My daughter is twelve, and like many almost-teen girls is enthralled with the idea of makeup, straightening her wavy hair, and wearing the latest in grown-up fashions. Friends. Oh, and Justin Bieber. She’s flattered by the recent interest boys are showing in her budding figure, but doesn’t yet possess the understanding that sixth grade boys have no clue how to look her in the eye and say hello. Sure, they text and hang out in groups nearby, sending a brave runner to relay messages that often lose much in translation.
I’ve recently decided that it’s time to really step in. I don’t mean dip my toes in the waters of the eye-rolling, “whatever, Mom” periphery. She’s a smart child. Keyword, “child.” My latest conversation amid the push of “Mom, I don’t want to talk right now” came just before spring break. She was headed to Panama City with a close family friend for the week. It was important that she understand how such a crowded beach outside her normal safe zone meant exposure to new situations.
“Stay with your group,” I said. “I know, Mom,” she said in the exasperated tone. But I began a new series of dialogue we’d never approached. I spoke of her looking older, wearing bikinis, makeup and how older boys were very different and much less indirect in their ways of communicating. I went in to how on vacations people tended to throw caution to the wind and do and say things more boldly, believing ‘what happens in Florida stays in Florida.’ The whole fling mentality.
She appeared horrified, but my child really began to listen. I decided the time had come. I went in to a very frank explanation of how strong boys’ libidos are as teens, and how much of their words and actions are dictated by the desire for sex. Procreation is a very base motivation for girls too. I allowed that boys like girls in many other ways and have crushes too, but as she gets older she must be the one in control and make decisions to avoid compromising situations. No, not all boys are driven solely by their libidos, but it’s an undeniable fact that girls should be made aware of. I have two sons, and I preach respect for girls constantly. But girls have to say no. Especially young girls. Sex has strings. No one gets away unscathed.
I didn’t take away her young notion of the excitement of a boy liking her for the first time or the blush of first romance. I let her know those things are wonderful and completely normal. And that they are special for both boys and girls.
It begins with makeup, clothes, flirting with boys. Reputation. They must understand how these things lead to the things they don’t know yet. The next things and how they are connected. Childhood lasts but a few years. When it’s over, you’re expected to behave like a grownup for the rest of your life. Wipe off the mascara and go play.
Once you see something, you can’t unsee it. Once you do something, you can’t undo it. I remember this age, and I wouldn’t re-live it for anything.
Best to anyone raising teens. I have one in college and two in middle school.