Years ago, a very tall friend of mine had a two-year-old son that could have easily passed for five. People would often shake their heads in disapproval as they passed her and what they thought to be her five-year-old with a pacifier. Except he wasn't five, he was two.
Yesterday, my sister posted a great picture on Instagram. It was of her and my other sister...wait...her and a friend? Wait...who IS that in the picture with her? Oh dear God, that's my DAUGHTER!!!
These were my thoughts as I looked at this photo. Don't get me wrong - it wasn't inappropriate in any way, shape, or form. My girl wasn't in heels or wearing makeup. She was actually wearing her First Communion dress, flip-flops, and my sister's Ray-Ban aviators. She was leaning back and making a goofy face and acting like a ten year old. She wasn't trying to look any older, she just did. But any young guy scrolling through IG could easily have thought she was someone he would like to get to know...and this is where it can get scary if we are not relentless as parents.
As a competitive swimmer, my daughter has a very strong build and at 10 years old is already 5'1". Thank goodness she is the athletic t-shirt and mesh shorts type of girl, because while walking amongst the high school students at my husband's school, it's really only her clothing that sets her apart. She looks and acts (at least in front of others) much older than her ten years. And there's a danger in this. People will treat your child based on the age of their appearance, not out of malice, but out of natural assumption. People ask my daughter if she has a boyfriend. They ask her if she plays sports for her school. They sometimes crack jokes they might not if they knew she was in 4th grade. And I will never forget the first time I saw a passing teenage boy look at her for WAY too long.
So if you have a daughter that looks older on the outside, be careful to remember she's still little on the inside. Don't let her wear make-up yet or dress in ways that will gain her the type of attention she's not prepared to handle. Don't give her the keys to the social media kingdom by letting her have a Facebook page, or an Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat account. The most innocent of posts may cause someone out there to stop the scroll and try to reach out to her - even with the best of intentions. And as moms of tweens, that's a road we don't need to head down just yet. Let them be little for just a little while longer.