It is really difficult to detect the actual moment that ‘it’ actually starts. Some mothers say it happens with the pre-teens hormones that coincide with menstruation. Others believe it occurs much, much earlier. And regardless of when it commences, there will come a moment in you and your daughters life when the two of you realize simultaneously that BOTH of you are women.
Mothers dream of the day that they can talk to their daughter woman to woman. The problem is that just as your daughter is becoming a woman and may want to confide in you about the intimate details of their life – from menstrual cramps to boys – they too will expect you to confide in them. As your daughter gets older, she begins to understand that you are a sexual creature (after all how did you have her) and may have questions for you about your past. She may start asking you about alcohol, relationships with boys, and other things that you did (or didn’t do) when you were her age. This can make for some uncomfortable moments between the two of you. How you handle them and how the two of you communicate about such things can truly play a part in how well the two of you not just get along, but connect during this extremely transitionary time in life.
Being open, honest, and fair with your teenage daughter is not always an easy thing to do. If they come home from a date telling you about a sexual experience they had with their boyfriend, your immediate response will be one to protect and shield. If they ask you when you had sex for the first time, you may want to lie if you that feel in retrospect it was too young. If they ask you for your opinion, on a relationship issue they are having with boy and girl friends, you will likely be unable to forget that the ‘woman’ asking is your daughter – so your response will be slanted.
One great book to get you started understanding this phase with your woman-child, is Dear Mom, Everything Your Daughter Wants you to Know But Won’t Tell You. As a parent – and especially in the mom-daughter relationship, it is common (and nice) to think that your daughter is telling you everything. But just as you left your mom in the dark about the most secret things in your life, or the things you thought would make her over react – your daughter is doing the same to you. This book helps to reacquaint you with your own younger years, and can be a big help in opening up conversations between the two of you that are open and honest. The bottom line is that your child doesn’t need or want to be judged. But for a parent – hearing news that your teen is sexually active or engaging in an activity that you are not fond of, it is very difficult to remain unbiased.
Your response during these conversations, especially the first few, will definitely set the tone for how open and honest your daughter is with you in the future.
Pediatric Psychologists believe whole-heartedly that mothers and daughters should have a unique bond of honesty and openness. However, they warn mothers to be good listeners above all other things, rather than be ‘cure alls’ for every little thing that is going on in their daughter’s life. If a teen is faced with a distraught parent after being honest, which should be looked at as a cry for help or conversations, they will likely not return to the conversation.
Linda Perlman Gordon, co-author of the book Too Close for Comfort, even believes that mothers and daughters should be able to confide and talk to one another, but should not try to become one another’s best friend. Regardless of how old a daughter gets, it is very difficult for a mother to see her daughter as a capable and independent adult. Potentially, the ‘mother as a best friend,’ scenario robs the daughter of making decisions on her own and of making (and solving) her own mistakes in life. While having the mother as a confidant and a source of unconditional love is perhaps, the greatest gift a mom can give to her daughter – being her ‘catch all’ substitute best friend is not. Best friends should be people that are near to the same age, and that share certain life experiences that mothers and daughters do not.
When the time comes and your daughter starts asking you about your past and teen years, honesty may not be the best policy. Children seem to forget that parents are adults, and often think ‘what is good for the goose is good for the gander.’ In other words, if a mom is dating and having sex outside of marriage – a teenage girl becomes anesthetized to the morality of doing so herself. Similarly, mothers should keep in check many of the things that they did in their own past. While having a notch on a totem poll can make you a wise teacher from a ‘been there done that’ standpoint – your teenage daughter is not going to see it that way. Instead, keep your personal information vague at best, and concentrate on listening to the parts of her life that she wants to share with you. Bottom line, there is no real benefit to your daughter knowing that you had sex at 14, or that you smoked marijuana. While a mom might think it makes her credible, the truth is for a teenager the opposite is true.
If your daughter IS talking to you, you should probably count your blessings. The next step is to listen not to just what she is saying, but what she is not saying as well. Recount your own teen years, thumb through your old diaries. This way not only will you be able to understand what she needs from you, but what from your own past may be beneficial for her to know. Plus, being a good listener and not jumping to conclusions or jumping the gun enables you to be fair and remain an open candidate when your daughter needs it the most. Even though both of you may be ‘woman’ now, sharing some of the common experiences – the truth is that you are at completely different levels of the life spectrum. Above all, you have to be her mother.