My daughter is that girl. She’s the one who is 14 but looks like she’s 17. She’s tall and fit and has curves in all the “right” places. She’s always looked several years older than she is, and the road has been riddled with unwanted advances, body shaming, and bullying.
When Your Daughter Develops Faster Than Her Peers
The challenges started at age 10, when she started looking a lot older than her peers. She was getting attention from older boys that I hadn’t thought to prepare her for at such a young age. Her friends either teased or questioned her body developments because they had not yet experienced it themselves.
As a result, she became very self-conscious about her body. She was comfortable wearing tight-fitting leotards and costumes in gymnastics and dance because all the other girls were wearing the same thing, but outside her sports she dressed conservatively. I don’t know how many times I’d hold up a shirt while shopping that she’d turn down because it was “too low cut” in her eyes.
Middle school was much of the same. Her daily outfits were usually a mix of over-sized hoodies, baggy sweaters, and loose t-shirts with jeans or leggings. It didn’t occur to me that she dressed the way she did because she was still self-conscious about her body. I didn’t realize she wasn’t happy with her style until I noticed she was creating Pinterest boards with outfits that were nothing like what was in her closet. This realization lit a fire in me to help her rebuild her confidence.
Finding Her Style
Her new style emerged slowly. It started with a few fitted tops. Tighter fitting jeans. A crop-top here and there. But her transition was cut short due to Covid. Her eighth grade year ended in virtual learning due to quarantine, so it was back to hoodies and leggings, or even just pajamas, every day. Then over the summer something happened that I hadn’t expected.
It was as though she came out of quarantine the way a butterfly comes out of its chrysalis.
High school was starting, and would be mostly in-person, and she vowed she would wear a cute outfit every day. She searched online for clothes she liked and I agreed to purchase a few items. I made her try on each piece so we could work together to determine if any were inappropriate. I also altered a few by adding a stitch here and there to make sure she wouldn’t experience any wardrobe malfunctions.
I’m not gonna lie—it’s been a difficult transition for me and my husband. The concerned mother in me wants to yank down her hemline or tell her to put on a different shirt. Her dad has asked more than once, “Where’s the rest of your skirt?”
And Her Confidence
Most of the girls at her school still dress in the hoodie/legging style, so she kind of stands out now. While she’s always received attention from boys, she is now faced with a tsunami of testosterone.
Boys are constantly messaging—from freshman to seniors. I’m pretty sure boys haven’t changed much since my high school days, which means they are likely talking about her behind her back. Probably in ways that her dad and I would not want to overhear.
I hate that she has the challenge of figuring out if a guy likes her or only likes the way she looks. I hate that many probably assume she is willing to do things sexually just because of the way she dresses. I hate that some of the girls try to bring her down rather than build her up.
But I don’t I make her to change the way she dresses because she LOVES her new style. And more importantly, I’m amazed at the young woman she has grown into as a result.
Her confidence level has skyrocketed and she has learned to find her voice and speak up in respectful ways. She has also learned to defend herself just as respectfully. She has learned to recognize and value true friendship.
She now understands that she is not defined by labels others try to place on her. She works to inspire other girls to find their own style.
For a while, I feared all this attention would be a distraction and her grades would suffer. However, she was able to end the first semester of her freshman year with all A’s, including in her advanced courses.
Yes, there are days when I wish I could throw a potato sack over her head before she heads out the door. Instead, I simply point out that she should watch her backpack to make sure it doesn’t pull on her skirt or top in a way that would reveal things she doesn’t want to show.
I refuse to let my daughter grow up being ashamed of her body.
Or to let her believe that it’s her responsibility to dress modestly to ensure boys stay focused in class. Or that it’s her fault if someone treats her inappropriately or with disrespect.
I refuse to tell her she has to clip her beautiful wings because others can’t control their own thoughts or actions.
Nope. That’s not my girl.
My girl will be the one who will soar because she’s confident in who she is. She’s the one who I hope will love everything about the way she was created, including the way she looks.