Yep. It happened. My oldest – my first baby! – just turned ten. Double digits, as my friends keep reminding me. That little baby nugget who used to sleep curled up next to my belly is long gone. Now on the rare occasion when I can get him to climb in bed it’s for (at most) a peck on the cheek and a bout of wrestling.
From soft and snuggly to wiry and pointy (watch the elbows!). From the boy who needed me all the time to someone who’d rather watch YouTube, but doesn’t mind talking to me when he has to.
And here’s another way to look at it, as someone pointed out to my neighbor, whose daughter also just turned ten:
In seven years she’ll be off to college!
That is the worst thing you could say to a mother.
So who is this ten-year-old?
He is the boy who would give a birthday present to his brother because he got two of them. When I remind him that it was his gift and his choice to use the money for something else, he replies, “No, it’s Younger’s choice. If he wants it he can have it.”
He is the boy who recently developed a deep love for and obsession with bacon, but literally gags at the sight of me and his brother killing the moths we found in the pantry. Older is hanging over the garbage can, and when I ask if he’s OK or if he’s really throwing up, he howls, “They are living creatures and all living creatures have a right to live!” while Younger is gleefully slamming them between his hands.
Should I tell him about the bacon?
He is my strong-willed, brilliant, perceptive, stubborn boy. He is over bursting into tears when he’s completely upset, but it’s still there sometimes, and I worry when I see him taking that moment to compose himself. Can I step in? Could I fix it even if he’d let me?
He can do algebra and geometry but can not hang up his towel. He forgets his backpack literally every time we walk out the door to school, but remembers the iTunes password. He complains about having small children underfoot all the time, but at every party he gathers up all the littles and is their ringleader and entertainer.
He will never clean up a single toy, but he will stand up against anyone – bully, adult, or otherwise – who messes with his friends or family.
He is the child who still throws a tantrum to try to get what he wants, but on the list of things he is thankful for he puts “family” first, along with “freedom” and “clean water.”
Yeah, we’re raising him right.
He is the boy who taught me everything the hard way. My parenting skills improved exponentially between him and his brother, but I still can’t use what I learned on him. If he has a problem I’m jumping down his throat, forcing all my answers on him. In the same situation with Younger I sit back, close my mouth, and let him speak.
I can say “No” to Younger and it sticks. With Older it’s an invitation to negotiate, and within seconds we are fighting. WHY? Is it personality? Birth order? Is it because he’s my oldest and carries my expectations? Or just because he’s more opinionated than Younger?
OR could it be that he is more like his father, and willing to hash it out, and I am more like Younger, and we both just shut our mouths and stew over something (waiting to explode later for some totally unrelated reason).
Why can’t I detach from him? He’s just too close. It is impossible for us to separate from our children and see them objectively. Especially the first ones.
But I’m not consumed by all this. (Wait, what? His life isn’t all about me and my reactions to it?) I always joke that I tell my kids to stop growing and they never do. I always joke – and that’s the key to this growing up thing. Just have FUN. That’s one thing my son has taught me, for sure.
I will admit that it hits me at the most unexpected moments, and that’s when it’s the hardest. Like when my computer started running so slowly that I decided to delete some old programs. And I couldn’t stand to do it, even though they hadn’t been played with in years (the “Add/Remove Programs” dialog box told me so. The proof was right there, in painful digital black and white). All his old favorites: Dr. Seuss, Little Critter, Chutes & Ladders, Scooby Doo.
Those were the days when he would sit in my lap for as long as I could stand it and we would play on the computer together. His favorite was Candyland, where you could create scenes and print them. And he printed them all for me. He would use all the toner and I would grind my teeth but I knew I’d miss those days. We saved all those printouts in a special book we put together just for him. To give to me.
And now I’m there, missing those days. You’re ten years old, my big boy. Be who you are and don’t let me mess it up. I know you will. In ten years of living with you I’ve learned that much – that you will take or leave my opinion as you see fit. So maybe we’re a lot more alike than I think. Happy milestone birthday to the boy who changed my life for the better, forever. I love you to all the planets and all the way back and to McDonald’s and to Grammy’s house and to Maine.