Can somebody tell me when little girls started becoming teenagers at age seven?
My daughter may look like a seven-year-old. She may still dress in clothes from Gymboree and have crooked teeth not quite yet ready for braces. But she has the sass factor of a sixteen-year-old. And frankly, I am a little tired of it.
I have recently been relieved that I am not the only mother struggling with this. I have witnessed the behavior in some of her friends and have heard exasperated “I-can-not-take-this-anymore” ventings from other moms. And just the other day, my friend Heather said of her young daughter, “I think she just finds being difficult an acceptable hobby.”
Well, that made me laugh out loud, of course. Yet it also confirmed my worst fear: we are facing an epidemic of sass among little girls. This is likely a by-product of years of letting girls in elementary school dress like teenagers planning to give it up on prom night. Little did we know that teenage fashion was simply the gateway drug to teenage attitudes.
I, for one, am not going to stand for it. I will not be made to feel irrelevant by my daughter until she is AT LEAST in middle school, like in the good old days. So I took immediate action.
And my immediate action wasn’t very successful. I can’t imagine why. Whenever my dad stopped dead in his tracks, glared at me with white-hot anger, and bellowed, “WHAAAAT did you saaaaay?,” that was enough to keep me on the path of straight and narrow. (My grandpa was also successful using this method the time I had just seen Little Shop of Horrors and decided to quote Audrey II’s line, “tough t*tties” to show my lack of sympathy towards one of my cousins. In my defense, I was too young to know what that meant. In grandpa’s defense, he didn’t care.) But apparently my fury does not strike the fear of God in my daughter. Instead, she ended up crying that I was”hurting her feelings,” then she went to her room, slammed the door, and proceeded to say sassy things about her horrible mother behind my back.
Well, that backfired.
Next I tried the extremely mature tactic of sassing her right back. You wanna go down this road, little girl? Because you have no idea who you are dealing with. Not only could I post some major sass points in my day, but I also used to teach rooms full of teenage girls, some of whom were very privileged. Rich, spoiled teenage sass is about as top-notch as it gets. So between my own natural-born talent and my ivy league education in the art, I believe I have earned the equivalent of my B.A., Master’s Degree, and Ph.D in Sassology. But I guess the fact that I don’t use these degrees very often anymore (because I tend to communicate like, um, an adult) made me a little rusty. Grace matched my sass every time…and then raised the bar.
Admittedly, part of me wanted to throw in the towel. But that is not what moms do. So finally I decided to try a more thoughtful approach. Maybe I need to create that magical little panacea called a “teachable moment.” Grace’s usual defenses when she has done something wrong are “I didn’t realize I was doing it,” or “It was an accident.” While I know this isn’t true all the time, I can also give my daughter a break in realizing that sometimes the sass probably does fly out of her mouth before she has time to thoughtfully construct her words. Heck, that happens to me…and she is only seven, after all. So I came up with a plan.
I told Grace than whenever she speaks to me or anyone in a disrespectfully sassy tone, I would give her a warning by simply saying, SASSAFRAS. That is her cue to change her attitude, and if she doesn’t, then there will be a consequence. Pretty smart, if I do say so myself. My hope is for a gradual training in appropriate attitudes towards people. And I was certain Grace would be appreciative of my calm and reasonable treatment of this matter…
Grace: “Sassafras????? I don’t even know what sassafras is!!”
Me: “Right now all you need to know is that it means you are being sassy and you need to stop.”
Grace:”Why don’t you just say Miss Sassy? Sassafras is stupid.”
Me: “You are doing it right now. Sassafras. Stop being sassy.”
Grace: “When I have a daughter, I’m going to use Miss Sassy. And she is not going to be sassy at all.”
Sigh. Despite the rocky start, I am going to stick with this plan for a while because I do think it has merit. But right now it feels like the only thing I am going to get out of sassafras is possibly a tasty microbrew.