As a mum of an 11-year-old daughter who is about to embark on secondary school this September, I’m already exceptionally nervous about what the rest of the year has to hold. Having completed this same journey, I can’t help but hear my mum when I speak the words, “It’s different now to when I was 11”, but I really think it is.
It was almost a quarter of a century since I started my summer holidays, anticipating everything the secondary school would have to offer. Looking back I remember the bell bottom trousers that had come back into trend, the stylish satchel bag and plenty of scrunchies. I begged for the a new pencil case and to not have to take my PE kit in a carrier bag, and that was about it.
As a parent, I feel that over the next six weeks I have the challenge of preparing my daughter in many more ways than she has been at school, educating her on puberty, periods, relationships, sex education, social media, Santa and even what’s “cool”.
The summer preparation is now about having the latest phones and what social media accounts they are allowed to be on. I was older when I began to worry about some things, and of course we didn’t have the technology they have access to today. I’m fortunate that so far she has had no interest in make-up, still believes in the tooth fairy, but I also feel that if I leave her without some conversations, I’m leaving her in a naive and a vulnerable position to starting school.
Sadly my mum and mother-in-law are no longer with us so I often wonder what their advice would be. When do I talk to her about shaving her legs and plucking her eyebrows? When do I allow her to have social media accounts? Is it too soon or too late to discuss relationships and contraception? When do kids start discussing alcohol and drugs? The thing is I think my mum was winging it too. I’m sure my mum went back and forth deciding what age was right and eventually just caved in.
My daughter’s worries aren’t the same as when I was at school, she’s better on an iPad than me and thinks she can Google the answer to everything in a matter of seconds. A pencil case is almost redundant and the uniform is so strict now, so she doesn’t have to worry about the latest trend.
There’s no manual for any age and she will probably lead the way with most of the upcoming conversations. I’m looking forward to my summer with her and enjoying these moments. After some of the horror stories I’ve heard, come September, I might not see her again until Christmas, and only know she’s there from the occasional grunt from her room. Of course I’m convinced she’ll be different, be honest and open with me about everything, exceed in school and think I’m a cool mum, but in reality I know this is unlikely.
As much as I love being close and being her “friend”, I know that my time as her parent is about to be tested and I’ll see a new side of both of us emerge, hopefully both compromising along the way. I’m hope I’m not the only parent feeling like this or I’m just going to have to fake it and pretend that I have it all in hand.