Last night B came home talking about Harry Potter. She told me that she was in the "Slytherin" group (gasp!) in child care - apparently the counselor grouped them for homework time. I was o.k. with that Harry Potter reference. What worried me was when she started talking about "Death Eaters."
Let me start by saying that I am definitely NOT in the "book burning" camp. I am also, for the most part, not in the "book banning" group. I believe that it is the parents' responsibility and not that of the school, school district, librarian, teachers, principals, etc. to monitor what a child is reading and to decide what is and is not appropriate. That being said, I don't believe that my buddy Harry is appropriate for a first grader. That is not to say that Brooklyn would not be able to read it. She's already reading at a second or third grade level. Certain words might give her some trouble, but I think she'd get the gist of it. In fact, when she was a baby and would sleep curled up with me on the couch, I read her one of the books out loud. (Kensi and I are about 2/3 of the way through the first book.) Where possible and appropriate, I provided my own edits to the material for Brooklyn and am doing the same for Kensi.
But I digress. The real issue that I see developing, is my little 5 and a half year old first grader trying so hard to be "grown up," to run with the big kids and to get old before her time. Frankly, it scares me.
We've been told over and over how bright B is. We've been told how she is much more articulate than other children her age, how she has a "wiser than her years" ability to converse, using topics and words or phrases of those around her - and using them properly. She knows how smart she is, partly because people have been telling her that for many years. Regardless of how proud we are, we're scared too. This road is destined to lead to a massive backfire at some point.
An example: Brooklyn will hear someone in the grocery store saying something as we walk by. I will hear it too. Not ten seconds later, I will hear their words worked into our conversation, regardless of whether or not it applies. Another example: We tell Brooklyn that "she better hope..." (insert admonition here.) It will later come back to haunt us in the form of something like "Mom, you better hope that they still have tickets." Or, "you better hope that they will let us in." Sure, she doesn't know that when we said it, there was some kind of perceived threat behind it (such as, "you better hope that comes out of the carpet!') with the idea that if it doesn't, some consequence will result. But she doesn't see it that way. She hears words coming from Mommy and Daddy and other adults and views them as "grown-up speak." She thinks that if she uses that "grown up speak," that she will appear more grown up and will be seen as smarter. (At least, this is how I interpret it. Otherwise, I'd have to consider that she's just a little smart-ass, and then we'd all be in trouble!)
Part of the problem, I have determined, is that she is at Child Care in the afternoons with the big kids. She is taller and bigger than most of the kids in her class and has been for a long time. She finds it easier to fit in with girls who are older, because they are her size and because they can converse on her level. Sadly, they talk about things that she has no concept of, or shouldn't be talking about (i.e. "Death Eaters.") It scares me when my little girl comes home singing Rhianna songs ("all the single ladies" - or was that Beyonce? - but for that I blame the Chipmunks 2 movie) or Katy Perry (even though she was on Sesame Street) or the Dyna-Mite one. What happened to "if you can dream" with the princesses singing!?!
These days, I can have very intelligent conversations with my 5 year old, and usually am reminded shortly thereafter that she is only 5 and despite her amazing vocabulary and ability to understand so much, I have to be better at self-editing. Another example, if you will allow me: This past weekend we had to take Kensi in to have a test done. While driving to see her, Brooklyn asked if she had a similar test done. I explained that she did not, that when she was a baby we did not notice her doing some of the things that we saw Kensi do, and that she crawled and walked early, so we weren't paying as close attention to her muscle movements. Boy did that ever come back to bite me. When the tech came to disconnect Kensi from the test, she asked B how old she was. B answered that she was 5, and then for some reason, launched into a story, telling the tech the very same thing that I had told her in the car. yikes! I definitely need to tone down what I tell B.
Children these days are growing up too fast. I've said it before with respect to make-up and jewelry and cell phones. B asked me a month or two ago when she could have a computer. I told her that when she could take care of her other things and stop walking on toys and breaking things, that she could have a computer (but not, at least, until she was in junior high, I'm sure!) For an entire 2 days, she took good care of her things, and cleaned up her room and pointed these things out to me. Then she forgot all about it and went back to her usual "programming."
I look at things another way - this year, I will be 37 (ouch!) I will officially have spent more years out of my mother's house (19) than I did in (18.) (Although technically, I left home when I was 17.) I laugh -or cringe- when I think about all of the things I did not know when I left home. I also marvel at the fact that at the time, 18 seemed like a lifetime spent under Mom's thumb, growing up, getting through school and going to college. From this perspective, it was a blink of an eye, a flash of time. When I consider a mere 5 (or even 6) years through this spectrum, it is an incredibly short time to expect the things we expect from our children. When I look at B and think about all that she still has coming and all of the things that we will do over the next 11 years (before college,) I want to go back to those days of running around the back yard dressed up like a princess (or a cheerleader-ballerina-musketeer) and slow down time for just a little bit.
Of course there is no way to stop time, it marches on - all of those tired cliches. That doesn't stop me from wanting to keep her young just a little longer, to revel in her childhood before it is gone, replaced by those teen years that I don't even want to think about! So I will keep saying "NO!" when she asks about make-up or a phone or a computer; I will keep telling her that she doesn't need to talk like Mommy or Daddy or other adults; and I will keep smiling a secret little smile when she curls up and goes to sleep listening to Princess music, curled up with her teddy bear - my little baby once more, if only for just a few hours.