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She's Twelve going on Twenty
Nurturing Your Daughter Through the Tween Years
By Kim Camp
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Kim Camp
All rights reserved.
Who Am I?
Have you seen the Disney movie Anastasia? It is the story of a ten-year-old Russian princess who is separated from her family. Anastasia receives a wound to her head and is left with amnesia. By the time she reaches the age of eighteen, she longs to know who she is and hopes to find a better life. On her search she discovers her true identity and finds her true love. Finding the truth about her heritage replaces yearning and confusion with belonging and the seeds of confidence. The girl who emerges, although timid in confidence, is very strong in character. She has found her identity.
Anastasia certainly isn't the only one on an identity quest. Recently I read about a club for loners. To join, an applicant must write to a certain address and explain why she (or he) enjoys being alone. In return she will receive "loner paraphernalia," the assurance that her name will be included on an exclusive list, and the promise that—once identified as a loner—she will be left alone. Even the most reclusive and withdrawn people in our society need to feel that they belong to something. They need "identity."
Young girls try to gain a sense of identity in myriad ways: fashions, hairstyles, activities, jewelry, attachments to rock bands, wealth, size of home, family name and heritage, just to name a few. Their sense of identity shapes who they are. It affects their goals and basic belief systems, leading to confidence or insecurity, rest or restlessness, hope or hopelessness.
Thankfully, our daughters' identities do not need to be dependent on such changeable external forces as trends, looks, and personal image. As believers, we hope to communicate that everyone's true identity is based on her position in Christ and on her inner qualities. But convincing a young girl of this reality may not be as easy as it sounds. As moms, we need to be prepared.
Our daughters are uniquely created by God to blossom and grow into beautiful women of His design. These precious flowers are both tender and strong. Some don't know their strength, while others exert it too frequently. The tender side is often hidden with time. How can we water and prune the flowers, expose them to the light, accept and fashion the thorns to display strength and protection, and explore with love all the shades of color in the petals?
Will we do it perfectly? No. Will we make mistakes? Yes. But our daughters are part of God's garden, and He will always guard and protect His own. He knows our finite capabilities, and He promises to give us His wisdom and discernment as we seek Him with a whole heart. Isn't it amazing that He has entrusted His precious, developing girl children to us?
It is necessary for us to look closely and lovingly at our daughters, to see beyond their youthful charades in order to understand their needs.
A wealthy couple stayed in an exclusive private club in Paris with their two young daughters. One night their oldest daughter showed up at a dinner party—where her parents' friends were present—dressed in black leather and accompanied by a "forbidden" companion. The youngest daughter, looking innocent as a lamb, claimed to be tired and left the party early. Before returning to the hotel, she sneaked off to see a cute "English Prince Charming" she had met in an elevator earlier that day. The parents were very concerned about the overtly disturbed older daughter, and compared her to their "perfect" daughter who was in bed asleep when they arrived at the hotel after midnight.
Both girls were clamoring for the same guidance from Mom and Dad. They simply had different ways of communicating their needs. It eventually came out that the younger daughter was sneaking out regularly and putting herself in compromising positions with various boys. The parents were shocked, but they finally recognized that both girls were crying out in their own ways, "Help me find out who I am!"
We parents are often tempted to fix the crisis situation—whatever it is—quickly. Ban the trendy clothes. Impound the CDs. Confiscate the makeup. Provide a crash course in appropriate and inappropriate behavior with the opposite sex. These solutions may be good and necessary, but they will only be temporary unless we deal with one specific core question.
How can we help our daughters answer the question, who am I?
In the movie Titanic, the leading female character, Rose, has a very predictable life. She was born into wealth with the understanding that she might lose it all if she doesn't marry well. She is expected to use her position in society to protect her family name and carry on her privileged legacy.
Rose appears to know who she is and what is expected of her. Yet inside she sees someone else—someone who doesn't fit her mother's expectations and is crying to get out and away from the cold, overbearing man she is to marry.
Desperate, Rose decides to end her life. Rather than living a lifetime without love or freedom, she will throw herself off the Titanic into the icy waters below.
Her suicide plans are halted by a young man named Jack. Afterward, Jack asks Rose why she had tried to jump off the great ship. She responds, "It was everything—my whole world and the people in it, and the inertia of my life plunging ahead, and me powerless to stop it.... I was standing in the middle of a crowded room, screaming at the top of my lungs, and no one even looked up."
