Something unexpected happened over the summer. Something I knew would happen one day. But, I’ll admit, I was unprepared for it to happen this soon. Call me naïve.
Girls have been calling our house.
They want to speak to our son, to have a little chat about nothing in particular. He watches me watching him while he speaks simple yes and no responses into the phone. He hangs up and smiles at me. I’m not amused.
I’m not amused because our son is 10 years old. My husband and I have talked to our kids about relationships, values and respecting women. But when we said those things, we thought we were ahead of the game. We didn’t imagine those discussions applying to girls and boys still in elementary school. I was caught off guard. Unsure how to say, “No, this isn’t happening,” in a way that still keeps family communication honest and open.
I sought the advice of a parent whose values mirror my own. She offered some words to use with my son. Something like, “One day, son, you’ll have girlfriends and I’ll welcome them with open arms.” (I choked just a little when repeating the open arms part.) “But, today is not that day. You’re not ready for this right now. And trust me. Even if girls your age say that they are ready for this, they are not. So, you need to delay calling girls or having girls call you for a bit longer. Enjoy this time. Don’t rush, blah, blah…”
Speaking of girls who think that they’re ready to grow up, another friend recently reached out for advice when her daughter said she wants to start wearing makeup.
“Everybody is doing it,” is a common refrain from kids. This particular young lady is going into sixth grade.
Another friend is mother to a high school student with a serious girlfriend. This mom took a bit of razzing by other adults when she wouldn’t let her boy stay home alone with the girlfriend. “He’ll be off to college in a year,” they said. “You can’t stop them. So why try?”
Really? Is that the answer from here on out? You can’t stop them, so let them do whatever? Even if whatever goes against your values? Um, no.
“How soon is too soon” is a common parental concern for everything from high heels to tongue piercings. Just don’t get caught flat-footed like I did. Everything you thought you would need to discuss with your child one day, should probably be today. Seek the advice of like-minded friends or attend a parenting class offered by at church, your pediatrician’s office or through community education.
Support from others is a tool you’ll need for helping you parent according to your values—instead of how “everybody else is doing it.”