Dear Daughter

And so it begins; your transformation from the innocent, sweet, kind and well-mannered little girl we have known for 11 years, into the tweenage years where your personality is yet unknown.  Now is a time for metamorphosis as the child emerges from the cocoon as a young woman, eager to explore new things, make new friends, experience love.  What kind of butterfly will you be, my child?

This new chapter in your life has seen you make some questionable choices, and I am not sure how to best handle this stage in your development.  I want to protect you.  From everything.  But I know that’s just not realistic.  There are some things I can protect you from, but in protecting you I may just shake the foundations of our relationship for you will not like every decision that I make.  I want to guide you to be a better girl than I was, a better woman than I am now, a better mother than I could ever hope to be.  I am pretty sure that I am going to mess some of this up.

With today’s technology, I can protect you more perhaps than my parents were able to protect me.  I can track your whereabouts with an app, I can send you a text to check you are ok, and you can text me when you miss the bus or you need to let me know where you are.  I can implement parental control over your device to limit what you can see, and who can see you.  With your phone, we gave you freedom.  But that freedom came with a price that I am not ready to pay.  This week you said that you hated secondary school, that everything has started to go wrong since you moved up, and you don’t know why.  I would challenge that thinking.  What has changed is your access to the world through the use of a mobile device that seems to hold more importance for you than anything else in this world.  I told myself that the novelty would wear off, and that you could be trusted to use it for the right reasons, because you are an innocent, sweet and kind little girl.  What I didn’t take into account was the fact that I cannot control those whom you interact with when you are locked away in your bedroom attached to that device like it were a third arm.

Through modern technology you have had access to video sites where you have created idols from girls who show you how to apply make up which will make you look like someone else, taught you how to pout and how to create the perfect selfie.  Through modern technology you gained access to communicate with friends more than is healthy and at times when you should be doing homework, playing with your siblings, sleeping.  You have access to speak to friends, not just one at a time anymore, but whole crowds of kids speaking all at once. I no longer have privacy in my own home, and when you are chatting over these face to face forums everything I do is seen, everything I say is heard by those you are chatting with and anyone else who is in the room with them.  Who gave you kids the right to invade your parents’ homes? If you were to ask me if you could have ten friends in our home at 9 o’clock at night, the answer would be no. They may as well be here though, hadn’t they?

This week I had to remind you what your phone was provided for.  When you went to Gravity with people that I didn’t know, and I asked you to text me when you arrived so I knew you were safe, I expected you to do just that.  When you hadn’t text an hour later, and your phone was offline on so I couldn’t find you, I felt sick to my stomach and afraid that something might have gone wrong.  Nothing had gone wrong, except for your judgement and a lack of respect.  There was too much fun to be had to remember to text me to tell me you were safe.  While you were having fun, I was afraid, sick, and beating myself up for having let you go in the first place because I may have put you in danger.  You didn’t even think about me.  When did I become so unimportant?

When you got home, I confiscated your phone.  This week you only have your phone for school so that I know you can contact me if you need to.  You will learn to live without FaceTime, Instagram, Oovoo, You Tube.  You will remember what it felt like to be 11, before you got the mobile phone.  This week, your ‘boyfriend’ might just learn to live without you, and stop texting now he realises that for some time he was actually texting your mother.  This week, you might remember what it feels like to be nice now that you are not getting embroiled in the bitching and hatred that I have seen and heard.

This week I had to shatter your belief in your privacy.  Giving you a mobile phone was an act of responsible parenting to enable you to be able to make contact should you need to, to make sure we could keep you safe.  We did not promise privacy, and until you have grown and matured into the young woman that you want to be, that we want you to be, I will continue to keep a watchful eye over your interactions.  That means I will see the text exchanges between you and that boy who is already showing you what it means  for a man to treat a woman like a trophy, a possession.  I will read your messages to try and understand how you feel about his constant requests to kiss you in public.  I mean, what is all that anyway? What happened to boys and girls just being friends?  Why does everything have to be so premeditated? Is that this boy? Or all boys these days? I don’t like the artifice of it all, and I wish you were strong enough to stand up for what you know feels right in your heart.  I grew up insecure, needy, desperate to please others so that they would like me (particularly boys).  Luckily for me I was just not interesting enough to the opposite sex so I didn’t find myself in your position.  But you are beautiful where I was plain, quirky where I was odd, and funny where I was just plain annoying.  I wish you knew that well enough to know that you can stand up and be the person that you want to be, and screw anyone who doesn’t like it.