Jack helps Rose break out of the mold. Later, when the sinking of the Titanic frees her of her obligations, she finds the courage and strength to live out the kind of life she was originally designed to live.
With God's help, we won't have to see our daughters make huge mistakes, latch on to the wrong friends, or face tragedy before they learn who they are and how God has uniquely designed them to fill a special place in the world.
When our daughters are seeking out who they really are as young women, it's key for Mom to know her own identity. Women can struggle with knowing who they are—and whose they are—in even the most stable of families, but the life-shattering nature of divorce can raise all kinds of questions about identity.
With the fall of my own marriage, my identity changed. No longer was I wife and mother, but now mom/working mom/breadwinner. How would I deal with these changes and still guide my daughters to develop into strong, godly young women?
Many women who find themselves suddenly single try to find a new romantic relationship to create stability, provide companionship, or fill the void of the dream that died. This often leads to developing false intimacy.
Psychotherapist Don Carter and his wife, counselor Angie Carter, discuss on their website the dangers of false intimacy:
False intimacy is often mistaken for true love because it can be intense....
Beneath the waterline of awareness ... lies the emotional woundedness of abandonment, shame, and contempt.
The abandonment represents the original emotional wounds caused by unmet dependency needs, the shame is an emotional infection that sets in, and the "scab of contempt" represents all of the crusty feelings of anger, bitterness, & resentment that come from having to live this way.
Understanding false intimacy helped me see more clearly how true intimacy—the kind that God created for us to experience in marriage—functions. As my daughters have matured, we've talked about what true intimacy looks like because they didn't get to see it modeled in their own home. The temptation of false intimacy is strong, but ultimately it does not allow a woman to stay focused in her own identity in Christ.
I have spoken with women who believe they need to seek divorce and single moms who are dealing with its aftermath. We all agree that God hates divorce. It is never the best option. No matter the reason for the separation, how much support we have, or how bad the situation in the marriage is, divorce is a heartbreaking process. Central to reclaiming our identities is remembering that God has a plan and a purpose for you and for me. It starts when we come before Him humbly to seek forgiveness and grace, asking that God would reveal our own sin and bring healing so the same issues won't be repeated in another marriage. We must live what we tell our girls: It's not about finding the right person; it's about being the right person before God so that we will know whether a relationship is a gift from Him or is a distraction or a temptation. It's about daily walking with Him, hearing His voice, and moment by moment seeking to honor Him first and foremost with our lives.
Discovering and Developing Natural Gifts
Whether mother or daughter, our true identities as women are more clearly defined as we seek God to understand how He created us and for what purpose. Some moms and their girls share similar gifts; other mothers and daughters are gifted in totally different areas. Either way, it's important to note that we are talking about developing our daughters' gifts, not our own. We moms are sometimes tempted to blur the boundaries between our girls and ourselves. (More about that later.) Let's be clear up front: we cannot project our own dreams or goals on our daughters. Each girl, young as she may be, has a life of her own to live. It's so easy for us to enroll them in ballet or sign them up for the swim team or teach them French because that is what we did. Yes, it's important to expose them to many different activities, but after the exposure, we need to ask two very important questions: Does this activity complement her natural gifts? Is her participation unnatural or forced?
Janie was ten, and she had taken horseback-riding lessons since her third birthday. She enjoyed riding, but what she really wanted was to take another gymnastics class. It wasn't that she was fickle—Janie's uncle had had a terrible accident on his horse and was almost killed. This frightened Janie, and she soon learned that all of her other cousins had discontinued their lessons. But Janie's mother was an accomplished rider and wanted her daughter to be the same. She insisted that Janie continue.
If Janie had loved riding, it would have been important for her to learn from the tragedy, to overcome her fear and not to let it keep her from riding. However, this was not the case. Instead, she suffered a great deal of emotional upheaval because her mother insisted that she carry on with her lessons. This mom was convinced that what was good for her was good for Janie too—a classic example of a mother vicariously living out her dreams through her daughter. Mothers who behave this way want to either relive past glories through their daughters or live out a dream that was never fulfilled in their own lives. Bottom line—it's bad for everybody.
God has designed each one of us with a unique purpose in life, and it is essential that we bring up our daughters according to God's plan and purpose. Proverbs 22:6 gives parents a command with a promise: "Train up a child in the way [she] should go, even when [she] is old [she] will not depart from it." We train them through both wisdom and instruction, but the emphasis is on training them in the ways God has designed for them to walk. As moms, we quite naturally want the best for our children. Often it's easier for us to encourage them in the areas in which we are comfortable, rather than in seeking their strengths, which can often lead into unfamiliar territory.
