Friday, April 30, 2010

A new discovery!

[Note: Previously published on my blog: My Two Cents]

BOYS!!! From what S tells me, the whole sixth grade gang of girls has discovered them. Only as preteen girls of 11 and 12 can :) Some are "going steady" some have "boyfriends" and some, like S, just like a boy from afar. In her own words - "I only LIKE him. It's not like I LOVE him or anything. Or that I cannot live without him". Well, I am glad to see you still have your head on your shoulders honey :P What makes things more interesting is that T, the boy S likes, is "going out" with D who is one of S' good friends. But S claims that it doesn't bother her because she only likes T and doesn't expect him to like her back. Sigh! I never expected that kind of level-headed thinking from any of MY girls!!

This all came out last night when I mentioned in the passing that I had heard a girl we know, "A" (who is in sixth grade as well), had a boyfriend. I was immediately provided with the intricate details of who is going out with whom, who likes whom and who broke up with whom. After that session I could feel my head swimming. There is no way I can keep up with these preteens' busy social lives!

That also brought a question from S. "What would your reaction be if I told you that I have a boyfriend?" I can't say that I wasn't expecting it. Or I should say I was prepared with an answer - only, I was not expecting it this early. I told S I'd be fine with it as long as she doesn't hide it from me and her dad. I also wanted to tell her that if she feels ashamed or nervous about introducing a boy to us, he probably is not boyfriend material but I thought I'd leave that for later discussions. 

I know some of our friends will probably be shocked at the "westernized" way we are bringing our daughter up. Good Indian girls don't have boyfriends. They don't even know about the birds and the bees until they get married :) Okay, so they are not THAT innocent but going by the reaction of a few parents in our group, to mentions of boyfriends and kissing etc. it is clear that, according to them, Indian girls should maintain their "Indian-ness". They should not blindly follow the western culture. Never mind that they are living in the freaking middle of the said culture. And truthfully, I have come across plenty of American moms who are pretty worried about keeping their girls away from boys. One such mom mentioned to me that she doesn't remind her daughter about a friend (who is a boy, of course) whom she grew up with because, FRANKLY, she doesn't want her thinking about boys yet.

Edited to add: On second thought, maybe some of these friends don't exactly think that an Indian girl should not have a boyfriend. Maybe they, like me, think it is too early at 11/12 to think of boyfriends. But I say you cannot stop them from thinking. You can only control your reaction to it and with it, hopefully, still make your kids secure enough to come and confide in you.

Well, I have news for you mom!! If your daughter is a sixth grader, she IS thinking about boys. She was probably thinking about them in fifth grade too. (I had my first crush at the ripe old age of 10!!) Maybe she still has that innocence and isn't thinking of having a boyfriend yet, but the other girls around her ARE thinking and talking about boys so, believe me, your daughter is too. In that case wouldn't it be better to keep the communication channels open and LET your daughter talk (and think out loud) about boys a little? Just so you can provide a little guidance to her at an age when she needs it the most. Now, I think this American mom is pretty cool and is probably already doing all this. (S thinks she is AWESOME!!!!!! - all the exclamation marks and the bold print intended :P) Maybe she just mentioned it to me as the way of expressing an opinion about such young girls dating. But I do see this attitude in many other parents - specially within our Indian circle. NO boys! NO sex! NO drugs! NO alcohol! Well, I do agree that our kids are better off without the latter three. But I am not naive enough to believe that just because I say no, my child will comply. So I make sure that I say no, I explain why and then I also tell her that she can still come to me if she does slip and make a mistake. I tell her it is okay to talk about ANYTHING with me. I show her that she can talk to me about anything by not having a strong negative reaction to something she tells me, no matter how much it shocks me. By making her feel secure that no matter what she says to me, I will not judge her.

