopping is a great deal of fun!
There is back-to-school shopping, shopping for a party outfit when “the-snotty-but-popular-girl-with-a-bitch-of-a-mom-I’d-die-to-impress” unexpectedly invites your daughter to her Disney Princess themed ninth birthday party, shopping for date nights and shopping for fabulous summer outfits for 4-H camp. And that does not even include the shopping for church, dances and special occasions.
And what happens after all this shopping? You guessed it….dress up. This is where being a mother of girls pays off in spades and my inner child really has her moment. And the entire process is so therapeutic. From the planning stages to the final moment when I snap that FB pic to commemorate my handiwork, I am lost in a frenzy of fun, and therapeutic self-indulgence.
First, I get watch as each girl parades around, pirouetting for effect, while they model their outfit choices. Of course the outfit chosen must be well-accessorized, so there is a general flurry over this ring or that scarf, and “which shoes make me look thinner”, and mom’s opinion is valued as if I were Betsey Johnson herself. Then of course, there’s the hair. At this point, if you are like me, you are up to your elbows in styling crème, mousse, Bobby pins, ponys, hair straighteners, blow dryers, and curling irons. Oh, and hairspray. Don’t forget the hairspray. Then there is the make-up consultation. That is where the dress up process really takes off.
The only time dress up is more fun is during dance recital week and school dance seasons. During these times, it’s truly an inner child’s paradise complete with fairytale princess outfits for the girls and fabulous shopping for me. Then we snap the pics of them in multiple poses so that we get just the right one to post to FB. All I have to do is go back through my Facebook photo albums and the therapeutic effects of all that past dress-up washes over me.
2. You have tangible proof that your money is going towards something useful.
See above for clarification on this.
What do you suppose is the driving force behind all that dress up?
It costs money to be a girl. Especially if you do it right. Seeing my daughters in cute clothes and confident in the way they look is very therapeutic for me. Throughout the years, as I’ve dropped my girls off at school, I always took a sense of pride in knowing that the extra bounce in one’s step or the confident tilt to the other’s head was a result of me providing them with things that made them feel good about themselves and confident in the way they looked.
Maybe it was a pair of shoes that the oldest just HAD to have, or a horse screen printed t-shirt the younger one felt expressed herself exceptionally well–whatever it was, I tried to provide it because I wanted them to feel confident and empowered. Now that is not to say that I think the only way to teach my daughters to feel good about themselves is through the acquisition of material goods, but it does feel nice to like the way you look. When you like the way you look, you are more likely, in my opinion, to feel comfortable reaching for the stars.
Hey, this world is not kind to the meek and the indecisive. Everything I could and still can do to tip the odds of success in their favor makes me feel incredibly capable and calm—characteristics I tried to develop through therapy, but could never tell how effective the sessions were. The accoutrements of my daughter are proof positive that my money is working for their benefit and, unexpectedly, for mine.
3. You spend time with people who have no vested interest in affirming your worth.
I have spent hours upon hours in a therapist’s chair being assured that I was a good person, a worthwhile individual, a valuable woman. But I pay her to do that. The “mini” women that live in my house with me affirm my worth daily just by being themselves. I am the person they turn to when they need help and that makes me feel very worthwhile. Whether it is a skinned knee or a broken heart, they come to me for help in fixing their problems. These two very beautiful, talented and extremely smart young women value my input in their daily lives.
That is no small thing.
They will both tell you they can’t abide stupid people and they have no patience for feel-good, pandering fluff. They want a down-to-earth assessment and realistic, useful advice and input. They trust me to give them that. If that is not an affirmation of my worth, then I am at a loss to know what is.
4. They still think you are Supermom even while Metropolis is burning.
They have faith. Things may not be going so great now, but mom is on the case and things will look up soon. It has always been this way to their minds and it always will be this way. Their faith is inspirational. The motivation I experience to be a better mom, a better me, and to be capable of delivering on that faith is much more powerful than any motivation I might get from languishing on my therapist’s couch revealing my secret fears and dissecting my faults in an attempt at self-improvement.
5. Your therapist doesn’t share your deep respect and adoration of Marine Core Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Rule #5. Need I say more?
6. Your daughter doesn’t think your love of watching Anime with her is a waste of time…
Rather she thinks that regular netflixing Black Butler is a good way to ease anxiety. “Obstacles” is the buzzword of the modern family in today’s economy. After the Great Recession, jobs became scarce, unemployment rose, the cost of groceries went up–essentially managing a family became more difficult. Money has been tight in my family and I am always anxious about how to pay this or that bill and still make the braces payment on time. Losing our house after the recession didn’t help my anxiety level either. Now I worry about things like whether or not I’ll be renting forever and how can I provide my kids with a permanent home–one they can bring their children home to.
My daughter understands that sitting down and losing yourself to the foibles, heartaches and triumphs of fictional people, whether animated or live action, is therapeutic.
Besides, Sebastian is simply one hell of a butler
7. Going to Starbucks for a Mocha Frappuccino is cheaper than a therapy session.
This, I think, speaks for itself.
8. Your therapist won’t introduce you to the best in YA fiction.
I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to my oldest daughter when she was in kindergarten on the advice of her best friend’s mother. That started her love affair with reading and my addiction to YA literature. It has so much more real commentary on the human condition than modern adult literature does. The characters simultaneously tear your heart out and send you to dizzying heights of joy as you live their world through their eyes.
That is the great gift of fiction.
I cried with my daughters when Dumbledore died, and I cried even more intensely when Snape’s true character was revealed in the final book of the series. And it didn’t end with the last Harry Potter book.
