It’s a common thing for people to say, but what they don’t tell you is that it can all happen in a matter of two weeks! Our older goddaughter is 12 now. She started junior high on August 24th, and announced her list of boys “crushing on her” three days later. She got her first visit from Aunt Flo (TMI probably, but it’s a major milestone in a girl’s life!) on August 30th, and I took her out to dinner that night to celebrate.
We talked that night about the kids she met during her first week at school and the boys that like her. I asked her if she like anyone, and she said no, but I kept the conversation going. “So what happens when a boy likes you and you like him?” Standard, pre-teen answer: “I don’t know.”
“Well, what would you want to happen?”
“I don’t know. We get together?”
“And then what?”
“I don’t know. Go to Jamba Juice?”
“And then what?”
“I don’t know. This is embarrassing.”
I remember being boy crazy at 12, but there wasn’t a lot of reciprocity. There were only eight kids in my class at a small, K-8, private, Christian school. By the time we had hormones, we’d spent so much time together we were more like siblings. I didn’t go to my first dance until freshman homecoming. In contrast, our 12-year-old is in a school of 1,000 kids her age. It’s glaringly different from the time I spent in junior high.
We bought her a new dress for her first dance this past Thursday and summarily denied her permission to post videos from the dance on YouTube that night. She got in trouble for being home late the next day (it was only a few minutes, but it was the first time we let her go alone) from a neighbor’s house, and later we found out she was there without any adults. Consequently, she’s not allowed to go over there for a week.
Side note: Why the hell are parents allowing their 11 and 12-year-olds to be on social media sites!? The EULAs for all the majors – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. – say kids under 13 are not allowed because they’re unable to comply with the COPPA laws! Keep your freakin’ kids off the internet until they’re older! We in our 30s forget those things weren’t available until we were in high school. We had MySpace and Yahoo and MSN instant messengers, but we couldn’t tag a picture of ourselves in a specific location for any creeper to find us! It took some effort then. Now it’s stupid-easy! There are 50,000 predators online looking for easy targets (Child Rescue Network).
I bought the girls The Care and Keeping of You last summer and reading through it was a lifesaver when it came to talking to them about important care-taking topics. There’s a second, more sensitive, advanced book that I’ve decided to walk through with our 12-year-old, and all I can do is pray for the wisdom to keep the conversation easy, open, and honest. Her sister is only 16 months younger. Between social media and the polarization of genders in the last 20 years, creating a paradigm of freedom and expression is going to be the crowning achievement of raising these girls. There are too many ways to keep secrets and feel ashamed. They have to be able to talk to me about things they see and hear and experience. And I have to be able to shepherd them.
I’m not allowed to be a bad parent.
That’s another thing they don’t tell Foster parents and Legal Guardians. Bio parents are allowed to screw up themselves and their kids and people just say, “It’s hard to be a parent.” But if you’re raising someone else’s kids, you have a to be a pro. It’s like being an estate manager. You’re allowed to go bankrupt if it’s your house, and people say, “Times are tough.” But if you fail to properly steward someone else’s assets, you can be charged with criminal intent!
Asking questions seems to be the most effective method way to parent. I wanted to send her to a nunnery at dinner last week when she answered, “I don’t know. We get together?” I think I stayed cool. I asked her again yesterday about what happens when a boy likes her and she likes him, and I got the same response:
“I don’t know.”
“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it right now – if you feel like it’s embarrassing. But if you’re not ready to talk about it, then you’re probably not ready to ‘get together’ with anyone and start dating.”
All the while I’m thinking, “Oh dear God, why am I talking to my 12-year-old about dating!? How did this happen!? She was a baby… yesterday! Now I’m explaining hormones and personal hygiene when you’re on your period and why we’re going to wait a while to use tampons. And I have to talk about it like it’s the most natural thing. She has to know that it’s normal. She has to not be ashamed of talking about it. How the hell do I do this!? What words do I use? The world is changed and I have to protect her, but how much do I say? She’s just a child!”
But she isn’t anymore. Is she?