I saw some pictures on Facebook this morning, ‘friends’ of a ‘friend’ (I wonder why people make their pictures accessible to anyone, but that’s another rant, for another day). It was the daughter’s 12th birthday party. But she looked 18 – hair, clothes, make-up, attitude. Someone had written a comment to the effect that she looks much older than 12, and the mother replied, “Thank you.”
Like it’s a compliment that your little girl is all tarted up and looks like a mature woman. Who knows? Maybe it was intended as a compliment – after all, I don’t know any of these people – but it made me pause and reflect on the state of our society. Here we are, lamenting the rising rates of teen pregnancy, binge drinking, drug use, and general selfishness of our young people, while at the same time rushing our babies to adulthood and praising them when they leave the vestiges of childhood in their wake.
There is a video circulating the internet: a six-year old British (I think) girl, hip-hop dancing to some heavy back-beat. Grinding and turning and arching and stomping. I found it sad, but the comments were overwhelmingly favourable. “How cute”. “Adorable”. “I needed this today”. The problem was, it wasn’t just some little kid dancing around having a great time; she was TRYING to dance like Miley Cyrus around her pole; she was TRYING to look like the big girls…but she’s just a little, little girl.
Maybe I’m a fuddy-duddy. In fact, I’m pretty positive I’m a fuddy-duddy, at least by today’s common standards. I don’t want my 12 year old to wear make-up and think that her own beauty is not good enough. I don’t want her to have a cell-phone and a laptop computer and unlimited access to all the evils from which we pretend to want to shield our children. I want the 14-year old boys to know that if they are going to talk to MY girl, they may just have to talk to ME first. I want my girls to know that make-up, high-heels and cleavage are for grown women, and that they will be grown women very soon enough.
It is easy for me. My kids are young. They still think boys are icky and still don’t know how to spell well enough to surf the ‘net. I like to think that I can protect them from growing up too fast, and I like to believe that there are enough other mothers like me that they will not be the only children left in their 6th grade class.
But even now, I can see that it will be a battle. A battle against them, and against the wider society. I heard a statistic yesterday that there are more than 4 billion cell phone accounts in the world today. And what, 6 billion people? So, two-thirds of the world – the world that includes the jungles of South America and the savannas of Africa – has cell phones. Do I really stand a chance against that kind of statistic? Will I cave to the pressure, not to keep up with the Jones’s, but just to stay in the arena with the Smiths, Jones, Kazinski’s, Uoatoga’s, Wong’s and Gonzales?
And do I stand a chance against my own daughters? I love to please them. I love to see them look at me, wide-eyed with wonder and appreciation after I have granted them some small wish – renting High School Musical (even though part of me thinks they are too young), or painting their toe-nails with my coveted, dark-red polish. Three years ago, I would have insisted that my children would be watching Dora the Explorer (or at least Zoboomafu) until they were in middle school, and yet here they are, singing and dancing with Troy and Gabriella.
Parenting is hard. I make it harder for myself by worrying about this stuff, years before I really have to. Just when I think I’m doing okay, just when I think that I am living in the moment and taking life one day at a time, some woman has to put pictures of her daughter’s birthday party on the internet and send me into a tailspin.