I walked with trepidation to the stage as Katniss read her name in front of the other prospective tributes. I celebrated with Tris when she made it through Dauntless initiation and I cried with Tobias at the end of Allegiant. I wept with Bella when Edward left her and I reveled in her newfound abilities after her transformation. I have even considered for myself if love were a disease or not. I have had many intensive conversations with both of my daughters about the characteristics of good fiction, themes, plot lines, symbolism, and imagery. I have broadened my mind and theirs by reading this genre with them.
That’s such a much nicer payoff than reading the self-help books my therapist always recommends.
9. Your therapist won’t let you be her friend.
I hate to admit this, but sometimes, therapy feels a bit self-indulgent. I mean, doesn’t she have a bad day. Wouldn’t she just love, on some days, to look at me and say, “Oh, quit your whining. Let me tell you what I am dealing with right now?” I know I would.
Now I’m not saying that I want to be best friends with my therapist– that would just be weird–but you see what I’m getting at. As a “nurturer” type woman, it feels strange sometimes for such an intense relationship to be so one-sided.
But with daughters, you have built in friends. Now before you judge me, I have adult friends and I don’t force my daughters into inappropriate adult roles to satisfy my needs. But there is a sort of give and take in the parenting of daughters that is much like friendship. And as they mature and leave the nest, it blossoms into real live, solid, reciprocal friendship.
I know that if I am having a bad day, I can share that with my daughters. When I am sick, they (sort of) take care of me. When I need a back rub, they give me one–for about five seconds. When I want to discuss the latest episode of Glee, they are up for that and don’t make fun of me for secretly being annoyed with Rachel. That’s all well and good. But the great part is that not only are they my friends, but they consider me their friend as well.
They confide in me about their first kisses. They share the gossip of school with me. They ask my opinion about their outfits before they go spend time with a boy. But it is just so much more than the easy aspects of friendship that they allow me access to.
They let me handle the hard stuff too.
They come to me with their heartaches, skinned knees, girlfriend blow ups and all around school and teacher gripes. I listen, I soothe, I try to ease their pain. Sometimes the fix is easy; a little antibiotic ointment and a SpongeBob Band-Aid and the “boo-boo” is all better. Sometimes the fix is not so easy. How do you tell a child that is convinced her heart is surely so broken that it will crumple up inside her and leave a gaping maw of hurt, despair and loss that the sun will come up tomorrow and, with time, it will hurt less and less?
Being there for my daughters–the fact that they turn to me for that compassion rather than a peer means the world to me. They let me “friend” them and it is an honor.
10. Your therapist won’t give you a tutorial on how to unfriend an annoying acquaintance on Facebook via your smartphone.
Ok, I admit it, I’m not as great with all the technical gadgets that I own as I’d like to think that I am. My daughters accept my ineptitude and don’t laugh at me when I ask them for instructions on using my gadgets. I don’t know how they do it, but give them a new smartphone or tablet and they will be using it like an expert in fifteen minutes. Me, not so much. It takes me weeks to figure out how to use all the features on my new phone. So, the other day, when I asked my daughter how to change the vibration feedback feature of my virtual keyboard on my months old smartphone, she didn’t make fun of me. She simply took my phone, figured it out and then taught me how to do it. That was nice.
11. Your daughters won’t judge you for your obsession with winning an EBay auction.
I love EBay. My daughters know this and they don’t judge me for it. Perhaps I went overboard last month when I bid on twelve ceramic cats simultaneously, but they understand. It’s the competitive instinct in me. When I place that first bid, I feel compelled to win at all costs. I can’t help it. It’s addictive. I mean that green bar at the top that says, “You are the highest bidder,” feels like a confirmation of my hunter-gatherer abilities. Yeah, I know. That’s a bit pathological. But the great thing is, my daughters don’t think I need medication to control this obsession.
They simply accept the fact that I now have to redecorate the living room to accommodate the twelve ceramic cats that were shipped to the house last month.
12. Your therapist doesn’t care what you look like when you leave the house.
I have to confess a dirty little secret. I used to wear exercise pants to parent-teacher conferences. These were not jogging pants that were part of a chic coordinated outfit with a matching jacket. Nor were they yoga pants that would look cute with a trendy sweatshirt and spotless Nikes. These were “ugly-as-sin”, ratty, faded exercise pants that came to my knees and should have only seen the inside of a gym.
I know, I know, I’m not proud of this.
After I had failed to catch on to her various hints involving questions such as, “Are you going to wear that?” my oldest daughter took matters into her own hands one day. She walked into the bathroom where I was brushing my hair in preparation to go to her middle school orientation and said, “You are wearing this tonight,” and handed me an outfit she had picked out of my closet. Then she explained to me the social faux pas of fashion that I had been committing by wearing my previous clothing choices.
After that, I was forced to go shopping and given tutorials as to what I should and shouldn’t buy. I was skeptical that this even would even make a difference. After all, I was a dumpy housewife who was horribly overweight and needed a good haircut. My daughters were patient with me and taught me to value myself and embrace my body type. Each, in her way, taught me that I could dress fashionably and look good even though my weight was less than ideal. I had been working so hard to instill a positive self-image in them that I had forgotten to heed my own teachings. My daughters taught me how to feel good about myself, accept my negatives with grace, and accentuate my positive features.
I must admit, I feel more self-assured when I leave the house now. I am more secure in my ability to face the outside world with confidence and a sense of empowerment. That confidence has bled over into other aspects of my life as well.
I have my wonderful daughters to thank for that, and I didn’t have sit on a couch with my checkbook in hand to get it.