This morning I watched my (nearly) 12 year-old, sixth-grade daughter struggle with what to wear to school. She just wanted to wear a tee-shirt and shorts. But her tee-shirt was white, and she didn’t want her bra to show through (because, with everything else, she has to be embarrassed about wearing a very small, very training like, bra), so she was wearing a tank-top underneath. It’s going to be nearly 90 degrees today, so the layers are miserable, I’m sure. She put on denim shorts over tights, because she was afraid the shorts were too short. The dress code at her school states that shorts must be at fingertips when the arm is at their sides. Her shorts were about 1/64 of an inch shorter than her fingertip.
Then she decided she was going to be hot with both on, so she ended up just wearing leggings under her tee.
I was worried about what she was worrying about, and how shes getting to that age when she going to start worrying about what she’s wearing and what her body looks like. And I don’t want her to grow up with the body issues that I did. I was wondering how to go about telling her these things.
And then I read this wonderful letter by Jennifer Weiner to her daughters. It is perfect and embodies everything that I wanted to say to her this morning, and every morning.
Read the whole letter, please, but here is an excerpt:
My prayer is that you’ll never lose sight of yourselves—all of yourselves. You are so much more than just your looks. Your bodies are perfect, perfectly made and perfectly sized. You don’t have to waste years of your life fighting against them, or trying to fit someone else’s idea of beautiful (especially if that person is taking your money and whispering snake-oil promises about how if you only stick to this diet/cleanse/fitness plan, if you only get this injection/operation/painful piece of shapewear, you’ll look the way you should).
Jonathan Franzen has no idea what he was saying when he trashed Jennifer Weiner (If you missed that feud, here’s a short recap).
So, all that got me to thinking about Mother’s Day, and mothers, and, of course, mothers and daughters. And I’m always thinking about books. So, in honor of that, here are a few great mother/daughter reads in honor of Mother’s Day (and because I have daughters, and am a daughter).
Eight Great Reads: Mothers & Daughters
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. The story of a mother and her teenage daughter, and their lives in a small town. When her overprotectiveness proves futile, Isabelle is at a loss. What do you do when your own, fierce love causes a chasm that can only be healed by fierce love. Beautiful, touching and real.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Bernadette is slightly crazy, brilliant, edgy, outspoken. But she is one of the fiercest mothers I read; ready to take on all comers, including her inner demons, to make her daughter’s life better.
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. This one is hard to read, but wonderful. The story of successful single mother Kate Baron, sifting through her daughters texts, emails, and social media to learn all she can in order to reconstruct her daughter’s life, trying to understand her death.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver really gets the mother/daughter relationship, and I could put almost any of her books here. But this one is one of my favorites. Orleanna Price takes her four daughters and follows her missionary husband to the tremulous Belgium Congo of the late 1950’s. She and her girls navigate a new land, a revolution, and their zealot husband/father, who refuses to give up, even when all is lost.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. The story of family, and all it entails, but hidden under it all is the story of a mother unsure of what to do to make her daughter whole.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Yes, that book. A love story between two terminally ill teens, but underneath it all is the story of a mother and her terminally ill daughter. I read it as a mother, and saw the story through the mother’s eyes.
One Plus One by JoJo Moyes. Moyes knows how to get to the heart of emotion. In this book, she tells the story of Jess Thompson, a single mother trying to make life livable for her kids. Her daughter, Tanzie, is a math genius, and Jess is willing to move heaven and earth to get her the resources that will make the most of that talent. Beautiful, sad, and sweet.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. The story of Lydia Lee, the daughter of a Chinese father and American mother in the 80’s, trying to live up to both of their expectations. More of a cautionary tale, telling mothers not to pin their hopes on their daughters, but to let them find their own dreams. Sad and beautiful.
These all touched me, as the mother of daughters, and the daughter of a mother. Read, enjoy, and have a happy Mother’s Day!