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  • Writer's pictureJessica Felton

forever young

Updated: Mar 9

This week my 7-year-old—my baby who still needs help shampooing her hair and tying her shoes—came home from school and asked if she could get a Stanley cup and Drunk Elephant skincare. I was floored. It never even crossed my mind that a 7-year-old would be interested or even aware of this kind of stuff. It breaks my heart a little.

I think back to my life at 7-years-old. It would have been 1994. I loved watching Yankees games with my dad. I helped him scoop popcorn at his department’s concession stand at Razorbacks games. I tap danced to Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York at Frances Stokes Dance Studio. I took swimming lessons at the pool at Wilson Park. The Lion King soundtrack and Mary Kate & Ashley movies were my obsessions. I caught crawdads and tadpoles in Mud Creek. My brother and I had sword fights with my mom’s old fencing foils. We played racquetball and tennis. In the summer I went to work with my dad and helped water his tomato plants in the greenhouse, that piquant herbaceous odor of tomato greens and soil forever burned into my brain. My mom would make funnel cakes, trout amandine, fresh baked bread in tin foil pans. We would watch The Wonder Years while she tenderly French-braided my hair. I loved listening to my dad play Something on his Gibson guitar. My favorite song was Carly Simon’s rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider. I wore Minnie Mouse shirts from K-Mart and blue jeans my grandparents bought me from J.C. Penney.

It was a childhood of sunlit senses and moonlit magic. Fireflies and skipping stones and blanket forts. Sneaking episodes of 90210 with the latch key kids in my neighborhood, purely ignorant to the salacious details on the screen but feeling like a little baddie. I remember sitting on my grandparent's blue rope rug watching OJ Simpson's Bronco chase and having no idea about its cultural significance. I remember all those things, but I couldn’t tell you what brands mattered when I was 7, or asking for any particular, unless it was a certain Barbie. I certainly wasn’t using any skincare or makeup besides Water Babies sunscreen during the summer and peel-able Tinkerbell nail polish. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t live a privileged life, but it was simple and wholesome.

I do remember when I was around 13 asking my mom why one of my friend’s parents bought her a ton of Abercrombie clothes and my parents didn’t. My mom simply said “Because we choose to spend our money on other things.” It was the first time I was actually aware of my parent’s finances.

I want my kids to fit in of course, and I fully expect for them to reach a stage where they are conscious of brands and fashion/beauty trends. A 16-year-old asking for Lululemon doesn't give me as much pause. I remember being in 7th grade when this finally happened for me. I really, really wanted some Tommy Jeans from The Buckle and suddenly I didn’t want those J.C. Penney jeans anymore.

But my daughter is seven. I don’t want her to worry about this stuff yet. I want her to know the feeling of fresh mown grass between her toes as she runs through a sprinkler. I want her to make sun tea in the summer. I want her to make mud pies and sand castles and daisy chains. I want her to taste honeysuckles and the coppery bite of water from the hose. I want her to watch the Olympics on TV and the ball drop at midnight on New Year’s. Snowmen, dancing in the kitchen, playing catch, picnics, hikes, cookie-baking, bonfires, roadtrips, water gun fights, kitschy Christmas decorations, roasted pumpkin seeds, sleepy morning snuggles, licking brownie batter off a spoon, laughing so hard your side hurts.

What will she remember about being 7?

I want her to remember the whimsy of childhood more than I want her to remember the material. I feel like there’s so much more time to worry about those things and less time to just enjoy the simple experiences. One day my baby is going to wake up and not want to play Barbies or have me brush her hair.

I am starting to hate this influencer culture that’s so pervasive now, snaking into the minds of people younger and younger. It’s stealing our children’s youth and innocence. It may be “just a cup” or “no big deal” but when my 7-year-old has worked herself up to being physically ill because she doesn’t have one and wants to fit in, it feels like a damn big deal. What message does it send if we pander to that? I don’t know if this is the right answer or not. Sometimes being a parent just really sucks and the choices you make feel like you’re rolling the dice. Will this decision create a future engineer, or a future psychopath? None of the parenting books tell you what to do in a world of too much TikTok and Kardashians.

At the end of the day I can’t judge anyone for wanting to indulge their child. Don’t we all want to give our babies the moon and the stars? But I am making a conscious choice to enrich our children’s lives with experiences and memories and time. 20 years from now that Stanley cup will still be here, probably dusty on a Goodwill shelf somewhere…but those tiny fingers and toes and eyes full of wonder and hope won’t be.

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