One couple is determined to return to India by the time their older child turns 6 or 7 just because "the Western influence spoils the kids here and then they are no longer under your control". I could argue against this point on so many levels! First - Western influence spoils the kids??! For the record, I have seen enough American kids who have their heads screwed on right, and have the right priorities. I have also seen Indian kids born and brought up in America who make the right choices and have some sense. I know that kids in India are not entirely free of the "Western influence". There are as much drugs and sex problems among teens in India as there are here. Second - WHY would you want your kids under your (absolute) control?? [The friend in question mentioned that in India neighbors and relatives can help you keep an eye on the kids and report everything they do, to you. That IS absolute control in my opinion] Your job as a parent should be to teach them the right values, point them in the right direction and let them find their own path. And be there to support them when they stumble or fall. Your job, as a parent, is NOT to MAKE their path for them. Or to be the sentry on that path, keeping a strict eye and preventing them from making any mistakes. In my opinion, mistakes help us grow as a person, but that is neither here nor there and certainly not the point of this post. Third - do they expect their kids to escape all these influences in India??! And do they think they cannot influence their own kids during their formative years here, in America?? Kids look up to us a lot more than they let on, really.

So, to come back to the post, S and I talked about a lot of things.  At one point she told me about a girl in her class who has already been "through FIVE boyfriends!!" I took that opportunity to explain to S that given their age and inexperience in life in general, it IS a good idea not to bind yourself to or to go steady with just one person. If you don't hang out with a number of friends (who are boys), how WILL you know if the boy you like and want to go steady with, IS your kind of boy? 

I also met with her guidance counselor at school to discuss some recent teasing S had been subjected to. When I told him that S had come to me and told me about the teasing his first comment was "You must be doing a great job if your daughter still comes to you to discuss her problems at this age". It hit me then! Maybe my attempts at keeping the communication channels open ARE working! All I need to do now is KEEP them open. 

Easier said than done!

What about you? How do you keep the communication going between yourself and your children? What would your reaction be if your 11 year old daughter came to you and said she likes a boy? Or if your 12 year old son came and told you he likes a girl? What DO you think about middle school kids and dating? I personally think it is too early at 11 or 12 but I also know that my saying so will not deter them. (Having friends of the opposite sex is okay in my eyes) Share your strategies with me. I am new at this "parenting a preteen" gig!!

16 comments:

Rashmi Mudiyanur said...

Hey, this is indeed an intriguing post! This is making me start thinking about my 14 month old daughter, well this day is not too far away for us as parents :-) Firstly, I would pat my back if ever she came and revealed about her boy friend at this age, cos she thinks she can trust me and that would mean she will trust me with whatever guidance I can offer her..One of my motto for bringing her up as been to show her the right path so she can trace it all by herself without us having to overlook her steps at each stage :-)

Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal said...

Wow, that is scary, pre-teen girls and biling/loving/going out with boyz. Good luck with keeping the channels open and I am glad that your girl is so, shall I say "mature" at this age?

Mumtaz said...

I have 4 boys and no girls, all grown up now. When they were in junior high we tried to explain to them that these American kids have girl friends but good desi boys don't. Plus Allah will not be happy. To my pride I saw that they were not interested in girls. They had a lot of friends, girls included, but no girl friends. Now fast forward 15 years. The oldest is 27 and still not married. I beg him, beta please have mercy on me, make a girl friend and choose some one. They all say they are not ready yet. They want to wait till their thirties. And then I wonder if I scared them off away from girls too early? Is it my fault, or are they just being regular American guys? I don't know.

Kay said...

I too, think you are doing a great job in keeping the communication open!

Boys are an inevitable part of life for girls and I think it is actually good for the girls to have boyfriends in their teenage or pre-teen so that they can get to know their opposite gender and know what kind of guy they want.

GettingThereNow said...

Rashmi - LOL! Yeah this day isn't as far for even you as you might think. They grow up way too fast - and I mean that in a "awww! my baby is all grown up on me" kind of way :D

GettingThereNow said...

Priya: Thanks. It used to bother me a lot earlier, but now that I am in the middle of it myself, I think I am not as scared. I still think it is too fast but I also think that the best we can do is go with the flow and adapt ourselves to the situation.

GettingThereNow said...

Mumtaz: Nah! Don't blame yourself. If they are not ready for a married life yet, so be it. It is good if they want to be financially stable and emotionally ready (if those are their reasons).

GettingThereNow said...

Kay: Thanks! And I agree!

Dee said...

Just have a comment on "Indian-ness" in girls..I am from Chennai, considered to be a conservative city - I know 3 "good girls" that have boyfriends and have done 'second base', that are hiding it from parents. I would call these ppl that think going back to India will make their daughters get 'Indian ness', as naive ..what else can I say!

GettingThereNow said...

