Often times I agonize and dwell over the fact that my kids are growing up so fast, too fast. I look deep into their eyes, and for a brief moment I see them as babies holding up their milk bottle while looking back into my eyes; as toddlers inquisitive and curious , their eyes asking questions about the fast paced and loud world around them. Then, seconds later, I zoom out of my precious memories and see them today, freckles around their noses, smelling of dirt, sweaty foreheads, big teeth, too big for their little faces.
I am proud to say I have enjoyed each and every moment with them, growing up, growing smarter, defining those very clear personalities they each have. Despite the fact that I have never stopped working out of the home, I can say I have been there- so far- every step of the way. That even though I have a ridiculous number of photos in my laptop , with triple online backup, I also have them imprinted in my mind.
But is it also true, I DO want to slow down time, or freeze a moment every now and then, because I know tougher times are coming: Middle School, and before we know it, High School and all that follows-all in a breeze.
My daughter – age 9 now- has been developing all too fast, a sense of sensuality, along with the dreaded Hollywood prototypes with its empty and vain concepts of beauty and female perfection. Who do I blame,? None other than media: music videos, commercials, unnecessarily explicit ads, and sadly, movies. Even animated ones, yes. This past summer, she came down the stairs one morning ready to go to school – or so she thought- wearing a T-Shirt that was tied on one side with a hair band, making it look like it was knotted, resulting in an exposed mid-reef. I stared at the whole outfit for a few seconds, debating, struggling on how to approach this situation, which was not the first one, and most definitely wouldn’t be the last.
How to you tell a 9 year old that exposing her body like that is not acceptable, when she is not yet fully aware of what dirty looks are, about the image she portrays as a girl, about respecting her body. It’s a tough one, at least for me, to make her lose a bit of her innocence and naivety because of how our world is these days, because there are registered predators within blocks of our house, because of the sick and disturbed human nature of some.
Looking at her tiny waist, her half exposed belly (she has a 6-pack already due to her gymnastics!), I observed that she was wearing a Hello Kitty belt, hot pink, metallic, with a Hello Kitty Head as a buckle. Of course! She is only 9.
I half smiled to myself, and had a little chat with her about appropriate dress code, not only for school, but for her age. Confused a bit, she agreed to take the fake knot off and told me some girls wore T-Shirts like that. She never really understood what age had to do with it.
After this one event, both my husband and I have sent her back to her room at least half a dozen times to change. One has to stick to it and be consistent, so that is what we are trying to do. However, the “control” somewhat ends there. Once they are out of the house, other issues come into play that are more of a challenge to have a grip on.
Last week, we all went for an easy hike, together, as a family. These outdoor activities have turned out to be some the best to spend quality time moments with our kids. There are no phones, no videogames, no dancing and jumping and tumbling. No Noise. Just us, walking, climbing, having a small picnic or snack, talking. Every now and then, we split in pairs for a while. Walking only with 10 yr old son, he asked me how he could get his “crush” to like him. Again, I paused, thought and many, many things came to mind. The very first one: HOW AWESOME that he is asking me this, not a friend, not even his Dad ( he has always had the girls talks with me). Next I wondered, isn’t it too soon? But I immediately recalled my first crush, I was probably younger than him. So, to soon? No. Then, a question to myself was: how do I give him advice on being likable to a girl, while at the same time discourage him from thinking too much about girls?
Concluding that I could not control his thoughts anymore that I can control my need for Dark Chocolate, I took his question with an open heart and a smile and so started the chat about girls.
Because I have tried to participate in as many school activities as my job allows me to, I happen to know not only his “crush”, but this adorable girl’s Mom too. Just briefly, during a field trip to one of California’s Missions, I met them both. So I can understand why my son has been secretly admiring this girl for over a year. A year? Yes. My son told me he looked up on the internet how to make a girl like you, and the advice he found was “Let time do its work”. But he said “Mom, I have given time a whole year and nothing happened, so it is time I do something“ . This is how I found out his crush is that old. I was glad the advice he found was all good and clean. God knows he could have found the worst and nastiest advice at the tap of his fingers.
Later, than same day, my daughter , still 9, made a confession too. She was so uncomfortable and embarrassed, she waited until bedtime to talk. The precious time when I tuck her in, lay with her, in her tiny twin size bed (with my butt and one leg hanging off the edge at times), with lights off to start winding down we chat about the day, about life, about my childhood, about her grandparents, then pray, then I leave. So she chose this moment to tell me that some boys she has been hanging out with at recess, were having inappropriate conversations with her: it had been going on for days and she felt so dirty and guilty so couldn’t hold it in any longer. She provided me with details which made my head numb, she talked and I listed but my mind was going in slow motion, I couldn’t fathom the whole scene, the conversations that 9 or 10 year old boys were having. What is going on with people? Should I have seen this coming this soon?
Thankfully, over the last weeks of summer, my husband and I already talked to both kids about sex: from the reproductive system, how it all happens, how babies come to this world, briefly touching upon sexual relations. The focus was more on body changes and how babies are made. It was all very science-focused, a lot of drawings on our kitchen whiteboard (yes, next to the shopping list was a drawing of the female uterus and the menstruation sequence).
Despite my efforts to use mating and animals and keep it all serious, my kids and I ended up laughing hard because my drawing skills are TERRIBLE to put it lightly, so the penis and scrotum outlines fell into the humorous category. Oh well, some humor actually helped break the nervousness and embarrassment.
Because of this talk (and common sense), my daughter knew that the conversations these boys were trying to have with her, were out of line. I was -again- grateful she came to me and got it off her chest. Her heart was racing the whole time we chatted. After telling her several times she was not in trouble, she calmed down and went to sleep.
Me ? I was in bed, wide awake, thinking about the day’s events. My son had a 1 year old crush and wanted to be likeable. My daughter was told she is sexy and a boy wants to “do it” with her. Age came to mind. I felt 60 years old that night. A scary vision of High School came to mind, driving, alcohol, partying, drugs and all the chaos that usually comes with those years.
To top it off, that same afternoon my husband made a ship for the kids to play with, using leftover cardboard from a huge box we had in the garage. The illusion of them playing with it quickly dissipated. Apparently (I wasn’t there) they both went back to their games after briefly acknowledging it.
These are the subtle signs that come bite you (‘cuz it hurts) of how they are growing up fast, and they are no longer our “babies”.
Tired of looking at the soft blue glowing light from my night stand clock, I left my room at 1:30 am directly to where I now sit. I furiously typed an email to the school principal, detailing as much as possible. I (kindly) demanded she talked not only to the boys but to their parents as well. Only after that, I slept.
I am currently reading a book about a Helicopter mom, (mom’s that hover over their kids and take away their breathing space). I don’t believe I have ever been intrusive or overprotective, otherwise I wouldn’t have the honor of being my kids listening ear and soundboard when they are angry at the world.
However it doesn’t hurt to read about other moms’ mistakes (according to the author, that is why she wrote this novel about helicopter moms). While I promise myself to give them space, freedom of choice, and support when they need us parents there, I also intend to keep being involved -as much as they allow me- in their lives. Being there, is the difference sometimes between a happy child and a depressed child; between self confidence and feelings of inferiority; between feeling ignored and feeling loved and needed.
Like the cliche says: Time flies. So, let’s fly with it instead of watching it pass us by.