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Parenting Advice from My Mom about Raising a Confident Daughter

BY: Colleen Loggins Loster | Apr 25, 2019

little girl putting makeup on mom

Have you ever looked at your parents and wondered why they made the choices they did while raising you? It’s the type of thing you don’t really reflect on until you’re a little older, perhaps because when you’re older, ruminating on your parents’ parenting choices is the result of curiosity (rather than the result of resentment).

Now that I’m in my 30s, I find myself thinking about my parents’ choices often, specifically my mom’s choices because I find myself acting more like her as time goes on.

I recently started to reflect on how laid-back my mom was when it came to things like me dying my hair, shaving my legs, and wearing makeup. And in honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to have an actual conversation with my mom, Mary, about these things.

 

My mom and I during a weekend trip to New Glarus, Wi., in 2019

 

Colleen: Do you remember the first time you let me highlight/dye my hair? It was after eighth-grade graduation, and it was my graduation present.

Mary: I don’t really remember that.

Really? I thought there was a reason that I waited until eighth grade.

No, I didn’t really care what you did with your hair. I remember when you graduated eighth grade, I took you to get your makeup done. I remember that more than the hair.

So why did you take me to get my makeup done? We went to Clinique, right?

Yes, we went to the makeup counter at Clinique. I wanted you to have an idea of how to put it on, instead of having you going into high school with garish makeup.

Would that have been so bad?

No. It might have saved you some distress, that’s all. I always wished I had had the opportunity. We always bought drugstore stuff because that’s what you could afford. Of course that was the ’70s so we didn’t wear as much makeup. It certainly didn’t look as good.

So it was more that you wanted me to have confidence?

Yeah! And not to be embarrassed or have people teasing you because you looked like you didn’t know how to put your makeup on. That’s the only thing I was thinking.

I would say I appreciate that, especially since I was wearing frosted blue eyeshadow in 6th grade.

We all did!

I suppose that’s true.

But to go back, when you get to high school, you’re 14, but you have 18-year-olds that are so much more mature. Teaching you how to do your makeup seemed like a way to avoid you feeling inferior to the older girls. Again, I don’t know if that would have happened, but ...

That makes sense. Let’s talk about when I first started wearing makeup in general. Pretty sure it started in sixth grade with the blue eyeshadow and concealer. Did you ever think that I was too young to wear it at that point?

I think when I was young, it would have been too young. Like when I went to junior high, the gym teachers would walk around, and if they saw you with makeup, they made you wash it off. Seriously. Or if they saw you putting it on, they threw it away.

But I remember being in junior high and the girls just wore makeup—and would put it on surreptitiously. So I remember junior high as a time when girls wanted to wear makeup, so it didn’t surprise me that you were wanting to try it then. And it didn’t bother me that you did.

So it was that you weren’t allowed to wear makeup in junior high and it bothered you, and that’s why as an adult, you didn’t want to say no to me?

I don’t know if I wasn’t allowed to do it, like, I don’t think my dad said I couldn’t do it. It was that someone else was deciding what I could and couldn’t do. I think to try to prevent somebody from wearing makeup doesn’t make sense—because it’s harmless, it doesn’t hurt anybody. So why fight a battle over something that in the long run wasn’t important?

 

 

My mom and I at my First Communion when I was 8. My mom let me get my ears pierced at this age. 

 

Let’s move on to shaving. I remember shaving my legs in secret at [my friend] Christine’s house in sixth grade. I was so convinced you’d be mad. But did you even notice or care?

Nope! You could shave your legs whenever you wanted. I didn’t care. The only thing I really cared about was the tattoo thing.

Oh yeah, you never wanted me to get a tattoo. But everyone has them now. I don’t, but what if I showed up with one? Would you be mad? I AM 32, after all.

Right, I would probably not like it, but I would obviously recognize there’s nothing I can do about it. And it’s not really for me to say, it’s your body. I personally don’t think they’re that attractive, and I’ve seen some beautiful tattoos, but they fade and just don’t stay looking very good for long. They’re just not as clear and sharp as they once were.

But I got my bellybutton pierced at a tattoo shop in high school!

