Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Moms can survive teen years

Book offers parental advice for daughters' rejection era

By Samantha Critchell
The Associated Press

It's a rite of passage for many teenagers: They mistake their parents for lepers.

The teens would rather walk home from school than be picked up in the family's station wagon - or even a slightly hipper SUV; they don't want to gather round the family table to break bread; and they most certainly don't want to be seen at the mall or the movies in the company of parent chaperones.

It's especially true for girls and their mothers, says author Susan Borowitz, because, until adolescence, girls work very hard molding themselves after their mothers, often playing dress-up in their mothers' clothes and mimicking their makeup routines.

Then, the day comes when they realize they want to be their own young women. That's the day everything changes.

"Teenage girls reject everything that would link them with their mothers," says Borowitz.

"Teenagers define themselves much more by what they are not than what they are; it's much easier to do it that way. So, they'll purposely take the opposite position of whatever their mothers say."

(Fathers and sons likely will go through similar difficult stages when young men break the "just-like-daddy" bond, according to Borowitz, but it usually happens a little later.)

Choosing targets

Right now, Borowitz's own 13-year-old daughter's target is feminism.

"She knows I'm not a marching-down-the-street feminist but she also knows that it matters to me," Borowitz says. "So to taunt me, she tells me that if you're going to have a child, you have to stay home and you can't work. She, of course, knows that I worked when she was little ... but she'd be against stay-at-home moms if I were one."

Borowitz, a former Hollywood writer for family-fare TV comedies such as Family Ties and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, chronicles the ups and downs of her relationship with her daughter Alexandra and how it differs from the relationship with her 8-year-old son Max in When We're in Public, Pretend You Don't Know Me (Warner Books).

The book's subtitle is Surviving Your Daughter's Adolescence So You Don't Look Like an Idiot and She Still Talks to You.

Sometimes, though, Borowitz acknowledges, daughters do go through a period when they don't want to talk to their mothers or, if they do, less than kind words come out of their mouths.

"I let my daughter get to a certain point ... and then I speak up. The garden variety of tactics to push me away is OK. But I'll tell her, 'You can reject what I think but I am a human and you should respect all humans, including me.' Period," Borowitz explains.

But even if children's behavior is hurtful, mothers are the adults in this scenario, Borowitz says, and it is up to them to be mature, be the rock and not take any of this stuff personally.

Be a tough cookie

In fact, she adds, even if a mother has to fake being a tough cookie, she should do it. Appearing too sensitive to her daughter's newfound "independence" might discourage the girl from exploring her own personality and beliefs.

Stepping into a girl's Skechers for a minute, Borowitz says it's even harder for today's teens to create their own identity because they find themselves competing with middle-aged women who don't want to give up their reign as society's favorite females.

The girls resent their mothers going to pilates class to maintain their buff shapes and applying age-defying serums to their skin. "These girls want to be the hottie - and it is rightfully their turn," Borowitz adds.

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