‘Yay, summer’s here!’ announced Molly and off she skipped to her room, returning moments later wearing little more than a sleeveless vest and cropped leggings, her long hair swept up in a bun. She does this every year; at the merest hint of sunshine, there she is decked out in all her summer finery, asking for the paddling pool to be filled up. I can’t knock her, I remember many an occasion when I’d toddle off to primary school with not so much as a cardigan or coat, full of the joys of the bright spring morning, only to come home with near-hypothermia as the unpredictable weather invariably took a turn for the worse and the dark, overcast sky cruelly mocked my flimsy little sundress.
Anyhow, along with Molly’s summer attire, came a little issue that up until this point, had literally been well tucked away – namely, when is it appropriate to let your daughter loose with a razor??
Last summer, Molly asked if she could start shaving her legs and I instantly refused, citing that she was far too young, that her legs weren’t hairy enough and that once she started it was the rocky road to ruin, that she’d be shaving all day, every day for the rest of her life. Basically, all the things a parent tells their kid when they don’t want to give them the real reason for saying no…….
….which in my case was that I wasn’t ready for Molly to take that small but not insignificant step into the adult world when she’d only just turned eleven.
Selfish aren’t I?
This year, however, is an entirely new ball game. Molly’s nearly twelve, she’s started high school and image is becoming more and more important. The physical and emotional changes I’ve seen in Molly and her friends in the short time since leaving primary school fascinate and terrify me in equal measures on a daily basis. Our little girls are clinging to a rapidly fading childhood by the tips of their brightly-painted nails, while their teenage years skulk impatiently in the shadows, just waiting to pounce at the first opportunity.
I had a little meltdown about this a while ago. Molly was upset about some things, she didn’t want to discuss them with me (ouch, that one really hurts) and our house was essentially one big mass of sulking hormones. So I did what any selfless, caring Mum does in instances such as these…..
…….I went out with my friends, got exceedingly drunk and ended up spilling my heart out. Now, I’m not normally one for asking for advice, mainly because I’m crap at giving it myself and also because I’m really indecisive, so if I receive conflicting opinions, I never know which one to plump for. On this occasion though, my dear friends Spam and Nicky both told me exactly the same thing and that was ‘stop trying to be Molly’s best friend’. They suggested that as Molly gets older, she needs her ‘proper’ friends to confide in – friends who understand the things that seem trivial to me but are a massive deal to her. Friends who use the same language as her (what the hell is ‘on fleek’ anyway?), friends who will talk endlessly about fashion and tell Molly that she looks great when all I can offer is ‘put your coat on love, it’s cold out there’. Friends who are going through the emotional complexities of being a twelve year old, just like Molly.
In return, Spam and Nicky carried on, I had to continue to always be there for Molly – even during those times when she seems to forget I exist – because there will be times when only her old Mum will fit the bill and I need to be there, waiting in the wings, ready for my big moment.
I’m slowly learning to back off but it’s not always easy. When I see Molly and her mates fall out, I have to resist the urge to get them all together and make them all ‘be friends’ again. When Molly doesn’t want to talk, I have to remove myself from the room rather than giving her the ‘What’s wrong? You can talk to me, you know’ treatment on a continual loop. And I do try to bear in mind that although fashion trends may come and go, any negative comments you make about your child’s experiments with their appearance will hang around for a heck of a lot longer.
So thank you Spam and Nicky, you don’t know how much you helped me that night – even if I did repay your kindness by knocking my full drink all over you. I only hope that those same friends that Molly needs right now are still there for her when she’s a drunken old lush like her mother.