As I see the rising stack of YA books in my daughter’s shelf, I come to the startling reaction that my baby girl is no longer a baby. She’s just 8 years old but at times, when I hear her thoughts, see her confidently face the world, I am faced with a gut-wrenching dilemma of whether to be proud of the girl she’s becoming or nestle her back to the crook of my arms, going back in time.
I am all for respecting privacy but when my daughter started writing stuff in her diary that she wasn’t comfortable sharing with me, cool-woman out, mom-mode in! My daughter has diaries hidden in every corner of the house and she digs them out whenever she gets into her thoughtful moments. I have always encouraged her to write her feelings out and respected her privacy enough to not peek into them.
On one of my spur-of-the-moment cleaning sessions, one of her diaries fell from behind a photo frame and it opened right onto the page that definitely opened my eyes. There was a list of her friends with the boys they have crushes on. I don’t think I could ever be prepared to accept that my girl who is not even ten and her friends could have crushes!
To some extent, the blame of this exposure comes on modernity. Even the kid friendly shows and movies these days show princesses and characters having boy friends and girl friends, discussing the topics of love, marriage, sexuality, divorce and death much more openly than we had ever thought of. The kids these days are taught about good and bad touches at Kindergarten levels and girl children are taught about periods and puberty even before they are ten year olds.
Even lyrics of the songs these days talk and discuss love and sexuality quite openly in comparison to even a decade ago. My daughter has a very limited concept on the definition of love but that doesn’t stop her from singing Taylor Swift’s new songs or following K-pop bands. I can’t forbid her from doing so but what I can do is restricting the use of certain songs/words from her life. When we listen to songs and I hear words and phrases which are inappropriate, I tell her so. I believe in having open communication and I tell her that while the song/movie is good, there are some words which he/she uses that are for grownups.
When my daughter asks me to explain her the meaning of certain dialogs and songs which are not appropriate for her age, I do offer her a more PG rated explanation of the same but also tell her that some of these scenes are not for her age group. When it came to parenting, thankfully, me and my husband are in sync and decided to approach every question and issue with utmost honesty and open communication. This has worked for us as our daughter is not hesitant to approach us with questions and doubts and has a fair understanding of what’s right and wrong for her.
Despite my open approach to communication, I know there will always be topics taboo between us and whether I want it or not, this is just how parent-child relationship works.
It does not matter how cool a parent you are, every child knows what can and cannot be discussed with us. We have to understand and accept that this is not a reflection of our parenting methods. Our children are humans, with minds, feelings and reflective actions of their own, they are always going to hide certain aspects of their personality and life from us just like we do from them and that is okay.
I decided to ‘generally’ voice my opinion that for girls her age, the focus should always be on studying and making friends and becoming a smart and independent girl. I told her how boys and girls can be friends but nothing beyond that until they turn 18. I expressed how smart and talented and creative her ideas and dreams are, and she should focus on realising all her dreams. I encouraged her to make lots of friends and it was perfectly acceptable to have a boy best friend (which she does) and she should make friends with whoever she wants and not succumb to social pressure. At this age, the girls are torn in having crushes on their friends but they also do not talk to them as ‘boys are yucky!’ When my daughter told her friends, one of her best friends is a boy, they immediately started teasing her and telling her not to talk to him. Thankfully, my daughter stood up for herself and expressed that she was allowed to choose her friends and she would like to be friends with both boys and girls.
We cannot shelter our young girls from growing up but what we can work on is ensuring that they are growing up right.