My husband bought me a dress for our wedding anniversary, which is the first time in 25 years that he purchased me a piece of clothing.
I loved the gesture, and I wanted to love the dress, but when I tried it on I just didn’t. It was too tight in all the wrong places, the length wasn’t right, and I felt like the color didn’t suit.
It just didn’t feel like me.
When I modeled it for my husband, of course he loved it, so for a brief moment I wanted to love it too to make him happy. But he could see on my face that I felt uncomfortable and he kindly told me to pick something else out for our upcoming trip.
I enlisted one of my teen daughters to go with me to pick out a new dress. She loves fashion, so I thought it would be a great way to spend a few hours together.
As we went store to store, I kept recommending clothes for her to try on, and she subtly mumbled that she didn’t need a dress like that or that the shorts I recommended wouldn’t fit her for some reason.
And I started to get kind of frustrated, but I tried to bite my tongue.
My relationship with my daughter can best be described as rocky.
My once easygoing kid has developed an edge that sometimes makes her unrecognizable to me. She is fiercely independent, opinionated, and yes, moody. I always thought she and I had a close bond, but I often feel like her growing up is like ripping off a Band-Aid.
It often feels like she says no before I even make a suggestion about something. It often feels like she does it for spite. It often feels like my opinion weighs less and less, even when I think she needs it the most.
When we get along, we have so much fun. When we don’t, think of two rams butting heads to the death to win back their territory.
Finally, in one of the last stores we went into, we found a dress for me that I loved. The fit was perfect, the color was fun, and it made me feel great.
My daughter enthusiastically said, “Mom, that dress is so YOU. I love it.”
And that’s when it hit me.
It’s not that my daughter is rejecting all my suggestions. She’s trying stuff on to see what fits.
She’s trying on different friendships. She’s trying on different hobbies. She’s trying on different school subjects and fashion choices and hair.
She’s trying on different personalities, sometimes multiple ones a day, to see what she likes, to see what makes her comfortable, to find what makes her feel great.
And just like the dress my husband bought me, the one he thought I would LOVE, what makes my daughter feel great may not be the same as what I would have selected for her.
Of course deep down, I knew this already. Of course I knew she needs to find what makes her feel good, what makes her glow, what makes her love her life.
But watching her face light up when she saw me in the perfect dress reminded me that I always need to light up for what makes her feel good about herself, too.
After we exchanged my dress, I asked her if she would like to go back to any of the stores and try on something she saw that she loved.
Instead, she took me into one I would probably not have entered on my own. She picked up a pair of jeans and paired it with a shirt I wouldn’t have looked twice at—and of course, she rocked it.
She came out with her head held high and the biggest smile on her face, and another mom came by asking us where we picked out the outfit because she thought her daughter would love it too.
My daughter shyly asked, “Mom, what do you think?”
I replied, “It’s perfect. It’s so YOU.”
Originally published on Whitney Fleming, Playdates on Fridays