You and your dad decided to go get your bellybutton pierced. Or, you wanted it, and you persuaded him to take you somehow. I didn’t think it was a great idea, so I wasn’t going to encourage it, but it’s not like a tattoo that was going to be there forever. The hole might be, but it’s fairly unobtrusive.

And the good news was that you didn’t faint cause you got to lay down! [Note: I had a habit of fainting when I was younger and getting stuck with needles.]

But I did take you to get your ears pierced. And that was fairly young. Wasn’t it for First Communion?

I think so? It was either second or third grade.

Yes, then it was for your First Communion.

Why did you decide that was a good time?

I wanted you to think about it, so we didn’t just run out and do it, so I said a target day. As an adult, I can make an informed decision about having someone stick my ear, but I think it’s harder as a child. I wanted to talk to you about it happening and make sure it was something you still wanted to do.

I also wanted to give you a target day so it wasn’t just like “some day we will do this.” I wanted you to have a definitive date so it wasn’t frustrating and you wouldn’t become impatient or upset that you kept asking and it didn’t happen.

I think that’s a good idea.

Plus I felt like, well my ears are pierced, and to say you can’t have it, when I did, seemed wrong. I know you can tell your child that I’m the adult and you’re the child, but it didn’t seem like a big deal. I didn’t think there was anything tawdry about having pierced ears. I thought they were pretty, and it was something I personally liked, so I didn’t have a hard time saying you can do it too.

How did you feel about nail polish? I started painting my nails in probably second or third grade. Did you care about that at all?

No, I didn’t care. I felt like that is something that is so transient it’s like putting on a pretty dress and wearing it for a while and taking it off. Nail polish is so transient that it never bothered me.

 

My mom and I when I was probably about 5 or 6. I started painting my nails a few years later and my mom didn't care.

 

Let’s talk about the clothes that I wore in high school. I definitely had some questionable taste.

[laughs for a while, a little too long]

But you never told me I couldn’t wear something, even if it was a super short skirt paired with a tight glittery tank top and knee-high boots.

I don’t really remember that outfit. I wasn’t really monitoring stuff because most of the time, I was getting ready to go to work myself and didn’t have time to make you pass inspection before you walked out the door. I figured that if your outfit was inappropriate, school would make you change.

I think if you had said, “Hey, look at this outfit,” I would have said no. But I don’t remember anything bad. I think you gotta pick your battles. And I think every junior high and high school girl has questionable taste at some point, unless they grow up with a super fashionable parent. And I’m not a super fashionable person myself so I didn’t pay close attention to the clothes.

So overall, I’d say you were a pretty chill mom who didn’t really have any strict rules with regards to appearance for me or [my younger sister] Kendall. Do you think your choices were mostly because you wanted to raise empowered women or do you think it’s more due to your laid-back personality?

I think it’s both those things. I think you should've been able to choose how you wanted to look. Unless it was dangerous. Or a tattoo. I was just never able to wrap my head around that. But yeah, you weren’t doing anything dangerous.

I never thought, what’s the appropriate age to wear makeup? What’s the appropriate age to shave your legs? If you were old enough to use a razor and wanted to, have at it.

I think it’s my personality, too, but also that you need to have freedom to explore on your own. When you have a strict environment, you rebel. Of course, there’s a strict environment when it comes to safety and health, but when it comes to things that in the long run don’t really matter—personal expression, your appearance—those aren’t really important things to fight about. Those are little decisions you can make for yourself that help you learn who you are and make decisions on your own.

If you make a bad decision, you have bad hair or wear blue eyeshadow or cut your leg with a razor. And you learn.  

I just remembered one thing you were strict about. Tanning beds.

[laughs] Oh yeah, that’s true! I forgot about that. But to me, that comes back to safety and health. We know that tanning beds can ruin your skin and make you more likely to develop skin problems and cancer, so yeah, they were a no-no. That is true.

But now I’m pretty avid about sunscreen. And much less wrinkly than I could be if I had used tanning beds in high school. So thanks for stopping me!

Now is not really the time when you’re gonna notice, but when you’re in your 50s and look like you’re in your 30s, you’re gonna think, glad I didn’t use those tanning beds.

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