Last week's boy/girl dance drama has been, I'm happy to say, slightly reduced in the Briton stress department. As it turns out, he doesn't have to ask a girl to the dance, he has to ask girls to dance at the dance. Which is still unnerving in his book, but less so. For me... I'm still a little wobbly about the whole thing.
He is ten. Ten is the age that I was when I moved away from Idaho, where I had spent all of the years that I could remember of my childhood up to that point (it was really only 6 out of ten, but before 4 my memories are pretty hazy). Ten is the age that, in my mind, I stopped being a kid and started being..something else. They didn't say tween then, but that's about right. After we moved I kept my dollhouse hidden in my closet and started taping posters of Christian Slater to my wall. It's when I started worrying about boys and my hair and thought I would absolutely DIE if I did not get a Dooney and Bourke purse (I didn't. Get one or die).
Now to be fair, I was almost eleven when this all started, not just barely ten. So (I keep telling myself) we are not quite there. And he's a boy, boys mature at a slower rate, or so I'm told. But the truth is that this whole dance incident has brought out some of the fears and worries I've been fumbling around with for the past few months. How fast should he grow up? How fast do we want him to grow up?
My son, much like I was, is, well, some people would say immature, some would say innocent. Both, really. He still believes in magic, and Santa. And he still totes around a stuffed animal at bedtime. He likes to pretend and play with his sister and have stories read to him. And I love that. I LOVE that. I want him to stay like that. I want that innocence. He doesn't need to think about girls and haircuts and clothes and what is "cool". Not until he's ready for it.
The thing is, he isn't growing up in a bubble. There are other kids around. Other kids who are more..mature? I guess. Other kids with older siblings or cooler parents or more hormones or, I'm not sure, but they aren't still checking to see if the fairies have moved their furniture around down in the woods. They are thinking about boys or girls and hair and cool. Not just here, everywhere. It's the tipping point, fifth and sixth, kid and teen. And I remember what it was like to be that kid who was a little behind on those things. It's not easy.
So at what point to we, his parents, say "It's time to stop that." Or do we? Do we try to ease him into the ways of "cool" so that he has a softer entry into teenage-hood? Do we let him do his own thing, anticipating the pangs and the embarrassment and the just plain hardness of growing up? I know he'll encounter them anyway, but whether or not it's our job to help make it easier by explaining how things "are" or whether we just encourage him to be himself, I don't really know. I always thought I'd be the parent that goes encourages independence and self expression. I want to be that parent. But I also don't want him to fell...excluded. At least any more than he has to.
It's all new, these worries over his tweens, his teens. I feel like I'm just barely getting used to having elementary school aged kids as opposed to little kids- sometimes I still catch myself finding toddler activities and thinking "I should try that!" for a moment before I remember that my kids are way beyond that. My head can't quite keep up, or maybe it's my heart.