Appreciating your child who is different from you

So I am a tomboy. Always have been. I never cared about fashionable clothes. Only that they should be cotton and loose fitting. My parents insisted that my hair should be well-oiled and braided and I didn’t care. “Looks” never factored in any way throughout my school years and being educated in an ‘all girls’ school simplified my life, I think. I did not need to dress up and look good for any boy I was having a crush on. I was happy to wear the drab uniform with my dorky glasses and my boring braids. One  summer, I was gifted two sleeveless loose fitting ‘frocks’ and I used to literally wear them every single day because they were 100% cotton and so comfortable. It reached a point where the next door ‘Aunty’ asked my mom if I owned only two sets of clothes. My mom came home and ripped those frocks and said you will not be seen in these frumpy clothes ever again.

You get the idea. Even today, I cannot even be bothered to wear my contact lenses unless I am really dressing up for an occasion.  I guess I should thank my father for raising me also in an environment where ‘looking good’ was not the important thing to bother about. Grades. Yes ! Looks . No !

Enter my daughter. She was born a princess diva. She is ultra sensitive. While I can swear like a sailor, she is a sensitive child who would cry if somebody even raised their voice, let alone use expletives. While I spent my childhood climbing trees, she enjoyed dressing up as a princess and having her tea parties. She is already eyeing my meager make-up kit and critically appraises every outfit in my wardrobe. And, sometimes, it bugs me that she is so much into her looks. When she spends 20 minutes trying to decide what she should wear to a party; it sends my blood pressure rocketing.  When she obsesses over how dorky she looks in glasses and that she wants contact lenses at 12 years of age, I judge her strongly for being vain and shallow. Although, I don’t say it out loud to her, thinking it may hurt her tremendously but I still hope she gets over this as soon as possible.

It is at times like these when I wonder; am I being too judgmental about the normal desires of my girly girl? Am I irritated because she is so different from me? I wear my feminist hat sometimes and I get annoyed when women in sports dress skimpily. Their focus should be on their game, I think to myself. Why are they degrading themselves by dressing like this, I seethe. So when my daughter asked for ultra short shorts, which are ‘Oh so cute’- I said “Sorry sweetie- If it is more than one inch above knee level, we are not buying that”. Maybe I am stuck in Victorian times – but when I see teenagers wear really skimpy shorts, I fear for their safety. While we never want to say “She asked for it”, I also believe that you should never push your freedom to unreasonable limits and invite trouble- that is where the feminist in me is at logger heads with the pragmatist in me.

It is hard to parent a child who is so different from you. When you don’t see things the way they do, even if it is your own child; you are judgmental and critical. My mom is a Martha Stewart reincarnation and I am a clutter bug which drives her crazy. I feel there is a wedge between us because I feel she is always judging me, which makes me realize that I need to tread carefully here. If I do not make an effort to appreciate that my daughter is different from me, I am going to end up alienating her and making her feel that I am always judging her. I need to consciously bite back my ‘smart aleck’ comments; try to be more empathetic and appreciate her for having a wonderful sense of fashion, a keen eye for colour and a fine taste in clothing. Heck.. Maybe I could get off my high horse and even learn something from her ! 🙂

Click here to know how parents should deal with a gifted child…