I remember the exact moment I realized my daughter was no longer a kid.
I was walking alongside her while we were out shopping. I turned to look at her and suddenly I saw that she was no longer a little girl holding my hand. She was a tween. Almost overnight, she went from being a child to a peer—she rivalled me in height and it felt like I was shopping with a friend. Around the same time, she started becoming interested in straightening her hair and wearing specific brand-name clothes.
She knew every app on her phone and could hold a conversation with any adult in the room. She ordered a Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks with so much confidence, my husband didn’t question it. However, while she knew of the drink, what she didn’t know was that it was coffee. As soon as she took a sip, she wrinkled her nose in such a way that her real age showed through.
Adults feeling like their kids are growing up too fast is nothing new. Yet these days it seems that with technology, our digital-age-kids are doing everything quicker and are exposed to so much more. While children of the 90s may have had absentee parents, today you could be sitting right beside your child, and still, they’re exposed to the world on their smartphones. They could be engaging in questionable or risky behaviour even while you’re present. Navigating constant cell phone use and social media accounts is a new frontier for parents, and we have no previous generation to model. The result? Being aware of what your kids are doing online can be an exercise in trial and error.
My own teens have a combination of more responsibilities and guidelines to follow, and less at the same time. We try to create guidelines around their digital content consumption, but we are realistic about how much we can adequately control. We utilize rules such as a cutoff time at night for cell phone usage—no phones in the bedrooms at night—and other common sense things such as no phones at the dinner table. We do encourage our kids to walk places on their own, take public transit and have jobs to earn their own money. It’s a balance of letting them try things on their own and maintaining enough authority so that they always think of what the consequences might be if they don’t follow the rules. Like parents of any generation, we are constantly evolving and trying to keep ahead of them as much as possible.
Once you have crossed into the next stage of your kids physically appearing like young adults, it can be easy to start treating them as such. Generally, they are much more knowledgeable about current events and culture, so having a coffee date—with or without actual coffee—can be really pleasant. I have to remind myself that they are still kids and they want to feel safe and secure with their mom, so some topics are off limits.
Both of my girls are taller than me now, and we all share clothes and shoes and shopping with them can feel like I am out with two of my girlfriends—with the one very important exception being that I have to pay for everything!