Good parents care about who their kids hang out with– right?  I remember, when my first child began elementary school, being concerned about the influence of her friends who had older siblings– those kids saw movies I wouldn’t dream of letting my child see; those kids heard words I wouldn’t want my own to hear.  They were more “worldly”– they “grew up faster”.  And I wasn’t the only one who thought that– I met other parents who felt the same way.
I never stopped to think that not only had I been one of those kids, my second child would become one.

There is a ten year age difference between my sister and me, and a 13-year age difference between my brother and me.  At age nine, when I got to stay with my sister one weekend while she was in college, I watched as she and her friends consulted a Ouija board and asked it, “Is Paul (McCartney) dead?” I got to see drunk sorority girls come in late and vomit in the bathroom. I saw empty beds and knew some girls never came back that night at all.   When I was five, my brother was the lead singer in a local rock band.  Keep in mind, this was the late ’60’s.  When his band wasn’t rehearsing in our basement to tunes similar to the stuff in the movie, “That Thing You Do”, they (and their girlfriends) were writhing to the records of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa, also in our basement.   I’d clutch my Malibu Barbie tightly and wince at the volume.  It’s a wonder parents let my friends come over to play at all!

With a four-year age difference between her and her sister, my 10-year-old, Emmie, has spent her third and fourth grade years with a sister in Jr. High, and next year Emmie will be a 5th grader with a sister in high school.  I wonder if any of her friends’ parents are “concerned”?  Emmie definitely gets in on “adult” conversation at the dinner table, and sees movies I wouldn’t have dreamed of letting her older sister see at the same age.  Not long ago, she “inherited” her sister’s old Ipod, loaded with her sister’s favorite tunes, and before I realized what had transpired, she knew all the words to stuff from the likes of Britney and Sir Mix A Lot.  Her sister is reading the Twilight series, and so is she.

But in spite of all the “older” influence, my friends can vouch for the fact that I was the most goody-two-shoes of the bunch, and I think Emmie walks a pretty straight line, too.  Even though she likes Slash (the guitarist) and wearing “graffiti” sneakers, she’s always talking about how wrong it is to drink and do drugs, when celebrity addicts make the news. She comes home from the neighborhood pool and reports, with disgust, which 7th graders were making out in the lounge chairs, and she yells out the car window at people she spots smoking in other cars (I keep trying to tell her about the dangers of road rage…). When she gets allowance or birthday money, she often chooses to give half of it to the church or another nonprofit.  She loves looking after her toddler cousin and can’t wait until she can babysit.

No, I don’t think I (or other parents) need to worry about her too much… maybe it’s the “unsupervised only child” that parents need to be worried about…or the “kid whose parents party too much”…or the “kid who hurts animals”…                  ###

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