When my daughters first clued me into Justin Bieber, the latest teen heartthrob, I watched his videos on YouTube with a sinking heart. It wasn't his squeaky girl voice or the bubblegum lyrics or the Carol Brady haircut. It was that he acted so … adult.
I know this guy is supposed to be 15, but he looks 12 and little girls in the target audience who are ga-ga over him are a good two to three years younger than that. Yet there he is, in the video to "One Time," jumping around in his hoodie, organizing a rockin' party and lining up a DJ in an empty house by texting girls and all his buds to come over and shake their groove thangs. In "One Less Lonely Girl," this man-child falls for a young woman who looks like she's his babysitter. After running into her at the laundromat (where all pubescent boys hang out doing their laundry, didn't you know?), he seduces her with cute notes, a Hershey's chocolate bar and a puppy. By the end of the video, the girl (who is a good three inches taller) is hunched over him as they slow dance together in a dimly-lit room.
About the time that Bieber made my radar, I had to shop for a beginner bra for my 11-year-old. We're not talking underwire here. She just needs a little fabric so she can stop being self-conscious about the bumps under her T-shirt. Yet as I rifled through the rack at Justice, I was blown away by the number of padded and push-up bras in the start-up section.
It's funny that our adult culture, so obsessed with trying to appear young, is so eager to force our kids to grow up. If 50 is the new 30 then our children may soon surpass us in age.
I took my oldest daughter to a boy's 11th birthday party a few weeks ago and had a flashback to my late teen years when we pulled up in our car. The music was blaring, all the bodies were moving on the dance floor and one of her classmates was snagging a Red Bull from the drinks bin as I walked in. If this is how they're already getting their kicks in fifth grade, what will they do for fun in high school? Shoot heroin?
The trend of children doing things younger and sooner is not lost on marketers, who call this KGOY – Kids Getting Older Younger. This explains why 3-year-olds now play with toys initially intended for middle-schoolers. And why grade-school girls are pining for makeup, body glitter and lotions called "Follow Me Boy." Our kids are leaping from pre-school to puberty and skipping everything in between. They're using adult language, singing adult songs, dressing in adult clothes.
Don't get me wrong, I'm just as guilty as the next parent. We've all thought it was cute at least once to find our kids lost in an adult situation. The problem now is that this is becoming the norm. It's not just sexual, either. Whether we realize it or not, we force or kids to act older than their limits all the time. How many moms have you heard brag about their kids starting to read at an early age? Or laugh about their third-grader having a "boyfriend?" As parents, we all need to practice a little self-restraint when it comes to premaure adultification.
When did childhood become a bad thing to hurry through?
Hey, Shorties, slow down. Hang onto your juice boxes a bit longer. I'll even suffer through another day at Chuck E. Cheese if it means I can buy you one more year of being a kid.