After unloading myself from the car one Sunday morning I found myself behind a mother and daughter whose body language I knew all too well. Daughter in hoodie and mini- skirt, mother walking four feet ahead of her precious, yet defiant daughter. The reason the mother was walking in front, not with her girl was that they'd just spent the last 45 minutes arguing about the daughter's clothing choice as they got ready for church. She was still angry.
The daughter had indeed ramped up the defiance from the moment of clothing choices until mounting the steps into church: Hoodie pulled up to her eyebrows, T-shirt emblem almost covered by the zipper, mini-skirt hiked. Well, at least until she began to mount the steps to church. Walking behind her, I noticed the discreet yanking of the hem (downward). Suddenly she was wondering, Is it too short? After all, Mom was now in front of her. I couldn't help but laugh. On that flight of steps she managed to gain a full three inches of length in that skirt by pulling. That mother had no idea that she had, indeed, won a mother-daughter victory.
You see, when defiance is part of your daughter's rite of passage, she still possesses a conscience. And like that mother, you may not always see the evidence of this because your daughter, like all others, has no intention of letting you know. In those days of rebellion, don't panic. All of the lessons taught, moral compass instilled, self-confidence ingrained are all still there. It's just that your daughter doesn't want you to know that.
So here are a few suggestions for those years. Go ahead and have those battles. But if your daughter has pushed the time limit on clothing choices to drop-dead departure (and she will), just load her into the car and get on your way to where you're going (including church). If you can't get in her head that her clothing act of defiance never achieves her desired objective, there's a great chance that someone else in that setting can. Often it is another female that loves your daughter well, who will give them a new perspective. One that if presented by you would only be met by deaf ears. Don't be afraid to let other influences—the good kind—into your daughter's life. In fact, create that opportunity.
Then be her conscience, quietly in a way that she doesn't even realize you are. Take her to a movie of her choice, and let her squirm when undesirable content hits the screen and Mom is sitting right next to her. You don't have to say a word; she'll feel the pinch. Turn on the car radio and, as she sings along, listen to the words.
One of my teaching moments came in my daughters' tween years with The Backstreet Boys' tune "As Long As you Love Me." Lyrics read: "I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you've done, as long as you love me." I called that the "ex-con" song and my daughters and I played at rewriting the lyrics. "I don't care if you just got out of prison, robbed a bank, burned down a house," etc. Those became moments of unbelievable laughter between us as we made up new images. But what that experience really did was teach my daughters the true content of music.
So, Mom, you can get through the defiant, frustrating, and some days, scary teen years. All that was taught up 'til this time is planted deeply and will be remembered. You may have the pleasure of catching out of the corner of your eye that moment of mini-skirt conscience. But don't say a word. Just know that all is well—and your daughter will be fine.
Darlene Brock, the author of Help Wanted: Moms Raising Daughters (OakTara/The Grit and Grace Project, 2011) is a motivated self-starter who, while raising her two daughters, found time to produce award-winning music videos, manage recording artists, promote concerts throughout the US, and serve as the Chief Operating Officer of ForeFront Records. Yet, when reviewing her varied accomplishments and successful career, she proclaims her most important and fulfilling job is Mom. For more about The Grit and Grace Project, OakTara and Facebook.com/The Grit and Grace Project.