Monday, 16 April 2007

"Tweens" published April 15

It used to be hilarious to describe your child as “16 going on 25!” Oh that used to get a right old laugh in the old days, the thought that a child might think she was older than she actually is. Hilarious. But it gets less funny when your child is nine, going on 25. When she regularly stops at a local café for a hot chocolate with her other nine-year-old friends. When she sits on the end of your bed and earnestly discusses the finer details of mascara application.
“You’re not allowed to wear make-up, you’re too young,” I say.
“Oh I know Mum, I totally hear what you’re saying, but there’s nothing wrong with getting in a bit of practice in my own time is there?”Where did my baby go?
And who operated on her overnight and transplanted her delightful Kiwi accent and unique colloquialisms like “bro” and “mate” with an American twang and the constant overuse of the word “like” as in “like I told her like I just didn’t think like that was like exactly what she meant like.” Not to mention the screeching. High pitched squeals accompanied by jumping on the spot and throwing arms in the air with joy just because the cat walked into the room.
“This house is not an American sit com,” I say 10 times a day. “We are not American, we do not shout when we talk and we do not call each other ‘dude’ and ‘girlfriend.’ Please talk in your normal voice.”
“Like totally chill out okay Mum,” comes the reply followed by the more meaningful “Are you stressed out with work, is that it? Do you want to take a break and talk about it?”When did a counsellor move into my baby?
Of course my daughter is manifesting all the signs of a new breed called the Tween. Kids aged eight to 12 who are old before their time. Who practice squeezing zits long before a pimple is even contemplating erupting on their perfect skin. Who know about the complexities of relationships and having a bad day, before they’ve had either.
She wants a mobile phone. She’s not getting it. She likes to eat sushi and prefers it over McDonalds. She happily contributes to adult conversations with astonishing knowledge gleaned from the History channel and reading the newspaper every day. In the old days the word “nerd” would have been rearing its ugly head, but today it’s all about the Tween. Her father and I look at each other with tight smiles of pride mixed with white hot fear. We never had this with the other kids. Did someone activate a nuclear bomb without us knowing and produce these mutant children?
The other kids showed a nagging preference for designer labels at her age but that was about it. They were essentially running, jumping, laughing, silly mites until they turned 13, woke up one morning and gave us a funny look. A look which said “what the hell is happening to me all of a sudden?” That we know how to deal with.
Fortunately our Tween seems to have skipped over the desire to wear G strings and underwear which say “Tease Me!” possibly because they were never allowed into the house. But more likely because she is already “over” the desire to look like Britney and Paris. Our Tween leaves the house looking more like her older brothers and sisters in her own deconstructed Op Shop boho look. I could live with out the ripped jeans and the tangled hair but I’m just thankful she’s not wearing a bra, baring her midriff and shaking her ass in low riders.
And despite the occasional drift into the precocious pit she’s a neat kid. Fun to have around, organises her homework, does what she’s told, wakes up with a smile and never tidies her room. Rather like a little adult.
Oh God where did my baby go?
We wonder what will happen when she turns 13. Will she get less of a shock because she’s had all that practice actually being a teenager before her time or will she crumple into a heap because her new life of hormones and emotional roller coasters just isn’t like it is on the American sitcoms. Where after half an hour of being bullied by a school friend, having to deal with a humungous zit and not getting the cute guy she’s got a crush on, everything is sorted and smoothed out in time for a happy ending before the final credits.

No comments: