October 18, 2013

raising eleven

So it's been, what three months since I found myself in possession of an eleven year old boy? Yeah, that seems about right. Three months so far of eleven. Eleven is good. Mostly. Not that we don't have horrible, terrible, very bad days. Not that I don't wake up some mornings wondering if I am really old enough to have an eleven year old. And not that I haven't said "Shut your hatch and go to BED" at least a million times these past three months. Hatch, by the way, being literal. As in, he climbs up a ladder and through a hatch to get to his room. Trust me, he loves it. And I don't have to look at the mess (or smell the stink that is eleven year old boy) unless I decide to climb the ladder. Which I don't.

But you know what? I love eleven. It reminds me of four. I love four. Its that final year or so before they make that next big leap. From toddler to elementary schooler. They are independent but still lovey. Eleven is like that. Almost a teen, but not quite. Still young enough to want a hug and a cuddle and to have a story read at night. Old enough to get up and make his own breakfast. Or move furniture when Dad is working late and mom is impatient to finish the bedroom switch. (No, really, he and I moved that great honkin bed up a flight of stairs. In that moment, eleven wasn't just great, it was awesome. It helps that he has an engineer mind and can say things like "If you swing it that way mom the angle will be right to not break the lamp when we go by")

Old enough for serious conversations. About life and hopes and struggles and even sometimes death.

Yesterday, ahead of a big school function, we had a long talk about bullying while we did the dishes. I'm not going to lie, the story out of Florida has really touched a nerve with me. Twelve years old. That girl was twelve years old. One year older than Briton. I have a hard time grasping that someone just a year older than my crazy, leaping, sweet, lovely boy could be that desperate about her life. Or that another child could make her so.

But it wasn't just that. At the last school event, Briton stood up to someone picking on him and got smacked in the face for his trouble. It was awful and terrible and I spent several days so angry at this KID who DARED to touch my son, I still have a hard time not growling when I see him everyday at pick up time. But some good things came out of it. First, my faith in our school was upheld when the teachers, principal and staff took swift and just action. And second, Briton learned that he had friends in his corner, which was probably worth a fat lip. Friends who stuck by him and dusted him off and came to find me and spoke up about what had happened instead of pretending they weren't there.  And that's what we talked about yesterday.  Not about the poor girl in Florida, because while I'm pretty open about things with him, I don't think he needs to know that, not yet. But about what to do, about being a friends. About how even if it's the kid who hit you who is being bullied, you still stand up and say, "Hey, come with me, let's walk away. I got your back." You know what it feels like to be hurt and look up and find a friend. Make sure you are that friend to people too.

Sometimes I feel like every new step in this parenting thing is like walking on a frozen lake. Pushing your toe out to test the ice, hoping it will hold, hoping you wont fall into the freezing water. Hoping you are doing it right. Or at least not so terribly wrong. Eleven is so very close to being grown up. It feels closer every day. I want to freeze time and keep him safe and away from everything that is horrible, but instead I have to send him out there and hope, oh please, that we did enough right. And also to enjoy eleven while I've got it. And I do so enjoy raising eleven.