What activity seems to make your daughter smile? What motivates her? What causes her to talk excitedly about her efforts? Is it something you are able to share with her, or is it something she's discovered on her own? Take the time to reflect on her likes and dislikes, on what energizes her and what bores her, on what brings out her creative talents and what seems to stifle her. Ask God to help you help her to discover the gifts, talents, and potential He has placed inside your daughter, and try to work wholeheartedly with her to develop them to their fullest potential.
Know Her Natural Personality
The answer to "Who am I?" isn't just found in what our daughters like to do. It's also important for us to know what they are really like on the inside. Is your daughter an introvert or an extrovert? Which would appeal more to her, attending the next party or a chance to curl up with her favorite book? Does she have a quick temper or an easygoing style? Can you describe your daughter's temperament?
No one has done more to help clarify personality temperaments than Tim and Beverly LaHaye. I first met them when they came to our church when I was in junior high school. Later, after my mother began working closely with Beverly on Concerned Women for America, she and I went to Washington, DC, to attend several meetings, and there I was able to spend some time with Beverly. She is a compassionate woman who is deeply committed to Christian causes and to bringing them into public awareness.
Our conversation turned to different personality types, so I posed questions about temperaments and how they relate to relationships. Beverly led me to her office, where she gave me several of the books she and her husband have written on the subject. Our conversation that day helped me see the importance of understanding temperaments, and now that I have children of my own, I often remind myself of their differing styles and characteristics.
Here's one example of how awareness of temperaments can be helpful. Mary was a beautiful and independent child who formed an opinion about everything. At home she was happy and talkative, but in new situations she was very shy. For her true personality to come out, she needed to be very comfortable.
When Mary enrolled in a new school, her mother had to take her to visit the classroom several times so she could feel prepared for the first day of classes. It took Mary a long time to get used to new social situations, and yet at home she could take just about anything in stride. Mary's personality baffled her mother until she discovered the four personality traits: melancholy, choleric, sanguine, and phlegmatic. She was able to see that Mary was a melancholy-choleric child. Outside of the home Mary was very melancholy, but at home the choleric side of her personality shone.
Let's look more closely at each of the four personality traits. See if you can find aspects of your daughter's personality among the following descriptions, bearing in mind that most of us possess combinations of at least two temperaments.
Sally Sanguine is outgoing and fun. She gets invited to everything because she is the life of the party. The room lights up when Sally enters, and she is never at a loss for words. Her stories, although usually embellished, are the most entertaining. She is very generous with her time, talents, and resources, and she shows great compassion to those in need.
People are drawn to Sally's charismatic and enthusiastic personality, yet they become frustrated with her lack of discipline, organization, and follow-through. Her room is usually a mess because her focus is on people. She will quickly become your "new best friend," but she has a hard time fulfilling the promises that she makes in the moment.
Sally's outgoing personality often covers up a fearful and insecure girl, and this emotional instability can surface in unhealthy relationships. Situational ethics tend to rule a Sanguine's heart, so it's important that Sally learn to accept full responsibility for her actions and understand that her weaknesses can be overcome as she learns to walk through life in God's power, not her own.
Chloe Choleric is an independent, confident leader who is constantly active. People are drawn to her ability to make decisions and see the big picture. She is a visionary who knows how to motivate people and plan worthwhile projects. She is very determined, optimistic, and decisive. Those who lack these qualities look to Chloe for strength and direction. If she is told, "It can't be done!" that is not a roadblock, but rather a challenge to figure out how to accomplish the impossible ... and she usually does it successfully!
Because she is very self-sufficient and opinionated, others often feel less important or used in the process of interacting with Chloe. The project seems to be the focus, and friends are often left with hurt feelings. Her anger may not be as explosive as Sally's, but it can be cruel and has a stronger effect on those in its path. While Sally will seek forgiveness, Chloe will tend to see nothing wrong with her actions and proceed to justify them until all opposition gets on her page. The breaking point for a choleric is to recognize and relinquish her pride (which is what precedes a fall). When she realizes that it is not by her might or power that things are accomplished, but only by the Spirit of the Lord, then her gifts can be the most effective.
Excerpted from She's Twelve going on Twenty by Kim Camp. Copyright © 2013 Kim Camp. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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