This week, I have gained some insight into the life that has been shut away behind a bedroom door for a while.  You got your first detention at school, and because you lost your homework for the second time, you are probably about to get another. I never had a detention in all my school years.  And if I had, I would have taken responsibility for my actions and accepted responsibility.  It was your fault that you laughed in class, and laughed again even after you were warned.  It was your fault that you didn’t do your homework and then blew your second chance at completing it through carelessness.  It is your fault that you choose to spend every waking hour on your phone or roaming the streets with your friends.  You know the score; the rules are simple.  A tidy bedroom and homework come before anything else.  If you choose to put your friends, your phone, or anything else before those things then you should expect to face the consequences.  This week those consequences have gone into full force.

This week, I have also seen the cruel games that some of your ‘friends’ choose to play.  I have answered your phone to the prank calls, and received the texts that are quite blatantly aimed at trying to get you into trouble.  But do you know what?  However disappointed I might be in some of the choices you have been making, I love you.  I will have your back for as long as you deserve it; do not let me down or make a fool of me.

When I gave birth to a daughter, I made a promise to myself that if I had to tell you every day that you are beautiful and smart to ensure you grow up with the confidence I lacked as a young girl, then that is exactly what I would do.  I broke my promise.  I have too often knocked you down for your choice of clothing when I should have let you express yourself how you chose.  I have too often told you that you are rubbish at a subject, or stupid for not being able to keep your bedroom tidy.  I have underestimated you many many times.  I have been hard on you, telling myself that it is because I don’t want you to turn out like me.  But am I really that bad? Maybe what I did was push you towards other people that build you up where I knock you down, and now those people have more influence on your life than I do.

I want you to choose the path you are going to walk as a young woman.  I hope you choose a good one.  I want you to choose to do the right thing by me, rather than doing the wrong thing and concealing the truth;  I always know when you are lying.  I want you to make mistakes, but take responsibility and learn from them.  I want you to believe in yourself and not be ruled by how others want you to behave.  I want you to concentrate at school, to ask for help, to want to break this mould you have made for yourself; you will find your niche and you will be brilliant.  I want you to appreciate the world outside of the realms of your mobile phone; there is a whole life happening out here that you are missing out on.  I want you to know when to stay silent against the bullies and the mean girls.  I want you to stand up for the underdog, just by being at their side.

Most of all I want you to love yourself half as much as I love you.

If you continue on your current path, I can tell you there is going to be heavy turbulence ahead.  We are already starting to feel it.  But there is time for us both to change.  This big change in your life has gotten you a little lost, but you are in there still, and I will do everything I can to encourage that innocent, sweet, kind and well-mannered little girl we have known for 11 years to come back out.

I’m sorry if I left you somewhere along the way, little ‘Bean’.

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Back when there was just us

 

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7 thoughts on “Dear Daughter

  1. Our son is 11 but not yet in secondary school. We have held back on mobile phones. I am worried about the impact they have on children if they become a target of bullying. I’m sure everything will turn out right.

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    • We gave her the phone because she was going up to secondary school and would be getting herself to and from school on the bus. We didn’t impose any boundaries on her use of the phone (apart from the usual parental controls) but we just didn’t think about that. From now she will have her phone given to her primarily for safety reasons, and I will allow an hour in the evenings (after this total ban week!). Needs reining in. It’s so hard with girls. They’re so impressionable – this boy has been phoning and texting her at gone 11pm! Eyes wide open now x

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  2. Beautifully put Joanne ( although Dad and I don’t think you’ve turned out that bad, we’re very proud of you! ) Its not going to be easy but you will get there and one day she will realise and thank you for it xx

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      • I think one of our ‘benefits’ was that you went to an all girls school. I don’t remember you giving us any trouble although some of that could be because you and Eliza are alike in as much as you both liked to spend time in your room and don’t ‘open up ‘ very much xxx

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  3. Sounds all very similar to how it started with Harriot and I’ve been to hell and back believe me .
    She’s setteled down now at nearly 18 years old !
    My parenting was very similar to yours and I reacted in exactly the same way . It didn’t make a difference it just pushed her further away .
    I don’t regret my actions though . I stood my ground and have taught her valuable lessons even if it meant losing her for a short time to others she regarded as more important at the time . She soon found her way home .
    I just think Harriot was one of those children who didn’t listen , thought she knew it all and craved the attention of others . The only way she came round was for me to let her go .
    One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do .
    There’s no right or wrong way to deal with this hard time but to follow your instinct and stand your ground .
    I hope things work out and you both get through the next few years with your relationship intact . These years are sooo hard . X

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    • Thanks Vicky, sounds very much like Eliza. I’ve let her do things even when it went against my gut instincts because I wanted to let her have some freedom. She’s not mature enough though. I think she’s been told she’s small for so long that she has gone to secondary school making up for her size in attitude 😳

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