January 19, 2010

"One more year from being a child? ...

... That does not sound like growing!"

(from Richard Bach's There's No Such Place as Faraway)

An ongoing discussion in our household is when to allow certain privileges. Sometimes the law mandates such discussions a moot point. My children cannot drive until they are 16 nor can they vote in elections or get married.

Some of the other privileges are more ambiguous. It is not easy to determine the age when certain privileges are granted. My firstborn had to wait an inordinate amount of time before we allowed her to have contact lenses. Movies were another issue; we only saw G rated movies for several years. I remember the first PG movie we went to see, at age 5 and 7. PG because a minor character dies offscreen. I wasn't too concerned, and rather was excited to see my little ones growing up and it was an animated remake of a childhood favorite of my own, Treasure Island.

It proved to be an error in judgment. We got fast food toys that tied into the movie during lunch before the show. My 5 year old was thrilled with her little guy and couldn't wait to see what sort of character he was. You guessed it. He was the one who died. After the movie, she declared she would never smile again.  As I heard her announce that, my heart fell. A month later, she did decide to smile again, and even chose the movie as her birthday theme, which helped me feel much better about my decision.

Since that moment, I've tried to be mindful of age appropriate privileges, to weigh parental responsibility against peer pressure. No cosmetics until 7th grade, but leg shaving came when they started to feel self-conscious; no age discussions even took place. It's a delicate balance to walk. No dating until 10th grade, but they can go places in groups with both boys and girls.

Our latest issue is about the social network site Facebook. My 12 year old insists all her friends have one except her. Without one, her social opportunities are stunted. Indeed, I have some of her friends on my own page, and also I see they have fudged their age. I'm torn on this one. While I see nothing inherently dangerous or wrong with participating in such a venue, I also do not want to endorse lying about her age. It may seem harmless today, but I wonder how it will seem if she's "just fudging her age" a bit as a young adult to get into nightclubs? I also stress the opposite side and refuse to misrepresent their age to get a meal or admission discount.

I wrote last week on another blog how sometimes just the answer "because I said so" is adequate. This however, seems to be the opportunity for a deeper discussion. I'm not likely to change my mind, but I am hoping to make my stance more clear. Under the category of knowing what I know now, there is indeed a time for everything. We have the rest of our lives to do the adult things. I often tell my kids that now is the time for them to do things only kids can do, like be in marching band or speech and debate or school plays. My time has passed for those things, but I don't want them to miss it because they are too busy using their time doing things they have the rest of their lives to do.

What about you, my reader friends? What are you age limits for certain privileges?


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