Dee - Exactly!! Kids anywhere in the world will try all this at this age. We can only try and make sure they don't get any wrong information and don't make any wrong decisions. As for the "Indian-ness" I don't know what the term even means to these people.

Vinolia said...

hi,
I'm completely in this topic right now..
this subject is amusing but at the same time making me nervous, hehehe

I have a 11 yr old boy , just perfect .. but just came to know through one of his scribblings somewhere in his notebook that he loves Sarah... hehee I was surprised as he's someone who hangs around most of the time with boys than girls as he's fed up with the girl he's already with all the time (his younger sis who is 7 now)... I just asked him who, how and where she was... questions just came up so fast that at first he was somewhat embarrassed.. then we explained to him that there's nothing wrong in having a girlfriend but of course his priorities should be in his studies and school before anything else...
I mean to say that I totally accept your views about educating your kid; it's better to let them feel at ease to open up frankly than shouting at them and leave them to be in their shells...

we (my husband & I)prefer explaining things when it is time.. we keep up or stick to the traditional Indian upbringing too (we fix some boundaries that are not supposed to be surpassed) we show them the example whenever possible too...
I think we can very well educate our children like how we want wherever we live... whatever influences there might be around us, the important thing for us is to show or fix them some limits and kids cling-on to those habits while they grow...
I think even in India, things have changed and should I even say, that it's kinda sudden change to our culture...this generation would probably even loose the sense of our origin and traditions if they simply try to copy the Western culture...
maybe it's too early to pronounce anything ( for me) as my kids are too young.. but as long as we parents keep our ears open for them, there shouldn't be any problem...

anyway, that's a nice post!!! cheers!!!

GettingThereNow said...

Vinolia - Thanks.Your approach seems sane and effective. BTW, I am just curious, what are the "boundaries" you want your kids to stay within? And what is "traditional upbringing" in your eyes? Just curious to know. We are trying to do the same - I just want to compare notes :P

bird's eye view said...

Hey, Cee, Guess what! My son, Chubbocks, told me last year at age 5 that all his friends at school were 'taking a crush' on different girls in their class. And that one boy had 'proposed' to a girl and that they were now engaged!!!

So I'm just hoping I can keep communication channels open and have him and my other kids confide in me when the time comes, so I can help them make the right decisions...I know what I was like, growing up in a relatively sheltered environment so there's no point thinking my kids aren't going to go through the same things, maybe at an even younger age ( tho' 5 is pushing it!!!)

I like your attitude to your kids - it's really healthy and in the long term it'll help retain a loving relationship with them. I do have a cousin living in the US whose college-going daughter has never dated, never been to a school dance, and lives at home. Her parents say that if she needs to go elsewhere for her Msters, they'll move with her. WHOA!!!


Sorry about the loong comment

GettingThereNow said...

BEV: Nah!! Don't say sorry. I enjoy the comments!

WHOA!! is right. I mean I do joke that I will move with my daughter when she goes to college but I know I am only joking. I am all for kids to go out on their own once they are in college. Will I be heartbroken when she leaves? Yes. But I definitely won't follow her to college.

And you are right - 5 is definitely pushing it! What else can we do except keep up with these kids and be ready when THEY are ready? Nahi?

LOL! But "taking a crush" sounds SO cute!! That too, at the ripe old age of 5? Sigh! Too cute!

Monica said...

Hi,
I think you are doing an awesome job communicating with your daughter.I have a 8 year old daughter. She claims to have crushes on some of her classmates. What I have often told her is that she should certainly be friends with boys, but it's a little early to start having boyfriends. There will be plenty of time for that later on in life. So just keep life simple for now. I don't know if things will change when she's 12-13 years old and if she will still talk to me about boyfriends and crushes and such.
But, i agree that kids should make a few mistakes of their own and hopefully learn some life lessons from them. I don't think hearing about these experiences second had has quite the same impact as experiencing them firsthand. Besides, wouldn't it be strange (and suspicious) if a person went through their entire life without having feelings of this kind :-D.
-Monica

GettingThereNow said...

Thanks Monica! I am sorry for the late reply - I just procrastinated until it was no longer funny :P:P

"But, i agree that kids should make a few mistakes of their own and hopefully learn some life lessons from them. I don't think hearing about these experiences second had has quite the same impact as experiencing them firsthand."

You are SO right!