Someone should really (actually, I'm sure many have) question a few of my back-to-school parenting decisions.
I've continued, for instance, to allow my younger kids to stay up past 10 p.m. even though their middle school bus schedule requires them to be out the door, teeth brushed and all, at 7 in the morning. And I am so over school supply shopping that I plan to just give my high school son some cash, drop him off at Office Depot, and tell him he is old enough to navigate the world of graphing calculators, composition books and number two pencils on his own. I know I am running the risk that lunch at Milios' and an iTunes gift card end up making a cameo appearance on the "approved" list of MMSD school supplies, but it's a risk I am willing to take in the name of parental errand reduction.
The maternal choice I regret most, though, over the past couple of weeks was persuading my 11-year-old daughter to let me choose the movie we'd watch during our regular mother-daughter "chick flick" night. She was angling for an encore performance of either Teen Beach Movie or Pitch Perfect. But I couldn't bear the thought of another go round of the not-quite-Annette-and-Frankie Disney Channel musical. And the "Cup Song" wore out it's welcome at our house months ago as far as I'm concerned.
Instead, I convinced her to watch a cherished film from my pre-parenting days. It's a movie that showcases my favorite non-Sarah Palin Tina Fey performance and has a killer soundtrack heavy on female artists. It's a film that makes me hopeful that the incredibly talented Lindsay Lohan can perhaps, someday, get her life and career back on track.
Yes, the 2004 classic comedy Mean Girls is an absolutely delightful movie. But it's definitely not the smartest mother/daughter viewing as your child is about to enter her inaugural year of middle school. Because while the film's storyline takes place during the lead character's high school years, I am worried that less theatrical versions of the movie's bickering, backstabbing and girl-on-girl bullying begin to rear their ugly heads in grades 6 through 8.
My boys, one entering 11th grade, the other 13 and starting his "senior" year of middle school, appear to have made it through the tween/early teen years without any major social crises. Both made terrific friends early on in elementary school and still pal around, drama free, with the same buddies today. If there was ever a fight or fall out, I am unaware of it.
But at least according to the Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 bestseller Queen Bees and Wannabes (the book that inspired the movie), these next few years may very likely be an emotional minefield for my youngest. She'll need to learn to manage the potential heartbreak of shifting friendships as young ladies from four different elementary schools are thrust together.
She'll be forced to recognize the subtle differences between close friendships and exclusive cliques. She'll need to make sure some of the slumber party chitchat she so enjoys indulging in doesn't swerve off course and head toward ugly gossip. And now, with the advent of texting, Facebook and Instagram it seems it's become way too easy to share, or should I say over share, in ways that can permanently damage relationships.
I still though plan to remain hopeful, and hopefully not naive, that the next three years can be filled with positive social experiences, as well -- she seems to hang with a really terrific crowd of supportive friends right now. And just like I hate to give in to the old adage "boys will be boys" whenever my male children make a fairly reckless decision, I also refuse to believe that girls of this age always mean to be mean. I just need to take the time and be tuned in enough to prep my daughter on how to handle the inevitable social ups and downs that are likely headed her way.
But just the same, friends, when I mention I am considering a mother/daughter screening of another classic "alpha girl" movie of my youth, feel free to question my decision. Because while teenage girls are much more likely these days to be named Emma, Taylor, or Olivia, we are definitely not ready for Heathers.