Balancing Career and Family/My fifteen year old daughter
Hi there. I am the mother of a fifteen year olf girl who is into the gothic scene. she likes to dress all in black and is obsessed with all things dark. All the kids at school think she is "weird" and she is made fun of a lot. Recently she told me that she is bisexual, and has been experimenting sexually with males and females. i have tried to be open-minded and supportive, tried showing an interest in some of her hobbies, allowed her to pain her room black, get a small tattoo, bought her a boa constrictor
for her birthday etc She is very smart, does well academically, has goals etc She is not a bad kid at all. I'm just worried about how other people react to her. I don't like to see her being teased and made fun of, and I wonder how she will find a job etc looking so unconventional. it really doesn't bother me too much, but unfortunately not everyone is as open-minded as I am. Am I doing the right thing by being supportive? Should I just continue to allow her to just be herself? Would it be wrong to ask her to pretend to be someone she isn't? Or to limit her freedom of expression? I really want to do the right thing, and could use a little guidance. Thanks very much for your time.
First of all, you've done a wonderful job! My hat is off to you for being a loving, caring, non-judgmental mom who embraces the unconventional world we live in - and are raising our children in - today. Give yourself a pat on the back...not many moms are able to let their children be who they are, by supporting them in their decisions to be individuals, and also be so active in their need to be individuals.
Secondly, I had a cousin, and several friends in high school, who were into the "gothic" scene, dress and all. Now, they are very loving moms, and are JUST FINE. Honestly, it was just a phase that they went through, experimental and part of self-discovery.
As far as worrying about whether our children will be accepted in school, and in this harsh world, this is a very valid fear as a mom. Sadly, children - and especially teens - can be cruel. Although I was the Head Cheerleader in high school, and (now, looking back, I realize) a very beautiful girl, I still experienced my fair share of "mean girls"...and boys! I have children who are mixed, and they, also, have experienced bullying and meanness, despite the fact that they cannot control - and had no choice over - their skin color.
My point: children can be picked on and bullied for all kinds of things...it is up to us, as their parents, to make them feel good about who they are, how they dress, and how beautiful they are, on the inside, especially, and it seems that you are doing an excellent job at doing that! Keep it up!
You did mention something that I'm sure is probably one of your biggest worries...her sexual activity. I'm not going to say that it is right or wrong, because I personally feel like "to each, his (or her) own". However, one thing that scares me regarding my children are all of the scary diseases that are so readily available to people who are experimenting with sex. And, also pregnancy...
Also, your fear about her future jobs and how potential employers will perceive her is definitely a good point. This is why many parents will limit their children to tatoos only in places that can be covered if they decide they want to work in a professional environment in the future. Consider discussing this with her...while freedom of expression is important to teens, it is also important to remember that not everyone embraces tatoos and other body art, therefore if her dreams are pointing at professional jobs in the future, she will want to make sure that she keeps her freedom of expression limited. It's a hard world out there for professionals...by explaining real-world issues, like unemployment rates, and how hard it is to actually get -and keep - a job, you could turn "parent preaching" into a conversation that doesn't necessarily point the finger at her and the way that she dresses.
For example, take her out to a girl's luncheon and start a conversation by asking her, "Can you believe how high unemployment rates are? Have you discussed this in school or read about it anywhere? I wonder if things will get better...what do you think?"
Depending on her answer, you could continue the conversation by talking about how people with top-notch resumes, or people who have graduated from top-notch universities and colleges are struggling to get jobs. People who have worked at their jobs for decades are losing them...and, you could ask her her thoughts about these issues, and how she thinks things will be when she graduates...will things get better, or will it be the same? What does she plan to do to have the upper hand in the job market?
I think everything that I've said here points to the same concept:
I think the most important thing for you to do...and it seems like you're already doing it very well...is to keep an open mind and OPEN COMMUNICATION. From your question, it seems like she talks to you about everything...and that is awesome! Keep being there for her, keep LISTENING to her, and don't let her shut down on you. Talk to her about the diseases, like Herpes. (I don't know what constitutes gothic music today, and will not assume that Rihanna falls into that category - I do assume that most teens know OF her at least, but you can start by talking about her alleged Herpes contraction...or you could Google stars that have STD's that your daughter may know. Stir up the conversation like that, and let her know you love her and you care about her health and safety.) These diseases that can easily be contracted out there - and will stay with you for life! - can seriously ruin your life and any sexual behavior - even if it's just one, small encounter - can contract an STD.
Talk to her about her feelings and thoughts, her bad days, her good days, her sexual experiences, what makes her happy, what makes her sad, what hurts her feelings, what makes her feel good...just keep those lines of communication open at all times. Tell her about YOUR worries for her - and let her tell you what she thinks about them...and let her know that your worries for her have nothing to do with how YOU feel, but how this big, tough, harsh world can be and how SHE feels, because you want her to be happy. By starting conversations about real-world concepts that relate to your daughter in some ways, you can even breach tough subjects without seeming like you're prying into her personal space. You would be surprised at the answers you hear when you're talking about interesting subjects, like celebrities or well-known people around the world and topics that are taboo.
From one mom to another, I understand your fears for her, but your love and support for her, and the fact that she seems to tell you everything, gives me the feeling that she's going to be just fine. You said she gets good grades and she's a good kid, so maybe you have fewer worries than you think!
I'm so proud of you as a mom! This is a hard world to raise kids in, but communication has ALWAYS been the key. Do what you think is the best for your daughter, by paying attention to any changes in her behavior, staying in tune with her happiness, and maintaining that open line of communication - both ways.