Saturday, August 10, 2013
"I want to stay just like this forever. Except that you're crushing my chest."
So said my nine-year-old when I hugged him goodnight after turning out the lights. I wish he could stay this way forever. Some people are baby people. Some can't get enough of toddlers. I think I'm a nine person. Man, I love nine.
There is something so perfect about this age. He is in between--in between being little and trying to be big in the best of both ways.
He thinks deep thoughts and asks questions I can't answer. He reads interesting books and wants to discuss them. He can tend to himself, try just about anything, and even (on good days) keep track of his stuff. He is maturing and asserting his independence. At nine, he is a pleasant companion, an interesting conversationalist, and someone who teaches me things.
At the same time, he still hugs me goodbye at school. He has a child's wonderful naiveté about the world. He still retreats to his room to play. He still makes little shooting noises when he is alone and orchestrating a battle between LEGO robots. He still waits for the tooth fairy.
It's not just my kid. At the beginning of the summer, we hosted a party for thirteen nine-year-old boys. We planned a squirt gun fight, swim in the pool, and make-your-own sundae bar. I was nervous, expecting conflict in the squirt gun battle, chaos in the pool, and sugar-fueled mayhem. I was wrong; it was a lovely afternoon.
No one whined. No one fought. They created their own games and rules and followed them (or worked it out). The very athletic kid willingly handed the ball to the kid who could neither catch nor throw. The kids who will one day be the geek, the jock, and the artist were not yet segregated or labeled. They knew who can throw a football and who worries about the clothes he wears. They knew who is good at math and who is a soccer star. It didn't matter. They were aware of their differences but not yet divided by them. Nine is a great frame of mind.
There are moments lately when I look at my son and see vividly the teenager he will be. At the same time, I still get the occasional snuggle and request to lie in bed with him, just like when he was little. He's in between. He's nine. And I love it.
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I told my son that I thought nine was my favorite age so far. He said that I've said that about every age so far. He may have a point, because I celebrated the fact that my kids were growing up nearly two years ago, back at the beginning of this blog. Here's what I had to say back then, in Stay Little.