My 17-year-old daughter is very similar in size to me, so I tend to let her have my hand-me-down clothes. I work in fashion retail and I get some lovely pieces which I wear a few times, then get sick of! The problem is that she’s started helping herself to my current clothes when I’m out and she’s damaged a couple of things, spilling tomato sauce on them (no doubt when she was eating a burger!). Anyway, I’m getting tired of this and I’ve told her that she can’t touch my wardrobe when I’m not there. Now she’s all hurt and injured and has barely spoken to me in the last week. I’m happy to share with her but on my terms – or should I figure out a way to compromise somehow?
Shannon, by email
As our children get older, our relationship with them becomes more collegial and at times it can almost feel as if we might be friends. The problem is when we have to revert to being a parent, they tend to hand out the “hurt and hostile treatment” to see if that will persuade us to change our minds. The problem and pleasure in you and your daughter being the same size is that it can make the slide to collegiality much slipperier. You are quite right to be clear that the clothes in your cupboard are not there for helping herself to.
One of the tough parts of parenting is that, at the moments when we have to choose between being a friend or a parent, the only appropriate option is to be the parent. She shouldn’t be helping herself to your cupboard. She shouldn’t be damaging your clothes. She should be cleaning any soiled clothes of yours borrowed only with your permission, and she shouldn’t be punishing you for her mistakes. Put the boundary back. Be crystal clear about which clothes are available to her. Live out the hostility by staying cMolly friendly until she works out that you are her mother, not a friend who might – or might not – tolerate her abusing your generosity.
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