I remember what it was like to be 12. Honestly – I really do. I had been living in Oakville for three years, made some amazing friends, got a new bike and the world was mine to explore. We still called on each other to come out and play. We still played with Barbies and Jumpsies and had begun to discuss boobs and bras and boys. The key word being begun. The “older” kids started going around with each other but it was basically innocent. Have things ever changed.
My daughter is 12 going on 22. She is simultaneously wise and childish. She is creative, funny, intelligent, active, annoying and bordering on permanent PITA (pain in the ass) status some days. She is of medium height and takes after her mother in the early blossoming department. She’s had crushes and been crushed upon. She notices boys and I know they notice her. As far as I know and as far as she had lead me to believe, that is the extent of it. I choose to believe this with my eyes wide open.
The other day, after having attended a local dance, she opened my eyes even wider. Like bugging out my head wider. Like holy moly what is the world coming to wider. When my daughter has something to discuss with me that is of a sensitive nature, she tends to dance around it for a bit. She hints and hovers and giggles until I finally pay enough attention for her to begin the conversation. I do this intentionally so I don’t turn it in to a big deal and so I’m not intimidating to come to. It probably works in reverse but she keeps coming to me so something is working.
The topic that night was her friend who is also 12 and attends the local dances with her. These dances are for 8-14 year olds (although who in their right mind sends an 8 year old to a dance?) and are monitored by an outside agency. There is adult supervision, the music is monitored and apparently behavior is monitored as well. Apparently this particular 12 year olds behaviour is slipping under the radar and has my daughter a bit concerned. This 12 year old ? This child ? This little girl who should be playing with Barbies and riding her bike ? She is “macking” with boys at the dance and at least two of them remained nameless until they were done with the “macking”. For those of you not in the know, macking is making out with tongues in public. At 12. OH MY JUMPIN’ JESUS !
So in a calm manner we discuss this situation. We cover appropriate choices, body ownership, peer pressure, etc. Then the big bomb drops: as this girl is macking with whatever boy has asked her to dance, people are taking pictures. Oh crap. Gone are the days of 35mm where you had to wait a week to get the pictures developed and even that was hampered by being willing to hand over your allowance to get the pics in the first place. Now anyone with a decent cell phone has at least 4 mega pixels to capture the monkey business of whomever they please with paparazzi-like zeal. And I can guarantee you that just like the paparazzi, they are not asking this girls’ permission nor getting her to sign a release.
A couple of days later this little girl comes over to my house under the guise of working on a science project. I strongly suspected that my daughter had staged a type of intervention normally reserved for those battling heroin or alcohol addiction. At the very least, she knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt her mother had no qualms having a discussion with this young lady about her choices. For those of you who may be audibly gasping at my audacity you can be assured I observed the line of appropriateness.
A short while after arriving, this young girl and my daughter make their way in to the kitchen where I am preparing their supper. Without further ado, this young girl looks at me and says “Do you think I am a slut ?”. Gotta tell ya – was not expecting that one. While I can be thrown for a loop and respond with less than full filter in gear, I will congratulate myself that I answered in a calm and supportive manner. Inside ? Well there were what the hells going on all over the place.
What transpired over the next hour or so involved a lot of discussion regarding personal choices, personal space, respecting yourself and reputation. Given my current status as a student and my study of social media, this was the biggest point I brought up. To make a long story short, I walked her through how many contacts she had on her phone and Facebook and how that translated in to further connections. I then pointed out that based on our calculations within 10 minutes of her macking with some guy at a dance, over 11,000 people would have access to free pictures of her swapping spit that people around her were graciously preserving for posterity on the internet. Her jaw hit the table on the way to the floor.
The discussion continued as I attempted to hammer home the importance of thinking before doing, etc. I pointed out that the main difference between doing this type of thing now and doing it when I was 12 was that it stayed at the dance 30 years ago. Now it goes viral almost instantly. The only people that would judge you 30 years ago were those you went to school with or maybe one school over. Now kids from the whole region could weigh in on the situation and judge you before you even met them. Given that these girls have another year before highschool and therefore another year of opportunities to pull boneheaded stunts like this, I cautioned them about starting a rep before even hitting those hallowed halls.
It was also during this discussion that I found out that this girls mother had no idea of what was truly going on. However given that her advice to her 12 year based on what she did know was to “stick to kissing”, I wonder how effective she would be if she indeed had all the facts. I will confess that if I found out my 12 year was macking with some pimply faced bag of hormones that she’d only met 2 hours before, God alone would be the only thing to preserve her butt. I need a couple more years before I hear news like that.
My hope is that after our discussion that this young girl gives more serious thought to her actions and their consequences. I also hope this mother somehow gets the message that her daughter is heading down a path to reputation annihilation. It would sadden me if this girl is judged and labeled before she even has a chance to become a teenager. Her innocence is already gone and I doubt Barbies or Jumpsies will ever make a resurgence in her life. I can only hope that in reaching out for direction, she will find her way back to 12 before it’s too late.