Is 8 the new 13?

“Forty is the new twenty.” I heard that on the Today show this week. I’m turning 40 this year and I’m fine with that, thank you very much. I don’t want to be 20 again. I was an idiot when I was 20. Sure, I may be flabbier now, but I’m also smarter, stronger and more confident.

But that statement on the Today show got me thinking about the paradox of age: when we are older we want to be younger and when we’re younger we want to be older. My 8-year-old daughter is a prime example. In spite of my efforts, she is growing up entirely too fast. Sometimes she seems too grown up to be 8. So I wonder, is 8 the new 13?

The first warning sign was when I heard Anna singing “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don’t you wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?”  Hearing those words come out of my little girl’s mouth made my jaw drop. Preparing myself for I don’t know what, but definitely something bad, I asked her where she’d heard that. She told me it was from the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. I exhaled, realizing she really didn’t understand what she was singing. Well, at least not the freak part anyway.

Warning number two occurred when she called me into my office to watch a video on my computer she’d found on You Tube. You Tube? I didn’t even know she knew what You Tube was, much less how to search something on it. Good lord, what could she be seeing there?

Then last week she and I went to get pedicures together as a special Mommy-daughter treat. On the way there we were discussing polish colors we liked and didn’t like. I said I didn’t care for the black nail polish a lot of people are wearing now. “Yeah, that’s goth,” she said. Goth? Did she just say goth? So I probed a little. “What’s goth mean?”

“You know, people that have really dark black hair, black nails and dress in all black.”

Yep.  She knows what goth means. And here’s my problem with that: she’s in second grade! I don’t think I knew what goth was till a couple of years ago. How is this happening? We monitor what she watches on TV, we don’t let her have a computer in her room (lot of good that did, she still found You Tube), honestly, we really do try to pay attention. Where is she hearing this stuff? On the bus, on the playground?

Our kids are growing up in a different world – the technology they are exposed to now we couldn’t fathom at their age. Cade asked us the other day what a typewriter was. He truly had no idea. David’s in the wireless industry and we’ve joked about being able to track the kids with GPS on their future cell phones when they’re teenagers. We quickly realized we were kidding ourselves. Of course they’ll be way ahead of us on the technology and they’ll know how to disable the GPS or switch phones or do something to fool us. Now we nervously joke that maybe we should just implant a tiny tracking device under their skin while they’re asleep – sort of like micro-chipping a dog. When I consider that Anna already knows what “goth” means at age 8, it doesn’t sound all that ridiculous. I don’t even want to think about what 13 is going to bring.

Boy, I’m really starting to sound old, aren’t I? No, in my world, 40 is definitely not the new 20. When you’re a mom, 40 is 40, with all the responsibility and worries it brings. And is it just me, or is 8 just not 8 anymore? I’d like to know what you all think. In the meantime I’m going to go take my Geritol.

Sara Ellington is the author of The Mommy Chronicles: Conversations Sharing the Comedy and Drama of Pregnancy and New Motherhood (Hay House, 2005) and The Must-Have Mom Manual (Ballantine/Random House, April 2009).

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