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Bra Talk: When a Stepdaughter Confides in a Stepmom ....

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Stepbomb: At this point, I can only assume that my stepdaughter values my opinion. Why else would she ask me about buying her first bra -- and not once, but two times?

The first time she came to me, I was admittedly very gun-shy about having the discussion. I was completely caught off guard. But more than that, I was worried about what would happen if her mom found out I'd even been asked about it. So I kept my answer short and simple. I suggested that she speak to her mom about it, and said that if her mom felt it was time for her to get a bra, it would be her mom who should take her on that special shopping trip.

I felt bad that I didn't give her much attention, as I know this subject is tremendously important and these are the types of conversations that are going to continually come up. And I know my stepdaughter trusts me. (We have a tight bond.) But I also respect the fact that I am not her mother and therefore must step aside in matters like this. Still, how do you explain that to a child who's looking up at you, clearly confused as to why you don't have anything to say about the subject? 

The second time she brought it up was when she put on a T-shirt. She was sure that people could see that she needed a bra. And honestly, I agreed. But I didn't say that. I just told her that if it would make her feel more comfortable, she should put a tank top on underneath. And she did that. Then I asked her if she'd spoken to her mom. And she said yes, that her mom had told her that she should wait at least a year. I told her to reapproach her mother with her concerns, and then I spoke to my husband. 

My husband and his daughter have a very good relationship, and she speaks openly and honestly to him about many things. But I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out why she came to me instead of him: We're both female; it was nothing more. So he followed up with her and told her that it's her body and if she feels she needs a bra, then she should have one. He suggested she talk to her mom again and said that if her mom was still against it, he would take her to buy one. And then she asked him if I would take her instead. 

So my question is, what do you do when your stepdaughter wants to confide in you? When she's far too young to understand the dynamic between a stepmother and a mother? When she's just looking for guidance from people she loves and trusts? How do you handle it properly with the stepdaughter while still respecting her mother?

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57 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous September 17, 2010, 11:22 AM

Sooo…. The girl “needs” a bra because she thinks she does. So she must obviously have one!

What happens when she “needs” birth control pills, or makeup, or a cell phone. All of those are no biggies too, right?

All the girl is learning is how to play parents off one another to get what she wants.

Anonymous September 17, 2010, 11:49 AM

We don’t know this girl and we can’t know if she needs a bra or not. Besides, we all have different opinions about when kids need bras or when they’re ready for e-mail accounts. Normally, nobody else gets to make us do it their way, even when they think we’re wrong. They have to convince us. Even parents have to talk to each other and compromise about child-rearing issues. The problem here is that the relationship between mom and dad and stepmom is so bad that they can’t even begin to talk to each other in a way that would help the kid. Forget who started it, who is going to stop it?

Katie September 17, 2010, 12:22 PM

Oh man. This post takes me right back to middle school. My mom wouldn’t let me shave my legs in 6th grade and it was AWFUL-we were only allowed to wear shorts (I live in a Southern state) and ugh it was awful. Not only was it embarrassing but I HATED my hairy legs anyway and was excited about getting to middle school to shave them. I HATE the “mother is always right” mentality because sometimes Mom just does stuff to maintain her authority-regardless of how ANYONE feels about it. There were so many things I missed out on just because my mom said no. Even to include field trips and school related stuff. This mother sounds like a tyrant.

DontAgree September 17, 2010, 12:29 PM

I don’t think the mother sounds like a tyrant at all. I think she sounds like a mother who cares about her girls.

Darla September 17, 2010, 2:51 PM

If she has breasts and not wearing a bra she people can tell. Perverts are everywhere looking for things like that and she will be at risk for being assaulted. Your husband needs to be a man and tell his ex to shut up. You need to be the mother she obviously needs a buy her a real bra. Put your stepdaughters needs and welfare over her mothers psychotic delusions. That poor girl suffers because everybody puts their wants over her needs.

Seriously September 17, 2010, 3:42 PM

My 4-year-old wants a bra. She thinks she has breasts. I’m not about to buy her a bra because (OMG!) perverts exist out in the world. Perverts will be perverts regardless of how I dress her.

No pre-teen “needs” a bra, they can easily get by with a t-shirt under a real shirt, but they do need their mother.

A bra won’t stop a girl from being assaulted by the way, even though the previous poster seems to think so.

WriterCrys September 17, 2010, 3:58 PM

I love this whole thing because my daughter is in the same situation…suddenly she needs a bra and I can’t believe it!! I think it’s great that your stepdaughter came to you and that you told her to go to her mom and check and I love that you gave her the alternative in the meantime to wear a tank. If it’s time, it’s time and if she feels more comfortable in a bra than by-golly someone (you, the dad, the mom), needs to get that girl a bra and stat!! Does she have any aunts? For me, it was my aunt who bought me my first bra and it was a treat and something I now do for my nieces.

Pamala September 17, 2010, 5:11 PM

No pre-teen needs a bra? Are you kidding me? My niece has needed a bra for two years, she’s 12 now. Finally her mother started buying her one. She developed really early and she’s needed it for a long time. So frankly I think people are being a bit irrational. We don’t know if this child has breasts or not. If the mother deems it inappropriate then so be it, her wishes should be respected. I would just hope her mother isn’t holding on to her “baby” and unwilling to save this child from embarrassment because she doesn’t want her little one to grow up.

