Meadville Tribune

Our Generation

March 18, 2009

Skin deep culture: scary for kids/moms

By LEANNE ITALIE

Associated Press Writer



NEW YORK (AP) — My 9-year-old daughter looks older than she is. Always has. Kids and — worse — grown-ups who should know better comment on it all the time.

"Look how big her feet are," they observe, right in front of her.

It's all good, we tell her, humankind comes in many shapes and sizes. "Some kids just grow early."

Usually she smiles and goes back to hula-hooping, her stuffed animals, Mary Poppins, whatever 9-year-old kid thing she's happily doing. We never worried too much, until a few things recently set me fretting the toll of our skin-deep, sped up culture and discreetly searching my baby's body for nonexistent signs of puberty.

It began with a trip to the hair salon. She had grown her silky black hair down her back so she could donate a fat ponytail to an organization that makes wigs for sick kids. It had taken years to get her hair just right for a neat bob after the big snip, and I promised a trip to a fancy place to get the job done.

After her cascade of hair was gone, a pro with a blow dryer boofed her head to perfection and my 9-year-old went from looking 12-ish to looking 15-ish.

A few days later she got her ears pierced, adding another year. That's when panic took over, compounded by the first blogger in her fourth-grade class emerging to stress on a range of subjects, including a zit on her neck, getting into college — and having enough money to pay for it.

So if 13 is the new 18, then what's 9? And what can parents, especially those of girls, do to temper culture's pressure to grow up way too fast?

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Our Generation