Writer’s Workshop: Mom Fail Moment

A recent picture of The Tortoise this summer. One of my favorites.

Recently there has been a lot of debate at our house about what is, or is not, appropriate clothing for a thirteen year old girl.

The Tortoise is starting eighth grade next week. Her body started taking shape last year, but over this summer, she has really transformed from little girl to young woman. It has always been a challenge to find clothes that fit comfortably. She is not the tall, lanky model type, and it is depressing to constantly go into stores that cater to that body shape. It is also insulting having to buy clothes in the “husky” or “plus” size department, especially when there are only a fraction of choices. Have you seen those kid departments? The clothes are so loud and juvenile. It’s like they are trying to draw more attention to an already self-conscious young girl.

So, you can imagine my relief when The Tortoise could wear clothes from the women’s department, instead of trying to squeeze into the children’s department. We bought her summer wardrobe from Ann Taylor Loft. The Tortoise loves all of their soft, loose-fitting, but feminine t-shirts and comfy shorts. Unfortunately, having more choices doesn’t mean she has stopped wanting to wear the teeny tiny t-shirts from Aeropostale and Hollister, or the low-cut layered tank tops. It also hasn’t curbed her desire to run around in stretchy yoga pants.

I will admit; I have allowed some shirts into this house that were ill-fitted, although not scandalous, and were a bit body hugging. I also have allowed her to wear those yoga pants with layered shirts. (Let’s be honest, yoga pants are a part of many stay-at-home moms’ wardrobes.) But not because I thought they looked great on her, but because I was avoiding the pending argument. Unfortunately, though, when you give an inch, they will take a yard.

Last week The Tortoise came down in a super skinny t-shirt that was so snug the letters were distorted across her chest. I cringed, but said nothing. DW saw her outfit as well and started to say something to her directly, bit his lip, and then asked to talk to me in private.

“You’re really okay with this?” he asked.

“It’s not like she’s showing off cleavage or her butt cheeks,” I said in her defense, “besides, I bet if she was thinner you wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

DW angrily sucked in his breath.

“This has nothing to do with her weight,” he said quietly, “And everything to do with what is appropriate or not.”

“But all of her girlfriends are wearing clothes like that. Everybody’s doing it.”

As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized what a fool I had been. I was allowing societal “norms” to determine my parenting decisions. And I was hiding behind her body shape to avoid conflict. I didn’t want to be “the meanest mom”.

“Really, so you think that just because everybody else’s daughter is running around showing off their butts and boobs that it’s okay for our child to do the same, ” he stated bluntly.

Obviously not. I had failed to do my job.

The Tortoise and I had a very frank, but non-confrontational, talk that evening. We discussed first impressions and character. I even asked her to think about any girls at her school that she or her friends maybe had said something snide about her clothes and why. I also took this opportunity to talk about what boys notice about our clothes. I had her try on her most favorite outfit from this summer’s wardrobe and take a good look at herself in the mirror. When she stood back from her reflection, she had a huge smile on her face.

“You look beautiful, ” I remarked, “Do all of your clothes make you feel this good?”

“No, not really, ” she said, shrugging her shoulders, ” I just wanted to look like everybody else.”

“But shouldn’t you just look like the best you?” I asked.

We agreed she would use that outfit as her example, and go through the rest of her clothes. I also told her I would replace some of those tighter shirts for better fitting shirts of her choice. There were a few tears as she bagged up some of her clothes that were given to her as gifts from her friends, but there was no argument. She complied.

Later that night, as I kissed her for bed, she gave me a really long hug.

“Thanks for caring enough, ” she whispered in my ear, “I’d rather have you talk to me about my clothes, than find out my classmates are making fun of me behind my back.”


**This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.  These are weekly memoir writing prompts. I chose prompt #2.

The Prompts:

1.) Write a post about a childhood memory as if you’re in that moment again…from the perspective of yourself as that child.
2.) Write about a time you disappointed yourself.
3.) Your first panic attack.
4.) Your Grandma’s story.
5.) The 10 Dos and Donts of Airplane Etiquette.

17 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Mom Fail Moment

  1. I can so relate to the need as a mom to see our kids fit in like everybody else! My youngest daughter is not the slender body type that her older sisters are. Even at 9, she notices that she is not petite and is larger than many of her friends. I struggle between wanting her to be confident and wanting to guide her in appropriate choices for her body type and age. Its a delicate balance and I think your line of encouraging her to the best she, she can be is wonderful!!!! I shall steal that line!!! Thank you!!!

  2. You are a good mom! I would think this would be a mom excel moment instead of a mom fail moment. It could have turned ugly with a battle of wills explosion – but it wasn’t, all because of how you handled it.

  3. Sounded like a mom triumph to me. Your daughter is one lucky young lady. What a precious moment and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she doesn’t reflect on it later in life as important and profound moment in your relationship.

  4. Hi Pajama Days! Came to your blog at your mom’s suggestion (I’ve been reading her blog and she’s been reading mine for awhile now). I loved this post. It captures exactly what it means to “parent.” I work with students your daughter’s age and I wish more parents had the foresight to really communicate with each other and their children when it comes to issues and even everyday life. Just wanted to let you know it sounds like you’re doing a great job!

  5. I think you were totally amazing. With two teenagers, and one want to be teen, we have had to make some definite decisions around here involving appropriate attire. Thankfully, my girls are much like yours and seem to be quite happy in modest clothing.

  6. Oh you changed your Mom Fail moment so quickly! It seems like you are teaching your daughter just plain, good fashion common sense. May I suggest a program called “What Not to Wear?” They take people that have the goofiest, most unflattering wardrobes and transform them into beauties, clothes that flatter who they are.

    I love the Loft, and I also like some of the Gap clothes. They are classic, teen friendly but very appropriate. I wish you could have been my mom when I was going through my rough times!

    Great post!

  7. Maybe you felt for a moment that you failed or disappointed yourself. But I think this is a great example of a teachable moment, and a time that you did some excellent parenting. Good for you.

  8. You did exactly right, Mama. Exactly right. And so did your husband. Your daughter – bless her gorgeous self – is lucky indeed to have such wise and caring parents.

    This is an awesome post and one I reckon every daughter’s parents ought to read.

  9. Beautiful! And sounds like you dealt with it really well.
    I remember what it was like trying to fit into kids’ clothes. It wasn’t just the sizes, though, because I’m short for my age and back then I was skinny as a rake. It was the fact that they were all pink, sparkly, or just generally way too girly for me. You’re talking to the girl who will happily spend her time in tracksuit bottoms and an ancient t-shirt. I wear my mum’s clothes a lot of the time.
    Today I went to buy some jeans. Though I still have to get the ‘short’ size, on account of my height, I was finally actually able to get some from the adult section without having to go right down to a midget size. Result! Sure, so I need a belt because they don’t quite go to my waist, but at last this 15 year old is looking her age…

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