Anonymous September 17, 2010, 6:17 PM

I think it’s great these aunts cared enough about their nieces to help them obtain bras. But did you pick them up from school, take them without their moms permission, and say &$$) your mother I know what’s best and when I decide you need a bra you’ll get one? Because that’s the equivalent ofthus stepmother injecting herself into the decision and shopping.

stweshjali September 17, 2010, 7:38 PM

I think you posted this because you know you would be over stepping the boundaries. I just have to say though that my daughter is a preteen and a Very Large C cup. Almost time to move up. She has been wearing a bra since she was 9 and will not be 13 until the very end of this year. So there are definitely instances where preteens NEED to wear a bra. I also want to add that my daughter is not the least bit over weight. She has a small frame so she is very top heavy and can not even wear the clothes the other kids her age wear. I could never let her be so uncomfortable as to not let her wear a bra. Again you should not take her!! It should be her mother or her father… My husband has no trouble taking our kids to get anything they need.He just does not get embarrassed. :D

Jennifer September 17, 2010, 9:42 PM

If the girl put on a shirt and it was obvious that she needed a bra- then she needs a bra. The bio mom is being a bully and embarrassing her daughter just to make a point and is probably in denial about “her little girl” growing up. If stepmom can tell she needs a bra, then everyone else can too. How much does the kid have to endure before bio mom puts her first and stops having a hissy fit just so she can have the power? I needed to start wearing a bra by the 6th grade, and I’m thankful that my mom took me to get it. Kids are merciless, I hate to think what I would have had to put up with if I had to go to school without the proper undergarments.

Jennifer September 17, 2010, 9:46 PM

The posters who are ex-wives are pretty easy to spot on this particular one.

Do you have any idea how sad and ridiculous girls look when they are 11 or 12 yrs old and SHOULD be wearing a bra but aren’t?

Jennifer September 17, 2010, 9:52 PM

MOST preteens need a bra. Parents should be encouraging modesty and proper attire, not sticking their heads in the sand pretending their children aren’t growing up.

A bra is a support garment- which isn’t even remotely comparable to birth control, makeup or a cell phone.

Anonymous September 18, 2010, 1:45 AM

I’m not an ex wife and I don’t think the girl needs a bra. I think she WANTS a bra, because women have been conditioned by our culture to believe that we can’t possibly function without one at nine or ten or eleven years old. And the sexier and more hot the better.

I don’t understand why so many women here have been duped into thinking the problem here is that the girl MUST have a bra. Lest those supposed enormous breasts of hers stunt her emotional growth or something, because women can only be there true selves if those pesky breasts are hidden.

The more reasonable solution to her breasts showing under her shirt isn’t to hit Victoria’s Secret. It’s to have dad or mom buy her shirts that are larger and fit her more appropriately for her age.

Been there September 18, 2010, 10:59 AM

I’m a therapist, mother and step-mom.
1. What’s with the “stepbomb” comments? Take care of your own issues before you can consider yourself unbiased and unANGRY enough to look at this objectively.
2. Step-mom- Listen. Say words “I understand.” (smile inside knowing she is comfortable enough to come to you)
3. Dad- Balls up and be communicative with your ex and CO-parent. Decide TOGETHER. Discuss pros/cons. Bras are NOTHING compared to what’s coming. This is good practice ground; your daughter needs to see a consistent, united front.
4. EVERYONE: put your petty judgments and differences aside and work towards what is best for the kids. Period.

Jennifer September 18, 2010, 11:37 AM

It’s clear that bio mom is mainly concerned with being right, she should forget about that and put her daughter first. Has everyone forgotten what being in school is like? If she’s endowed enough for an adult to notice she should be wearing a bra, then believe me, the kids notice too and it’s only a matter of time (if it hasn’t happened already) before she starts getting obnoxious comments from boys in her class. I’ve seen plenty of girls in the 10-14 yr old range that really should be wearing a bra but weren’t, and they looked pudgy, uncomfortable and generally ridiculous.

Nonna2 September 18, 2010, 2:13 PM

How is it clear that “mom is clearly concerned with being right?” I think it’s clear that “stepmom is clearly concerned with being the cool buddy parent.”

Get the kid a bigger shirt that fits her, not a bra just because she wants one.

Jennifer September 18, 2010, 4:22 PM

How is it clear? Let me list the ways…if memory serves, bio mom is the one who cheated, left her husband and married the stepdad in this equation. Then, she had the nerve to have a fit when her ex decided to remarry. She doesn’t want stepmom to have any part taking care of her kids, but I presume her husband, aka stepdad, can do as he wishes without complaints. The daughter went to her mom and asked to get a bra, clearly she needs one, why should we start dressing our daughters in sacks just so mommy dearest can have her way? Get the poor girl some decent undergarments and let the issue die so whacko bio mom can begin her next hissy fit, which I’m sure is forthcoming.

Nonna2 September 18, 2010, 4:38 PM

Wow, that’s a lot of assumptions.

Why not go a step further and assume mom had an affair because dad NEVER, EVER, EVER lifted a hand to help her, help around the house or help with the kids.

She got fed up, found someone who paid attention to her and her kids, and is frustrated because dad continues to ignore the kids and pawn them off on someone else. Maybe that’s why she’s having “hissy fits.” Because dad will just grab any ol’ woman standing around to parent (“Hey stepbomb, go get the kid shopping to get a bra OK because I just don’t want to.”)

Or, we could stop assuming, and get back to the facts… Kids have one mom and one dad. They need to be the ones parenting, not the stepmother.

Anonymous September 19, 2010, 5:47 PM

@Been there - People are calling her “stepbomb” because that’s the pen name she uses. I think it’s a reference to the fact that when she got married, it felt like a bomb suddenly went off, not an insult.
I think your advice to the Dad is spot-on, though. Dad and Mom need to get their act together before their daughters are dealing with even bigger issues.

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