I have to admit that when it comes to parenting I wasn’t prepared for some, well most, of it. It’s nice we get those early years to practice. I mean there are no lasting repercussions to switching to a big boy bed too early or forgetting them at preschool (once, it happened once). Now, however, I am sailing in uncharted waters, and if I make a mistake, I could capsize.

Cranky is a 13-year-old seventh-grader, and her struggle for independence rivals the colonies’. Moreover, my instinct is to give her lots of leeway, because it’s easier for me. It’s easier to allow Cranky to go to the movies unsupervised than to sit through the Justin Bieber documentary four times. So I really have to not want her to do something unsupervised to actually suck it up and chaperone. That being said, Cranky wants to go to the mall with her friends—and without me.

At first, the thought of it was horrifying. I must be a literal agoraphobic—fear of the marketplace—because I find malls repellent. If I am ever in possession of some sort of classified information that you would like revealed, threaten to take me to the mall. Of course, then I think back to my own magical trips to the mall at that age. We would get dropped at Plaza Frontenac, shop at Helen Wolfe, try on Guess jeans at Saks and hide in the racks of minks before eventually getting chased out of Leppert Roos. Top it off with lunch at the Magic Pan, and it was like a day at Disneyland. Unbeknownst to me, my mother was following us from store to store, hiding behind pillars and Christmas trees like a stalker, making sure all those perverts and molesters—who were doubtless just finishing lunch at Cardwell’s or exchanging a tie at Woody’s—kept their distance.

I have chaperoned one visit to the mall already. It was at West County, and it was lovely. Thirteen seems to be the age that moms have agreed upon for unsupervised mall visits. (Oh and by the way, I called West County Mall and was told it is my decision when she can be there without a parent.) In their natural habitat, the girls thrive. They hunt at Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters, gather at Auntie Anne’s and nest at various other locations. Predators keep their distance, as the girls by instinct stay in a tight herd—if one of them gets separated a quick text message brings her back to the group. I am happy to report I witnessed no courting ritual, an event I am certain they are putting off until they are unobserved. I guess what it comes down to is this: Has Cranky done anything to disserve my distrust? No. So unless I can Benjamin Button her back to 12, I guess I’d better accept the fact that she’s growing up. More difficult, I guess I’d better accept the fact that she’s going to the mall.

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