It’s March, which means many of you will find yourself shopping with your daughters as they try to find something to wear for prom, graduation, spring formal, awards assembly, spring concert, and the other multitude of activities that pop up as the school year ends.
I know some mothers and some daughters LOVE shopping together and actually use that as a regular bonding exercise!
They love scanning the store, searching through racks of clothes, trying on outfit after outfit, spending money on clothes, and dressing up and showing off their purchases!
I am not one of those moms, and neither are many of the moms I talk to!
For many mothers and daughters these shopping trips or “rites of passage” enjoyed by some (I hesitate to say “many”) can have the potential to be a minefield of emotions, reactivity, hurt feelings, and disconnection.
Yet, with some awareness and the “power of the pause”, whatever turns up during these excursions can actually open the door to some deep sharing and connection if handled thoughtfully and carefully.
First of all, realize when you step into that fitting room, it’s not just you and your daughter.
It’s you and everything you have heard or internalized throughout your life- it’s your mother and your grandmother, it’s whatever comments you’ve heard about your appearance, it’s whatever negative body image you possess, it’s the view of society and your culture, it’s your judgments about others and your stereotypes, it’s your own personal feelings about shopping, and it’s your values- about sexuality, body positivity, personal expression, financial responsibility, and the whole “business and philosophy” of proms- just to name a few.
It’s your “dreams and expectations” of shopping trips with your daughter.
And it’s your memories of your own shopping trips in the past.
And it’s that whole “my baby is growing up” thing that is always lurking during those final teenage years!
And for your daughter- ditto and more!
They get to face any insecurities they have about their bodies, their popularity, their sexuality and attractiveness, their self-judgement and judgement of others, their self-worth , and the sting of any comment they may have received or overheard about the size of the body part of themselves or of others made in passing or as a direct comment.
They have the social media presence of celebrities and their friends.
They see “formal wear” displayed on televised award assemblies and may think, “If it’s ok for the red carpet, why can’t I wear it to the prom?”!
And… as the end of the school year approaches, seniors may be sad about leaving their school and their friends, excited about college or a job, nervous about the future, stressed about future separation from family, friends, and significant others, overwhelmed with school work, and exhausted.
Juniors are thinking about their friends who are leaving, looking at colleges, worried about the upcoming application process, striving to get good grades, and battling exhaustion!
Pretty crowded in that fitting room, isn’t it?
Now listen to how that translates.
These are some of the conversations I’ve overheard in fitting rooms…
Mom says, “That dress doesn’t flatter you. I like the other dress better.”
Daughter: “Thanks, Mom for calling me fat!”
Mom: “That outfit is very revealing” “
Daughter: “Are you kidding? Did you just say I dress like a slut?”
Mom: “So, is that the one you want?”
Daughter: “What’s wrong with it? Don’t you like it?”
(Insert whatever tone you want!)
What happens if your daughter has the challenge of finding clothes that fit when she doesn’t have the body parts that fit the “mold” of whatever type is currently being marketed to or created for, or she doesn’t have the “average” body- whatever that is this year!
What about body parts- breasts, hips, rear ends, thighs, or calves that are “too big” or “too small”.
The girl who’s too skinny, the girl who’s too curvy.
The 5-foot tall girl trying on pants that are always 6 inches too long; the 6-foot-tall girl whose dresses always end up as “minis”.
The girl in the next room asks for the Double zero; and your daughter asks for the 12, 14, and 16 to see what fits.
What about the dresses with the high slits, and the open backs, and the plunging necklines?
The skirts that barely cover the rear end, the crop tops, the low riders, and all the other options for teens to decide how much is too much!
And let’s not forget the prices!
How much is too much to spend on a prom dress? To be worn for one night? How much to spend on an outfit?
Looking forward to your shopping trip, yet?
Ahh- but here is the magic!
Take a few minutes to sit with your daughter and discuss what’s going on.
What were they thinking about wearing?
How much were you planning to spend?
Do you need to discuss styles?
Are there guidelines about slits, and backs, and plunges?
What are their feelings about this excursion?
How are things going in their life?
For you- just cherish the act that your daughter is inviting you to share this experience with her.
To spend some time with her.
To be a part of this experience she is having.
And remember, if your daughter starts to get frustrated, short-tempered, annoyed, and downright nasty- it probably has nothing to do with you and more to do with all those other invisible forces in that dressing room!
Being aware of all the factors at play gives you an advantage.
It gives you the ability to not take things personally.
It gives you the wisdom to pause and take a deep breath and say to yourself, “Wow, she really has a lot going on.”
It gives you the opportunity to teach your daughter how to recognize that things can influence her behavior even without her being aware of them.
It lets you help her to learn how to remember that and figure out those things in the future.
This is a time that you get to share your stories of shopping trips and experiences you had with your own mom, good or bad.
It lets you set the intention for how you want this experience to be for you and your daughter.
You get to listen to your daughter- validate and empathize.
Let’s be honest-
It is frustrating to look for a dress when your body type is hard to fit.
It’s challenging when you want to be stylish but not so revealing.
It’s hard when you feel self- conscious about a body part and the dress you like “directs the gaze” there!”
It’s hard when you feel “body confident” but you can’t find anything you think looks stylish in your size? Or they don’t make the dress you love in your size!
These are the bonding moments!
It’s not really about the “thrill of the hunt”.
It’s not about looking through the racks of clothes.
It’s not about the clothes or the dress.
It’s about connection- it’s always about connection.
Nobody dislikes shopping more than I do.
When I was a kid, shopping trips were not fun.
My poor mother! I just hated the whole experience- and still do.
And a few years ago, when my daughter asked me to take her prom dress shopping, I was not looking forward to it, and in fact I was dreading it!
But I took some time to look at what ideas I was bringing to the experience.
I reminded myself that I would stay in the moment and be present in this experience at this time with this person- who happened to be one of my beloved children, one of my four most favorite people in the world!
I made sure we weren’t tired or hungry before the trip.
We laid out some basic ground rules including that this trip was supposed to be enjoyable and we were not going to let it turn into a fiasco!
We had a great day! We laughed, we shared some frustrations, we agreed on some ideas about proms and prom dresses, we compromised on some other factors.
And we created a loving memory!
And believe me, I locked that one into my memory bank!
Good luck on your shopping trips this spring!
And remember, as your child grows, these shared experiences will become fewer so enjoy them while you can!
Fitting Room Success!
Prom Night Photo With Mom!